Rebecca West

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Dame Rebecca West, DBE was the pseudonym of Cecily (or Cicily) Isabel Fairfield (December 21, 1892- March 15, 1983), a British-Irish feminist and writer famous for her novels and for her relationship with H. G. Wells. A prolific, protean author, she wrote essays and articles for The New Yorker, The New Republic, The Sunday Telegraph, and The New York Herald Tribune.

She was born in London, England. Her Irish journalist father deserted her Scottish mother -- and then died -- while Cecily was still a child. The rest of the family moved to Edinburgh, Scotland, where she was educated. She trained as an actress, taking the name "Rebecca West" from one of Ibsen's plays. She became involved in the women's suffrage movement before the First World War, and worked as a journalist on Freewoman and the Clarion. She met Wells in 1913, and their affair lasted ten years. They had a son, Anthony West, but Wells was already married (for the second time). West is also said to have had affairs with Charlie Chaplin, author H.G. Wells and newspaper magnate Max Beaverbrook.

In 1930, she married a banker, Henry Maxwell Andrews, and they remained together until his death in 1968. Before and during the Second World War, West travelled widely, collecting material for books on travel and politics. She was present at the Nuremberg trials. Her later work as a writer and broadcaster reflected these experiences.


  • "I myself have never been able to find out what feminism is; I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute."


  • The Return of the Soldier (1918)
  • The Judge (1922)
  • Harriet Hume (1929)
  • The Harsh Voice:Four Short Novels (1935)
  • The Thinking Reed (1936)
  • The Fountain Overflows (1957)
  • The Birds Fall Down (1966)
  • This Real Night (1984)
  • Cousin Rosamund (1985)


  • Henry James (1916)
  • The Strange Necessity: Essays and Reviews (1928)
  • St. Augustine (1933)
  • Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (1941) This 1,181-page classic of travel literature is a rather pro-Serb account of a trip to Yugoslavia in 1937.
  • The Meaning of Treason (1949)
  • The New Meaning of Treason (1964)
  • A Train of Powder (1955)
  • The Court and the Castle:some treatments of a recurring theme (1958)

Rebecca West was created a DBE ("Dame") in 1959 for her services to literature.

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