Margaret Drabble  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Margaret Drabble, Lady Holroyd, CBE, (born June 5, 1939) is an English novelist, biographer and critic.



Drabble was born in Sheffield, Yorkshire, as the second daughter of the advocate and novelist John F. Drabble and the teacher Kathleen Marie, née Bloor. After attending the Quaker boarding-school Mount School at York, where her mother was employed, she received a major scholarship for Newnham College, Cambridge. She studied English and was awarded a starred double first (a grading that indicates she attained exceptionally high scores in her university degree).

She joined the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford-upon-Avon in 1960, at one point serving as an understudy for Vanessa Redgrave, before leaving to pursue a literary career. Her first novel, A Summer Bird Cage, was published in 1963. She chaired the National Book League (now Booktrust) from 1980 to 1982.

Drabble was married to actor Clive Swift between 1960 and 1975; they have three children. In 1982, she married the writer and biographer Michael Holroyd; they live in London and Somerset. Her older sister is novelist and critic A. S. Byatt.

She was awarded the CBE in 1980, and Cambridge University awarded her an honorary Doctorate in Letters in 2006.


Drabble has published seventeen novels to date. Her early novels were published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson (1963–87); more recently, her publishers have been Penguin and Viking. Her third novel, The Millstone (1965), brought her the John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize in 1966, and Jerusalem the Golden won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in 1967.

A theme of her novels is the correlation between contemporary England's society and its individual members. Her characters' tragical faults reflect the political and economical situation and the restrictiveness of conservative surroundings, making the reader aware of the dark spots of a seemingly wealthy country. Her protagonists are mostly women. The realistic portrayal of her figures often relates to Drabble's personal experiences. Thus, her first novels describe the life of young women, whilst during the late 1960s and 1970s, the conflict between motherhood and intellectual challenges is brought into focus. 1998's The Witch of Exmoor finally shows the withdrawn existence of an old author. Though inspired by her own life, her works are not mainly autobiographical. Fictional conflicts of everyday life such as unwanted pregnancy in The Millstone are not shown in a melodramatic and compassionate manner but with the ironic and witty touch of dry British humor. Her syntax remarks among other features a subtle and unexpected use of tenses.

Though best known for her novels, Drabble has also written several screenplays, plays and short stories, as well as non-fiction such as A Writer's Britain: Landscape and Literature and biographies of Arnold Bennett and Angus Wilson. Her critical works include studies of William Wordsworth and Thomas Hardy. Drabble also edited two editions of The Oxford Companion to English Literature.

Drabble also sometimes works as a journalist. On August 5, 2003, she wrote in The Daily Telegraph that "I loathe America, and what it has done to the rest of the world", which ends: "There is another America. Long live the other America, and may this one pass away soon."



  • A Summer Birdcage (1963)
  • The Garrick Year (1964)
  • The Millstone (1965)
  • Jerusalem the Golden (1967)
  • The Waterfall (1969)
  • The Needle's Eye (1972)
  • The Realms of Gold (1975)
  • The Ice Age (1977)
  • The Middle Ground (1980)
  • The Radiant Way (1987)
  • A Natural Curiosity (1989)
  • The Gates of Ivory (1991)
  • The Witch of Exmoor (1996)
  • The Peppered Moth (2001)
  • The Seven Sisters (2002)
  • The Red Queen (2004)
  • The Sea Lady (2006)

Selected non-fiction

  • Wordsworth (Literature in Perspective series) (1966)
  • Arnold Bennett: A Biography (1974)
  • The Genius of Thomas Hardy (ed.) (1976)
  • For Queen and Country: Britain in the Victorian Age (1978)
  • A Writer's Britain: Landscape in Literature (1979)
  • Angus Wilson: A Biography (1995)
  • The Oxford Companion to English Literature (ed.; 5th & 6th edns) (1985, 2000)

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Margaret Drabble" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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