The life and work of Willa Muir, 1890-1955
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The thesis reconstructs the first sixty-five years of the life of Willa Muir, and provides a preliminary critical analysis of her pre-1955 works. Wilhelmina Anderson was born in 1890 in Montrose where she spent the first, formative seventeen years of her life before proceeding to St Andrews University in 1907. Her university years produced academic and social success, but also the pain of a disintegrating romantic relationship and the horror of her brother's nervous breakdown. She spent the later war years in London studying child psychology at Bedford College, and living in the city's East End at Mansfield House University Settlement. She met Edwin Muir in September 1918 and married him in June 1919 - a development which cost her the vice-principal's post at Gypsy Hill Training College. They spent their first difficult married years in London where Willa pursued subsistence employment and struggled to contain the fears which plagued Edwin: but they were overwhelmed by London life and escaped into Europe for three years. This adventure included a period in Prague and one during which Willa taught at A.S. Neill's school near Dresden. They returned to three frustrating years in Willa's mother's Montrose house (where Willa wrote Women: An Inquiry) and a damp Buckinghamshire cottage from which they escaped to the cheaper, warmer climes of southern France. Five years in Crowborough then ensued; Willa produced a son, an outpouring of translations and a novel called Imagined Corners. The three years which they then spent in Hampstead were amongst the happiest in Willa's life. She produced her second novel, Mrs Ritchie, but also experienced her sons road accident. This event drove them to seek a less populous location and they moved to St Andrews. This was a nightmarish period in which they suffered social ostracism, illness and the effects of the Second World War. Willa wrote Mrs Grundy in Scotland. Edwin then began an eight year association with the British Council which started with war work in Edinburgh and then took them back to Prague. This was an initially happy experience which was soured by internal machinations at the Council and the horror of the 1948 Communist putsch. They were physically and emotionally injured by this experience but were healed by a second British Council posting to Rome. The final chapter describes their residency at Newbattle Abbey College in Scotland - where Edwin was appointed to the post of warden - and explores Willa's crisis of confidence during this period. The thesis ends at the point of the Muir's 1955 departure for Harvard University. It is a natural hiatus in Willa's personal history and marks the beginning of a comparatively fallow period in her creative life.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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