‘E. M. Delafield’ is the pseudonym of Edmée Elizabeth Monica Dashwood (née de la Pasture). A regular Time and Tide contributor from the early 1920s, she joined the magazine’s board of directors in December 1927, and remained a director until her death. Her contributions to Time and Tide include reviews, sketches, short stories, and The Diary of a Provincial Lady: her most well-known work, which appeared serially in the magazine before being published as a book.
Delafield was born near Hove in 1890, to writer Elizabeth Lydia Rosabel and her husband, Comte Henry Philip Ducarel de la Pasture. She was educated by French governesses and attended several schools, and spent 9 months living in a convent in Belgium. In 1924 she was made a Justice of the Peace, the first woman in her area to achieve this position. She was a committed member of the Women’s Institute, acting as President of her local branch Kentisbeare and sitting on the subcommittee of the WI’s national organ, Home and Country.
A popular and prolific writer, Delafield published over 30 novels, and several books of sketches, short stories, and parodies. She wrote her first novel in 1917, whilst working as a VAD (Voluntary Aid Detachment, or volunteer nurse). Her second and third novels were published during 1918, by which time she was working at the Ministry of National Service in Bristol. She married Major Arthur Dashwood in 1919; he worked as a civil engineer and then a land agent, but she continued to write, making an essential contribution to her family’s income. Published in 1930, The Diary of a Provincial Lady became a bestseller and turned her into a literary celebrity.
Delafield began contributing book reviews to Time and Tide in 1922. She first published a short story in the magazine in 1924, and later edited the Time and Tide Album (Hamish Hamilton, 1932): a volume of 37 short stories that were first printed in the magazine. Penned by writers including Cicely Hamilton, Winifred Holtby, and Delafield herself, these stories promoted Time and Tide as a publisher of ‘literary’ short fiction, whose aesthetic and political agendas were unpalatable to editors of more commercial women’s magazines. Delafield also contributed sketches and parodies to Time and Tide, features that led Lady Rhondda to describe her as ‘the perfect provider of good “lights”’ (Time and Tide 13 December 1947: 1346). Her work was immensely popular with readers, and from 1927 nearly every issue of the magazine contained something she had written. As a director of Time and Tide, she played a key role in developing and expanding the magazine’s literary content.
Delafield was an important contributor to Time and Tide’s weekly Miscellany section, introduced in 1927, and it was here that The Diary of a Provincial Lady appeared serially, between December 1929 and June 1930. A comic account of a fictional housewife’s daily life, the Diary was key to making the London-based periodical accessible to readers in Britain’s provinces, and readers’ disappointment at the serial’s ending persuaded Delafield and her publisher Macmillan to issue it in book form. The book was followed by three sequels, two of which also appeared serially in Time and Tide: The Provincial Lady Goes Further (published between October 1931 and April 1932) and The Provincial Lady in War Time (published between October 1939 and January 1940). Delafield died in 1943.
By Dr Eleanor Reed
Clay, Catherine. Time and Tide: The Feminist and Cultural Politics of a Modern Magazine. Edinburgh University Press, Ltd, 2019 (2018)
Clay, Catherine. ‘“The Magazine Short Story and the Real Short Story”: Consuming Fiction in the Feminist Weekly Time and Tide’ in Women’s Periodicals and Print Culture in Britain, 1918-1939, ed. Catherine Clay, Maria DiCenzo, Barbara Green, and Fiona Hackney. Edinburgh University Press, 1918
John, Angela V. Turning the Tide: The Life of Lady Rhondda. Parthian, 2013
Other key individuals
1883 – 1958
Lady Margaret Rhondda
Just before the First World War ended, the 2nd Viscountess Rhondda (1883-1958) declared that founding…
1892 – 1983
‘Rebecca West’ was the pseudonym of Cicily Isabel Andrews: novelist, literary critic, journalist, and committed…