Maddox, Brenda 1932-

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Maddox, Brenda 1932-


Born February 24, 1932, in Brockton, MA; married John Maddox (a foundation director), November 11, 1960; children: Bronwen, Bruno. Education: Attended Radcliffe College, 1949-53, and London School of Economics and Political Science, 1959-60.


Office—Economist, 25 St. James's St., London SW1, England. Agent—Georges Borchardt, Inc., 136 E. 57th St., New York, NY 10022.


Economist, London, England, British editor, 1962-72, former house affairs editor; Connections (Economist's newsletter of communications), London, editor, beginning 1983; former media columnist, Daily Telegraph and Times.


Radcliffe Club of London (president, 1965-68), Phi Beta Kappa.


Los Angeles Times Book Award, 1988, British Silver PEN Award, French Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger, and National Book Award nomination, all for Nora: The Real Life of Molly Bloom; Whitbread Award and Critic's Circle Award nomination, both for D.H. Lawrence: The Story of a Marriage; Whitbread Prize shortlist for biography, 2002, Los Angeles Times Book Award in science and technology, 2003, both for Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA.


Beyond Babel: New Directions in Communications, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1972.

The Half-Parent: Living with Other People's Children, M. Evans (New York, NY), 1975.

Who's Afraid of Elizabeth Taylor?, M. Evans (New York, NY), 1977.

Married and Gay: An Intimate Look at a Different Relationship, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1982.

Nora: The Real Life of Molly Bloom, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1988, published as Nora: A Biography of Nora Joyce, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1988.

The Pope and Contraception: The Diabolical Doctrine, Chatto & Windus (London, England), 1991.

D.H. Lawrence: The Story of a Marriage, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1994, published as The Married Man: A Life of D.H. Lawrence, Sinclair-Stevenson (London, England), 1994.

Yeats's Ghosts: The Secret Life of W.B. Yeats, Harper-Collins (New York, NY), 1999.

Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2002.

Freud's Wizard: Ernest Jones and the Transformation of Psychoanalysis, Perseus Books (New York, NY), 2007.

Contributor to periodicals in the United States and England.


Brenda Maddox has written several biographies revealing hidden sides to otherwise well-known literary figures. Her D.H. Lawrence: The Story of a Marriage, for example, argues that Lawrence's passionate affair with and eventual marriage to Frieda Weekley was the most important factor in his success as a novelist. Frieda, a free-spirited woman who first had sex with Lawrence within twenty minutes after they met, inspired the author emotionally and artistically. Maddox's book, claimed Thomas Curwen in People, "shows Lawrence as a man struggling with the angels and demons of his psyche, a conflict that was both caused and exacerbated by his wife."

Nora: The Real Life of Molly Bloom, subtitled A Biography of Nora Joyce in the United States edition, goes against the conventional wisdom of Joyce scholars by suggesting that Nora served as an inspiration to her husband and not merely as spouse and distraction. Maddox points to Nora's role as the model for Molly Bloom, but also indicates that her own writing style is evident in many of Joyce's works and that in places he even incorporated bits of his wife's writing from letters and other sources into his books. Wendy Gimbel remarked in the Nation: "Without this biography, Nora might have remained at the mercy of the academics who consigned her to a literary petri dish…. Maddox gives us a seat in the depths of Nora's sensibility, at the heart of her obsessive love for Joyce. From there, it's easy to see why the two were almost more grafted than wedded." Writing for Smithsonian, Linda Simon concluded that "Nora's mysteries are dealt with fully here as Brenda Maddox reveals the extravagance, the madness, the passion of Nora Joyce's life."

In Yeats's Ghosts: The Secret Life of W.B. Yeats, Maddox examines the relationship between renowned poet William Butler Yeats and his wife, Bertha Georgie Hyde-Lees, who was some twenty-five years his junior. Shortly after their marriage, Georgie began using a kind of automatic writing to receive messages from various spirits. These messages were immediately believed by the occult-minded Yeats, who felt himself inspired to create far greater poetry than ever before. He also incorporated some of the spirits' mystical teachings into his later poems. Maddox's book explores the validity of the messages Yeats's wife received. Lisa Jardine admitted in a review for New Statesman & Society that Georgie's contact with the spirit world gave her "a significant measure of control in the relationship." A critic for Publishers Weekly asserted: "Maddox's book … offers an intriguing glimpse into the dark, sometimes steamy, corners of the poet's singular mind."

Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA introduces readers to a little-known figure among women of science. Franklin was best known during her lifetime for her precise skills in the taking of X-rays, but beyond that she was responsible for contributing a great deal of work toward the discovery of DNA, an achievement for which she was not credited when her partners won the Nobel Prize four years after her death. Maddox's biography is only the second to focus on Franklin, and the first to give the scientist her share of the credit and kudos. As a modern biographer, Maddox is also able to focus on more risqué aspects of Franklin's life, which were left out of the earlier biography published in the 1970s. Guardian Online reviewer Hilary Rose called Maddox's effort "post-feminist, and pleasurable in its maturity of perspective." Robin Marantz Henig, writing for the New York Times Book Review, found the work "oddly colorless—perhaps because the contradictory nature of the subject requires Maddox to keep returning to … shades of gray." But the critic concluded that it is "a sensitive, sympathetic look at a woman whose life was greater than the sum of its parts."

In Freud's Wizard: Ernest Jones and the Transformation of Psychoanalysis, Maddox focuses on the man responsible for translating much of the work of Sigmund Freud. Maddox contends that it is only because of Jones that Freud's theories are so well known around the world. Jones served not only as translator but as a one-man marketing machine, working to spread the word regarding Freud's work. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly reported that "Maddox adds an important chapter to the history of psychoanalysis in this balanced and skillful biography."



Nation, October 10, 1988, Wendy Gimbel, review of Nora: The Real Life of Molly Bloom, p. 320.

New Statesman & Society, June 21, 1999, Lisa Jardine, review of Yeats's Ghosts: The Secret Life of W.B. Yeats, p. 48.

People, February 20, 1995, Thomas Curwen, review of D.H. Lawrence: The Story of a Marriage, p. 22.

Publishers Weekly, September 27, 1999, review of Yeats's Ghosts, p. 84; February 5, 2007, review of Freud's Wizard: Ernest Jones and the Transformation of Psychoanalysis, p. 53.

Smithsonian, September, 1988, Linda Simon, review of Nora, p. 171.


Guardian Online, (June 15, 2002), Hilary Rose, "In the Shadow of the Men," review of Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA.

New York Times Book Review Online, (September 29, 2002), Robin Marantz Henig, "Not So Elementary, Watson," review of Rosalind Franklin.