Prose & Poetry - May Sinclair

1924 May Sinclair photograph Mary Amelia St. Clair Sinclair, known as May Sinclair (1863-1946), was born in Liverpool 1863 as the youngest of six children and the only daughter of a ship-owner who went bankrupt.  Initially educated at home, May spent a year at Cheltenham Ladies Collage under Dorothea Beale, who encouraged her in her lifelong interest in philosophy, psychology and Greek literature.

May lived with her mother in London until her mother's death in 1901.  Her first published fiction came in 1897, Audrey Craven.

May supported herself by writing short stories, poems, reviews, philosophical articles and translations.  A keen supporter of women's suffrage from 1908 and with an interest in psychoanalysis, her work was much influenced by Freud and Jung.

During the First World War Sinclair served with the Red Cross in the Field Ambulance Corps, one of the first women to go out to the Belgian front in 1914, although she was soon sent back home.  Her notable war poetry includes Field Ambulance in Retreat.

She wrote 24 novels including The Divine Fire, published in 1904, and The Three Sisters (1914), the latter a study in female frustration.  Much of Mary Olivier: A Life (1919) is autobiographical: the alcoholic father, the dominating mother, the death of several brothers from heart failure: four of May's brothers died before age 50).

After the First World War she was considered for a time the most distinguished female novelist, until Virginia Woolf emergence.

Whilst her writings fell into obscurity following her death, her work underwent a revival in the 1980s.

Settling in Buckinghamshire in 1932, May Sinclair, who never married, died in 1946, having suffered from Parkinson's Disease for the last 15 years of her life.

"Hun" was a slang term used by the allies, to describe the Germans. "Boche" was another.

- Did you know?

Prose & Poetry