The letters in this volume were written by Rose Macaulay to her younger sister, Jean, between 1926 and her death in 1958. These were the years when she was at the height of her powers and when her reputation was spreading beyond the more limited circles which had appreciated her earlier novels. She had found in broadcasting a new medium of self-expression, she was contributing articles to the daily and weekly press, and in the literary world of those years she had become an established figure, admired, enjoyed and, by some, feared. At the same time she reacted strongly and with characteristic individuality to the political events that over-shadowed the world. All this is recorded in the correspondence with her sister who, in complete contrast, was immersed in a life of devoted personal service as a district nurse. Hence these letters to her are more than a family document, they are a commentary on her daily life and an illumination of the wider world from which her sister was inevitably separated. They display a quality of spontaneity, a mixture of deep feelings, pungency and wit, and above all they convey to the reader the feeling that he is listening to her vivid conversation.
Emilie Rose Macaulay (1881-1958) was born in Rugby, Warwickshire but spent her early childhood in Italy. She was educated at Oxford High School for Girls and Somerville College, Oxford, where she read Modern History.
She wrote her first novel, Abbots Verney, in 1906, while living in Great Shelford, near Cambridge. Rose became an ardent Anglo-Catholic and, through her great childhood friendship with Rupert Brooks, was introduced to London literary society. After moving to London, in 1914 published her first book of poetry, The Two Blind Countries. In 1918 she met the novelist and former Catholic priest Gerald O'Donovan, the married man with whom she was to have an affair lasting until his death. Her final and most famous novel, The Towers of Trebizond (1956), was awarded a James Tait Black Memorial Prize and became a bestseller in America.
Rose Macaulay was made a Dame Commander of the British Empire in 1958, but seven months later suffered a heart attack and died at her home.