Helen Smith

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Agent: Caroline Dawnay
Associate : Sophie Scard


Helen Smith took her BA part-time whilst working in sports administration.  She then studied full-time, taking an MA in Studies in Fiction and a PhD at UEA.  Her doctoral thesis examined the influence of Edward Garnett, the publisher’s reader, editor and critic on early twentieth century fiction.  This focussed on Garnett's relationships with Joseph Conrad, D H Lawrence and Sean O’Faolain.  Her research interests are in Life Writing, literary Modernism and late nineteenth century fiction, author/publisher relations and nineteenth and early twentieth century Russian fiction. 

Forthcoming publication:

‘I know you’ve made me’. Some of the most illustrious writers of the early twentieth century would recognise and endorse the sentiments contained in Joseph Conrad’s letter to his literary mentor and friend Edward Garnett. Over a career spanning nearly half a century Garnett discovered, nurtured and advertised the talents of a diverse array of authors including John Galsworthy, D H Lawrence, Edward Thomas, H E Bates, Henry Green, Sean O’Faolain and T E Lawrence. This biography charts Garnett’s life in literature, from his bookish upbringing in a well established literary family to his career as an editor, critic and publisher’s reader with Fisher Unwin, Heinemann, Duckworth and Jonathan Cape, for whom he was working at the time of his death in 1937. It reveals a series of fascinating and occasionally stormy relationships with those who came into the orbit of this highly influential and complex man.

Garnett was at the heart of London’s literary web, but his vision was uncompromisingly cosmopolitan. He and his wife Constance, the renowned translator of Russian literature, were pioneer promoters of Russian writing in England, a task to which they were particularly well suited given their close and colourful friendships with many of the Russian anarchists and émigrés then living in London. Edward Garnett himself was never shy of stirring up trouble in the literary cause, as the tale of his defence of some of his Irish protégés against the power of the Catholic church in Ireland makes clear. A friend and early admirer of Stephen Crane and Robert Frost, Garnett was instrumental in bringing the work of writers such as Sherwood Anderson, Willa Cather, Sarah Orne Jewett and Elizabeth Madox Roberts to the attention of the English reading public. However he was equally determined to drive home to American readers what he perceived to be the ills of that country’s literary situation, and did so in some devastatingly critical articles in the Atlantic Monthly.