BORN: 1939, Sheffield, England
The Waterfall (1969)
The Needle's Eye (1972)
The Realms of Gold (1975)
A respected editor and writer, Margaret Drabble made her reputation in the early 1960s as the preeminent novelist of the modern woman. She is best known for her novels that chronicle the negative effects of dramatic changes in contemporary British society on the lives of well-educated women. Critics generally distinguish two phases in Drabble's career as a novelist: Her first five works focus on young women who struggle with professional, sexual, maternal, and social conflicts as they
attempt to establish careers and discover their identities, while her later novels combine commentary on women's concerns with panoramic views of modern England. Drabble's realistic fiction often shows how fate and coincidence are important to how we understand and accept our individual destinies. She has also written well-regarded works of criticism and biography and has edited several influential volumes, including the fifth edition of the esteemed Oxford Companion to English Literature.
Works in Biographical and Historical Context
Days of Illness and Books The second of four children, Margaret Drabble was born in Sheffield, Yorkshire, on June 5, 1939, to Kathleen Bloor and John Frederick Drabble. Her parents broke from family roots by attending the university and separating themselves from strong religious practice. Drabble had a diverse religious upbringing: She attended Anglican services with her father because her mother, raised in a repressive fundamentalist tradition, had become a devout atheist. Drabble was also very much affected by the Quakers and attended a Quaker boarding school.
Drabble grew up in a household that embraced books and learning. Her father, also an author, was a lawyer and then a circuit judge; her only brother is also a lawyer. Before and after childrearing, her mother taught English; her younger sister is an art historian, and her older sister, Antonia, is a famous novelist who writes under the name A. S. Byatt.
Despite being part of a large and interesting family, Drabble has described her childhood as lonely. Often ill, she once wrote: “I had a bad chest and was always rather feeble—hated games. I certainly did not feel I was part of the main stream.” She spent much of her time alone writing, reading, and “just being secretive.” She had an early and constant love of literature, and she was profoundly affected as a child by John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress.
At the Quaker Mount School where Drabble was educated, she made many friends and became more socially oriented. Like her father and her older sister, she went on to Cambridge University with a major scholarship. She studied English literature at Newnham College and “enjoyed it so much,” she claimed, that it “took me a long time to get over it.” While at the university, she stopped writing stories in her head and started acting, with some success, because “it was so much more sociable.”
Feminism's Second Wave Though the struggle for women's rights goes back centuries, many of the most important advances in the rights of women have taken place in the past one hundred years. This included earning the right to vote in many countries, gaining representative positions in government, and achieving greater equality in the workplace. After these gains were made, however, women still struggled to reach full equality with men. This led in the 1960s to the “Second Wave” of feminism, in which feminists struggled to attain completely equal rights. This also led to a flowering of feminist art, nonfiction, and fiction, with many female authors gaining popularity for their unique and insightful views on the place of women in modern society.
From Stage to Page In 1960 Drabble graduated with honors, and she might have stayed on as a lecturer if she had not wanted to be an actress. She married Clive Swift the week after she left Cambridge and went with him to work with the Royal Shakespeare Company, understudying Vanessa Redgrave and doing occasional walk-ons. Drabble has described her life at this point as without an objective, consisting of “jumping over obstacles: marriage, having babies.” Bored with such small roles as a fairy in A Midsummer Night's Dream and expecting her first child, she began writing her first novel, A Summer Bird-Cage (1963), to fill the time and disprove the myth that “one kind of creativity displaces another.”
Other factors contributed to her becoming a novelist. Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex—a detailed analysis of women's oppression and a foundational work in contemporary feminism—presented her with information and inspiration that was personally relevant to Drabble. She did not feel personally or directly committed to the women's movement or feminism, however. In one interview, she said, “The women's movement is a phenomenon that got started after I got started, so I don't really see where I fit into it.” She has in recent years, however, become much more politically engaged and has been a powerful spokesperson against the American and British war in Iraq.
Drabble has expanded the range of her writing, now including screenplays and dramas, and brought her extensive knowledge of British literature to works of criticism, essays, reviews, and journalism. She was made a Citizen of the British Empire in 1980, and Cambridge awarded her an honorary doctorate in 2006.
Works in Literary Context
Margaret Drabble's rise as one of the most important and well-known British novelists writing today has been steady and sure. She has received serious attention in Great Britain since the appearance of her first novel, and ever since the publication of The Needle's Eye (1972)she has established an impressive reputation in America as well. She is a traditionalist in form and a pioneer in subject matter. From her first novel, written immediately after graduation from Cambridge, Drabble has recorded the conflicting sensibilities of the new, educated woman seeking her place in the modern world. Her heroines are self-aware, articulate, intelligent, career-concerned; they are also wives and mothers caring for and redeemed by their children. Her key themes tend toward the
contemporary woman's struggle for emotional, moral, and economic independence. She also explores the individual's search for identity; the particular self-awareness of womanhood; the individual's relationship with the personal and national past; the interaction of fate, chance, and character; and the guilt and anxieties of the liberal conscience.
Women and Society In her early novels, including A Summer Bird-Cage (1963), The Garrick Year (1964), and The Millstone (1965; republished as Thank You All Very Much), Drabble drew upon her personal experiences to present psychological portraits of intelligent, sensitive young women in the process of adjusting to social roles and fate. This theme appeared in some of her subsequent novels, as well. In The Waterfall (1969), for example, Drabble's characteristic topics of maternity and sexuality are united in the story of an unconventional love affair. The heroine, an unfulfilled housewife who has been abandoned by her husband, is nursed through childbirth by her brother-in-law. Through the brief, passionate romance that develops, the lovers are awakened to a stronger sense of freedom and self-awareness. The Needle's Eye (1972)initiated Drabble's use of more varied themes, concerns, and characters, and especially reflected both Drabble's deep interest in ethics and morality and her lack of orthodoxy. Like her, the novel's heroine, Rose Vassiliou, is unsure of her theology but possessed of a conviction that she must do right. An altruistic, upper-middle-class woman, Rose hopes to achieve spiritual grace by renouncing material wealth and embracing a working-class lifestyle in a poor section of London. Although fateful events continually frustrate her plans for salvation, Rose's verve and idealism, coupled with her talent for self-analysis, which is demonstrated through interior monologues, allow her to gain a sense of direction in her life.
Social Issues Drabble's interest in social issues became particularly evident in her succeeding novels, including The Ice Age (1977), The Middle Ground (1980), The Radiant Way (1987), Natural Curiosity (1989), and The Gates of Ivory (1991). In these novels, the author puts forward an apocalyptic vision of Britain. England is presented as a bleak, alienating environment in social decline where sudden calamities and random violence are commonplace. In The Radiant Way, in particular, Drabble made a sweeping indictment of England, writing about grisly crimes committed by a serial murderer, crimes meant to symbolize the country's social chaos.
Influences As she has often reiterated in interviews, Drabble's models have been the great British novelists of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries—George Eliot, the Brontës, Arnold Bennett, Henry James, and Virginia Woolf. Like George Eliot and Arnold Bennett, in particular, she writes in the realist tradition.
Works in Critical Context
Although Drabble is most often praised for her unblinking portrayal of the uncertainties women feel about motherhood and the enforced domesticity that usually accompanies it, critical reviews of her work have been mixed. Feminist reaction to Drabble's work has perhaps been the most negative.
The Ice Age Nancy Hardin, for example, wrote that “Drabble's novels are studies of human nature with the emphasis on feminine nature. That is not to say she is a feminist writer.” Similarly, Ellen Cronan Rose acknowledged that “what Drabble seems to find difficult, if not impossible, is giving her whole-hearted support to female characters who are radically feminist in their critique of patriarchy.” According to Rose, by not consistently condemning male domination, Drabble seemed to endorse aspects of it. Elizabeth Fox-Genovese severely criticized Drabble's treatment of women, suggesting that Drabble's novel The Ice Age “ends chillingly with a simple and total condemnation of female experience.” According to Fox-Genovese, “Drabble's women offer a picture of predatory narcissism, their occasional victimhood and suffering being … no more than another way of getting what they want.”
LITERARY AND HISTORICAL CONTEMPORARIES
Drabble's famous contemporaries include:
Betty Friedan (1921–2006): American feminist, activist and writer, best known for starting what is called the “Second Wave” of feminism through the writing of her book The Feminine Mystique.
Helen Frankenthaler (1928–): American post-painterly abstraction artist. Originally influenced by the work of Jackson Pollock, Frankenthaler was deeply involved in the 1946–1960 abstract art movement.
Truman Capote (1924–1984): American writer whose stories, novels, plays, and nonfiction are recognized literary classics, including the novella Breakfast at Tiffany's (1958) and In Cold Blood (1965), which he labeled a “nonfiction novel.”
Gloria Steinem (1934–): A writer and editor who, during the 1960s, appeared as a leader in the women's movement in the United States. In 1970 she cofounded Ms., which grew to be a leading feminist magazine.
A. S. Byatt (1936–): This postmodern poet and author of the award-winning novel Possession (1990) is Margaret Drabble's older sister.
The Waterfall Drabble's The Waterfall, in particular, dealt with an egocentric heroine. As the author's most
“experimental” work, the novel's primary stylistic characteristic is a divided narrative point of view. The main character is Jane Grey, the mother of a small child, whose husband has left her. After Jane begins a love affair with her cousin's husband, which Drabble presents as the highest and most consuming of passions, the novel switches to first-person narration. The first- and third-person voices then alternate throughout the remainder of the story, a convention that received divided reviews from critics. Caryn Fuoroli wrote that the split results from Drabble's “inability to control narration” and that the novel fails because the technique keeps her from realizing the “full potential of her material.” Valerie Myer, on the other hand, wrote that The Waterfall is Drabble's “best expression of her central concern, that there is no true solution to the conflict between instinct and morality.”
The Needle's Eye One of Drabble's more acclaimed books, The Needle's Eye, reflected both Drabble's deep interest in ethics and morality and her lack of orthodoxy. Like Drabble, the novel's heroine, Rose Vassiliou, is unsure of her religious convictions but certain that she must do right. She gives up her inheritance, marries an unsavory and radical young immigrant, gives away a thirty-thousand-pound legacy to a dubious African charity, and then refuses to move out of the couple's working class house into a more fashionable middle-class neighborhood. Valerie Myer pointed out that Drabble's fatalism in the novel is actually a kind of religion that brings about salvation: “For Margaret Drabble the true end of life is to reconcile flesh and spirit by accepting one's own nature and living with it, in a context of love and responsibility for others… This reconciliation, the author hopes, can come about by involvement in society.”
Responses to Literature
- How does Drabble introduce and develop her theme of reconciling instinct with morality in The Waterfall and The Needle's Eye?
- How are motherhood, and the duties attached to it, defined by contemporary media? How does Drabble seem to define motherhood? What similarities and differences do you see between those definitions?
- Write a brief essay explaining the corrosive nature of infidelity in A Summer Bird Cage and The Middle Ground.
COMMON HUMAN EXPERIENCE
Drabble writes about her women characters' actions in the face of limitations beyond their physical, social, familiar, psychological, and spiritual control. Other works that focus on this idea include:
The Scarlet Letter (1850), a novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Set in puritanical Boston in the seventeenth century, this is the fictional story of Hester Prynne, a woman who commits adultery and subsequently refuses to name the father of her illegitimate child. Throughout the novel, Hawthorne explores the issues of grace, legalism, sin, and guilt, while describing Hester's struggle to create a new life of repentance and dignity.
Madame Bovary (1856), a novel by Gustave Flaubert. This influential work of realism focuses on a doctor's wife, Emma Bovary, who has adulterous affairs and lives beyond her means in order to escape the banalities and emptiness of domestic life.
The Handmaid's Tale (1985), a novel by Margaret Atwood. This novel explores themes of women in subjugation and the ways they find identity and self-definition against a backdrop of an oppressive and totalitarian religious political structure.
Pride and Prejudice (1813), a novel by Jane Austen. The smart and spirited heroine of this novel finds romance and self-determination by negotiating the complex codes of social manners required in England at the turn of the nineteenth century.
Allan, Tuzyline Jita. Womanist and Feminist Aesthetics: A Comparative Review. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1995.
Bokat, Nicole Suzanne. The Novels of Margaret Drabble: This Freudian Family Nexus. New York: Peter Lang, 1998.
Creighton, Joanne V. Margaret Drabble. London: Methuen Publishing, 1985.
Moran, Mary Hurley. Margaret Drabble: Existing within Structures. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1983.
Myer, Valerie Grosvenor. Margaret Drabble: Puritanism and Permissiveness. London: Vision Press, 1974.
Quiello, Rose. Breakdowns and Breakthoughts: The Figure of the Hysteric in Contemporary Novels by Women. New York: Peter Lang, 1996.
Rose, Ellen Cronan. The Novels of Margaret Drabble: Equivocal Figures. Totowa, N.J.: Barnes & Noble Books, 1980.
Schmidt, Dory, and Jan Seale, editors. Margaret Drabble: Golden Realms. Edinburg, Tex.: Pan American University, 1982.
Showalter, Elaine. A Literature of Their Own. Princeton N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1977.
Wojcik-Andrews, Ian. Margaret Drabble's Female Bildungsromane: Theory, Genre, and Gender. New York: Peter Lang, 1995.
Contemporary Writers: Margaret Drabble. Retrieved March 3, 2008, from http://www.contemporarywriters.com/authors/?p=auth31.
Nationality: British. Born: Sheffield, Yorkshire, 5 June 1939; sister of A.S. Byatt, Education: Mount School, York; Newnham College, Cambridge, B.A. (honours) 1960. Family: Married 1) Clive Swift in 1960 (divorced 1975), two sons and one daughter; 2) the writer Michael Holroyd in 1982. Career: Deputy chair, 1978-80, and chair, 1980-82, National Book League. Awards: Rhys Memorial prize, 1966; James Tait Black Memorial prize, 1968; American Academy E.M. Forster award, 1973. D. Litt: University of Sheffield, 1976; University of Keele, Staffordshire, 1988; University of Bradford, Yorkshire, 1988; University of East Anglia, 1994; University of York, 1995. C.B.E. (Commander, Order of the British Empire), 1980. Agent: Peters Fraser and Dunlop, Drury House 34-43, Russell Street, London WC2B 5HA, England.
A Summer Bird-Cage. London, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1962; NewYork, Morrow, 1964.
The Garrick Year. London, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1964; NewYork, Morrow, 1965.
The Millstone. London, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1965; New York, Morrow, 1966; as Thank You All Very Much, New York, New American Library, 1969; published under original title, San Diego, Harcourt Brace, 1998.
Jerusalem the Golden. London, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, and NewYork, Morrow, 1967.
The Waterfall. London, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, and New York, Knopf, 1969.
The Needle's Eye. London, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, and New York, Knopf, 1972.
The Realms of Gold. London, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, and NewYork, Knopf, 1975.
The Ice Age. London, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, and New York, Knopf, 1977.
The Middle Ground. London, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, and NewYork, Knopf, 1980.
The Radiant Way. London, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, and New York, Knopf, 1987.
A Natural Curiosity. London and New York, Viking, 1989.
The Gates of Ivory. London and New York, Viking, 1991.
The Witch of Exmoor. London and New York, Viking, 1996.
Hassan's Tower. Los Angeles, Sylvester and Orphanos, 1980.
Uncollected Short Stories
"A Voyage to Cytherea," in Mademoiselle (New York), December1967.
"The Reunion," in Winter's Tales 14, edited by Kevin Crossley-Holland. London, Macmillan, and New York, St. Martin's Press, 1968.
"The Gifts of War," in Winter's Tales 16, edited by A.D. Maclean. London, Macmillan, 1970; New York, St. Martin's Press, 1971.
"Crossing the Alps," in Mademoiselle (New York), February 1971.
"A Day in the Life of a Smiling Woman," in In the Looking Glass, edited by Nancy Dean and Myra Stark. New York, Putnam, 1977.
"A Success Story," in Fine Lines, edited by Ruth Sullivan. NewYork, Scribner, 1981.
"The Dying Year," in Harper's (New York), July 1987.
Bird of Paradise (produced London, 1969).
Isadora, with Melvyn Bragg and Clive Exton, 1969; A Touch of Love (Thank You All Very Much), 1969.
Wadsworth. London, Evans, 1966; New York, Arco, 1969.
Virginia Woolf: A Personal Debt. New York, Aloe, 1973.
Arnold Bennett: A Biography. London, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, and New York, Knopf, 1974.
For Queen and Country: Britain in the Victorian Age (for children).London, Deutsch, 1978; New York, Seabury Press, 1979.
A Writer's Britain: Landscape in Literature. London, Thames andHudson, and New York, Knopf, 1979.
Wordsworth's Butter Knife: An Essay. Northampton, Massachusetts, Catawba Press, 1980.
Case for Equality. London, Fabian Society, 1988.
Stratford Revisited: A Legacy of the Sixties. Shipston-on-Stour, Warwickshire, Celandine Press, 1989.
Safe as Houses: An Examination of Home Ownership and Mortgage Tax Relief. London, Chatto and Windus, 1990.
Angus Wilson: A Biography. London, Secker and Warburg, 1995;New York, St. Martin's Press, 1996.
Editor, with B.S. Johnson, London Consequences (a group novel).London, Greater London Arts Association, 1972.
Editor, Lady Susan, The Watsons, Sanditon, by Jane Austen. London, Penguin, 1974.
Editor, The Genius of Thomas Hardy. London, Weidenfeld andNicolson, and New York, Knopf, 1976.
Editor, with Charles Osborne, New Stories 1. London, Arts Council, 1976.
Editor, The Oxford Companion to English Literature. Oxford andNew York, Oxford University Press, 1985; concise edition, edited with Jenny Stringer, 1987; revised edition, 1995; revised edition, 1996; 5th edition, 1998.
Editor, Twentieth Century Classics. London, Book Trust, 1986.*
Margaret Drabble: An Annotated Bibliography by Joan Garrett Packer, New York, Garland, 1988.
Boston University; University of Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Margaret Drabble: Puritanism and Permissiveness by Valerie Grosvenor Myer, London, Vision Press, 1974; Boulder-Pushers: Women in the Fiction of Margaret Drabble, Doris Lessing, and Iris Murdoch by Carol Seiler-Franklin, Bern, Switzerland, Lang, 1979; The Novels of Margaret Drabble: Equivocal Figures by Ellen Cronan Rose, London, Macmillan, 1980, and Critical Essays on Margaret Drabble (includes bibliography by J.S. Korenman) edited by Rose, Boston, Hall, 1985; Margaret Drabble: Golden Realms edited by Dorey Schmidt and Jan Seale, Edinburg, University of Texas-Pan American Press, 1982; Margaret Drabble: Existing Within Structures by Mary Hurley Moran, Carbondale, Southern Illinois University Press, 1983; Guilt and Glory: Studies in Margaret Drabble's Novels 1963-1980 by Susanna Roxman, Stockholm, Almquist & Wiksell, 1984; Margaret Drabble by Joanne V. Creighton, London, Methuen, 1985; The Intertextuality of Fate: A Study of Margaret Drabble by John Hannay, 1986; Margaret Drabble by Lynn Veach Sadler, Boston, Twayne, 1986; Margaret Drabble: Symbolic Moralist by Nora Foster Stovel, San Bernardino, California, Borgo Press, 1989; The In-Between of Writing, Experience and Experiment in Drabble, Duras, and Arendt by Eleanor Honig Skoller. Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Press, 1993; The Novels of Margaret Drabble: This Freudian Family Nexus by Nicole Suzanne Bokat. New York, Peter Lang, 1998; Woman's Space: The Mosaic World of Margaret Drabble and Nayantara Sahgal by Sree Rashmi Talwar. New Delhi, India, Creative Books, 1997; British Women Writing Fiction, edited by Abby H. P. Werlock. Tuscaloosa, University of Alabama Press, 2000.
Margaret Drabble comments:
(1986) In this space I originally wrote that my books were mainly concerned with "privilege, justice and salvation," and that they were not directly concerned with feminism "because my belief in justice for women is so basic that I never think of using it as a subject. It is part of a whole." I stand by this, although the rising political consciousness of women has brought the subject more to the forefront in one or two of the later novels. I now see myself perhaps more as a social historian documenting social change and asking questions rather than providing answers about society: but my preoccupation with "equality and egalitarianism" remains equally obsessional and equally worrying to me, and if anything I am even less hopeful about the prospect of change.* * *
With the appearance of her first novels in the early 1960s, Margaret Drabble gained a sizeable audience who felt their own discoveries and dilemmas in the contemporary world depicted with intelligence and immediacy. A Summer Bird-Cage presents a young woman, just after graduation from Oxford, alternately drawn to and repelled by her older sister, seen as brilliant and attractive, who marries a rich novelist. The marriage is ultimately hollow, and the young protagonist uses her recognition of this, as well as that of the marriage, affairs, and occupations of friends, to sort out her own approach to mature experience. The protagonist of The Garrick Year is more intimately involved. Married to an actor in a company playing in a provincial town, she falls in love with the producer and finally is able to draw away from the thickets of staged infidelities in her realization of her responsibility for her child. Moral issues, increasingly, become part of the protagonists' examinations of experience, as in The Millstone, in which a young academic, initially feeling "free" of the inhibitions of sexual morality and class, and, accidentally pregnant after a one-night stand, recognizes after the baby's birth that her concerns make her dependent on others, on community, and Jerusalem the Golden, in which a young graduate from the North, attracted to the cosmopolitan life represented by a London family, must sort out her own allegiances and responses to issues of love and class. Although The Waterfall is more internal, more exclusively concerned with the isolating emotions the protagonist feels in her affair with her cousin's husband, this novel, like the other early ones, reflects directly many of the problems concerning freedom, responsibility, sexual behavior, families, occupation, class, and geography confronted by young women in contemporary Britain.
Drabble's protagonists are invariably intelligent and literary, trying seriously (although not solemnly) to relate what they experience to what they've read. Often they define themselves, either positively or negatively, as characters within the fictions of the 19th-century middle classes, the heroines in George Eliot's world confronting moral dilemmas, or those in Hardy's measuring themselves in the metaphorical terms of landscape. The Waterfall rings changes on Jane Austen plots and attitudes: the protagonist in The Millstone superimposes Bunyan's allegorical geography on the dark streets of contemporary London. The frequency and the importance of the references indicate that Drabble has always seen herself as part of an English literary tradition, a consciousness of defining the self through fiction.
In Drabble's later novels, the consciousness and function of fiction change. Points of view are deliberately interrupted, fictionality is overtly proclaimed and manipulated, sometimes comically and sometimes not. Drabble relies on questions in literary criticism over the past 20 years as well as on the tradition of English literature. Library reference is likely to be more general and pervasive, as in the epigraph of The Ice Age which quotes Milton's Areopagetica about "the puissant Nation rousing herself like a strong man after sleep" to illustrate the possibility of British "recovery" from a debilitating period, or the literary party, explicitly connected to the one in Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway, which concludes The Middle Ground. The frame of moral reference in the later novels is much wider, more international or more a statement concerning the condition of England, and the novels are more amenable to metaphorical readings. The Needle's Eye establishes various gardens in unlikely places, the London slums, the North, and in Africa, gardens that are conscious devices to preserve and nourish the human spirit. The Realms of Gold depicts an archeologist who collects both the shards of a public past in excavations in Africa and those of the private past of her family amidst the local and class deprivations of East Anglia, trying to combine the implications of all the relics into a fuller public and private life. The Ice Age focuses on the depression, sterility, and violence of Britain in the mid-1970s, problems demonstrated as private in the particular characters and rendered public through the metaphors of property development and misuse that dominate the novel. National "recovery" is seen, perhaps equivocally, as possible. The Middle Ground, again combining the public and private, tries to collect representatives of various cultures and classes in a contemporary London reclaimed from the septic wastes of its origins, a metaphor like that in Dickens's Our Mutual Friend. The Witch of Exmoor approaches similar issues from the perspective of the late 1990s. The "witch" of the title, actually only an eccentric old woman named Frieda Haxby Palmer, sees her grown children as products of the new Britain, and her sudden disappearance sends them into a flurry of speculation as they try to understand the strange woman they thought they knew. Drabble's self-conscious play with fictional perspectives keeps these metaphors away from the potential solemnity of the grandiose, yet the moral implications of the metaphors, the statements judging both personal and public conditions in England, are serious and controlling.
Margaret Drabble, 1939–, English novelist, b. Sheffield, Yorkshire; sister of A. S. Byatt. Drabble's rigorous and unsentimentally realistic vision of an England split between traditional values and contemporary desires is apparent in such works as The Millstone (1965), The Waterfall (1969), The Needle's Eye (1972), and The Middle Ground (1980), and in her critical studies on Wordsworth (1966) and Arnold Bennett (1974). A noted scholar, she also edited the Oxford Companion to English Literature (1985, 1996). Drabble's later novels have become more complex and her fictional focus has moved from society as a whole to an insightful analysis of the fate of women, as in The Radiant Way (1987), its sequel, A Natural Curiosity (1989), The Gates of Ivory (1991), The Peppered Moth (2001), whose central character is based on her mother, The Seven Sisters (2002), and The Sea Lady (2006). Her complete short stories, 14 in all, were published as A Day in the Life of a Smiling Woman (2011). Drabble was made a dame of the British Empire in 2008.
See her autobiographical The Pattern in the Carpet (2009); V. G. Myer, Margaret Drabble: A Reader's Guide (1991); studies by D. Schmidt, ed. (1982), M. H. Moran (1983), S. Roxman (1984), J. V. Creighton (1985), E. C. Rose, ed. (1985), L. V. Sadler (1986), N. F. Stovel (1989), I. Wojcik-Andrews (1995), and N. S. Bokat (1998).
DRABBLE, Margaret. British, b. 1939. Genres: Novels, Young adult fiction, Plays/Screenplays, Literary criticism and history, Biography. Publications: A Summer Bird-Cage, 1963; The Garrick Year, 1964; The Millstone, 1965; Wordsworth, 1966; Jerusalem the Golden, 1967; The Waterfall, 1969; Bird of Paradise (play), 1969; Touch of Love (screenplay), 1969; The Needle's Eye, 1972; Arnold Bennett, 1974; The Realms of Gold, 1975; The Ice Age, 1977; For Queen and Country (juvenile), 1978; A Writer's Britain, 1979; The Middle Ground, 1980; (ed.) The Oxford Companion to English Literature, 1985, rev. ed., 2000; The Radiant Way, 1987; A Natural Curiosity, 1989; The Gates of Ivory, 1991; Angus Wilson: A Biography, 1995; The Witch of Exmooor (novel), 1996; The Peppered Moth (novel), 2001; The Seven Sisters, 2002. Address: c/o PFD, Drury House, 34-43 Russell St, London WC2B 5HA, England.