Pickthall, Marjorie (1883–1922)

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Pickthall, Marjorie (1883–1922)

Canadian poet and novelist. Born Marjorie Lowry Christie Pickthall on September 14, 1883, near Middlesex, England; died on April 19, 1922, in Vancouver, Canada; daughter of Arthur C. Pickthall and Lizzie Helen Mary (Mallard) Pickthall; never married; no children.

Selected works:

(novels) Dick's Desertion: A Boy's Adventures in Canadian Forests and A Tale of the Early Settlement of Ontario (both 1905), The Straight Road (1906), Billy's Hero; or, The Valley of Gold (1908), Little Hearts (1915), The Bridge (1922); (poetry) The Drift of Pinions (1913), The Lamp of Poor Souls, and Other Poems (1916), The Wood Carver's Wife (verse drama, 1922), The Complete Poems of Marjorie Pickthall (1927), Selected Poems (1957); (short stories) Angels' Shoes and Other Stories (1923).

Marjorie Pickthall, once considered the best Canadian poet of her time, has since slipped into obscurity. Born in Middlesex, England, in 1883, she immigrated to Canada with her family in 1899. Pickthall's talent manifested itself early; she sold her first story at age 15, and while in her early 20s published three juvenile adventure novels. Many of her early poems and stories were seen in Atlantic Monthly, Century, Scribner's, McClure's, and Harper's, as well as in Canadian newspapers. Pickthall supported her writing by working as a librarian at Victoria College, Toronto, during which she assisted in the compilation of the annual bibliography of Canadian poetry. In 1912, for health reasons, she returned to England, taking a cottage near Salisbury and working as an assistant librarian at the South Kensington Meteorological Offices. During World War I, she assisted the war effort by driving an ambulance. She returned to Canada in 1920, and died two years later of an embolism following surgery.

Pickthall achieved some success as a novelist, although she is best known as a premodernist poet. The Drift of Pinions (1913) and The Lamp of Poor Souls, and Other Poems (1916) are considered her best collections, containing works of delicate and ethereal quality, although critics found that her mystical references were sometimes difficult to analyze. She also wrote a verse drama, The Wood Carver's Wife (1922), which was performed in Montreal and at Hart House, in Toronto. Following Pickthall's death in 1922, her short stories were collected in several volumes, and a complete collection of her poetry, edited by her father, was published in 1927.


Buck, Claire, ed. The Bloomsbury Guide to Women's Literature. NY: Prentice Hall, 1992.

Kunitz, Stanley J., and Howard Haycraft, eds. Twentieth Century Authors. NY: H.W. Wilson, 1942.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts