Smith, Pauline (1882–1959)

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Smith, Pauline (1882–1959)

South African-born writer. Born in Oudtshoorn, South Africa, in 1882; died in 1959; daughter of British parents; educated in Britain.

Selected writings:

(short stories) The Little Karoo (1925); (novel) The Beadle (1926); also wrote children's stories.

The daughter of British parents who had emigrated to South Africa, Pauline Smith was born there in Oudtshoorn in 1882 but left the country at age 12 to attend school in Britain. Her father's death prevented Smith from returning to South Africa except for rare visits. She also endured poor health and a limited income while living mostly in Dorset, on England's south coast.

Among the literary acquaintances Smith made in England was novelist Arnold Bennett, who became her mentor, encouraging her to write about her South African heritage and introducing her to the works of French and Russian realist writers. In 1925, Smith published her first collection of short stories, The Little Karoo. The book focused on the conflicts between rich and poor in rural South Africa during the last years of the 19th and the early part of the 20th centuries. Her novel The Beadle (1926) also dealt with social problems among the Afrikaans-speaking community of her childhood, including issues of racial conflict. Though the book somewhat idealized the patriarchal community, it also questioned its subordination of women and black South Africans.

When Bennett died in 1931, Smith became increasingly consumed by self-doubt and greatly missed his support. She published a tribute to him, A.B. '… a minor marginal note' (1933), then a collection of children's stories, Platkops Children (1935), but, discouraged by her failing health and the spread of fascism in Europe, and disheartened at the prospect of an apartheid system in South Africa, she was unable to complete her next novel. Smith died in 1959, leaving behind several unpublished works, including a South African journal (1913–14) and letters to writers Frank Swinnerton and Sarah Millin .


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

Elizabeth Shostak , freelance writer, Cambridge, Massachusetts

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Smith, Pauline (1882–1959)

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