Jean Rhys

Jean Rhys

Infobox Writer
name = Jean Rhys

bgcolour = silver
caption =
birth_date = birth date|1890|8|24|mf=y
birth_place = Roseau, Dominica,, British West Indies
death_date = Death date and age|1979|5|14|1890|8|24
death_place = Exeter, Devon, England
occupation = Novelist, short story writer, essayist
magnum_opus = "Wide Sargasso Sea"
genre = modernism
influences =
salary =
networth =
website =
footnotes =

Jean Rhys (August 24, 1890 - May 14, 1979), born Ella Gwendolen Rees Williams, was a mid 20th century Dominican novelist. She is best known for her novel "Wide Sargasso Sea", written as a "prequel" to Charlotte Brontë's "Jane Eyre".

Early life

Jean Rhys was born in Roseau, Dominica on 24 August 1890. Her father, William Rees Williams, was a Welsh doctor and her mother, Minna Williams (Lockhart family), was a third-generation Dominican Creole of Scottish ancestry.Jean Rhys was educated at the Convent School and moved to England when she was sixteen. She attended the Perse School for girls, Cambridge (1907-08) and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London (1909), later she worked unsuccessfully as a chorus girl (1909-10).When her father died in 1910, Rhys was forced to abandon her studies. In need of money, she posed nude for a British artist, probably William Orpen, in 1913. During the First World War Jean Rhys served as a volunteer worker in soldiers canteen. In 1918 she worked in a pension office. In 1919 Rhys married the French-Dutch journalist and songwriter Jean Lenglet, the first of her three husbands, she lived with him in 1920-22 a rootless wandering life in Europe, mainly in London, Paris and Vienna. They had two children, a son who died three weeks after his birth and a daughter.In 1922 Rhys met the English writer Ford Madox Ford in Paris and began to write short stories under his patronage. At that time her husband was in jail and Rhys had an affair with Ford. She divorced her husband in 1932.During the period she was in Paris she lived a meager existence, while familiarising herself with modern art and literature and acquiring the alcoholism that would persist through the rest of her life. The resentment of a patriarchal society and feelings of displacement which Rhys experienced during this period of her life would eventually form some of the most important themes in her work.

Jean Rhys was a novelist who wrote in the mid 20th century. Her first collection of stories, The Left Bank and Other Stories, was published in 1927. Her first novel, Postures published in 1928 is a classical version of the fate of the innocent, helpless victim who do not have control of her own life. The book is considered to be an account of Rhys’ affair with Ford Madox Ford. After Leaving Mr. Mackenzie published in 1930 was a story of Julia Martin, for whom poverty is a way to hide her need of love and security. She has been left from her companion, Mr. Mackenzie, to live in a cheap hotel, where she talks herself. In Voyage in the Dark published in 1934, the portrayal of the mistreated, rootless women continued. In Good Morning, Midnight published in 1939, Rhys used a modified stream-of-consciousness technique to portray the consciousness of an aging woman. From 1939 to 1957 Rhys dropped from public attention and people thought she was dead. But after that long retirement she published her masterpiece Wide Sargasso Sea in 1966 that Rhys emerged as a significant literary figure, with Wide Sargasso Sea she won the prestigious WH Smith Literary Award in 1967. In Wide Sargasso Sea, Rhys returned again to the theme of dominance and dependence, ruling and being ruled, trough the relationship between a self-assured European man and a powerless woman.Diana Athill of Andre Deutsch’s publishing house helped return Rhys’s work to a wider audience and was responsible for choosing to publish Wide Sargasso Sea.Jean Rhys died on May 14, 1979, in Exeter, England, before finishing the autobiography she was working on. The incomplete text appeared posthumously under the title Smile Please: An Unfinished Autobiography in 1979.

Literary career

In her works, Jean Rhys reports most of passages that occurred in her life. Rhys’ short fiction shows a remarkable variety of themes. A significant number of stories recall her childhood in the Caribbean and range from a girl’s cruel sexual awakening to incisive sketches of the narrowness of small-island life.In After Leaving Mr. Mackenzie, the heroine is Julia Martin, who is recovering from the experience of sexual betrayal and attempting a futile liaison with the decent but inadequate Mr. Horsfield.Written in the 1930s, her novels inhumanly explore her own emotional life, recounting pretty, no-longer-young women who find themselves down and out in large European cities. Without work her characters depend on men, on encounters, or former lovers, for money to buy a hotel room, a drink, a pair of gloves. Rhys’ writing often centers on the lives of displaced and disenfranchised women left to die at the whims of unfamiliar societies – echoing her own lived experience. Her literary style is spare and often noted for its distinctive blend of modernist techniques and West Indian sensibilities. Rhys’ vision is intransigent. The theme of alcohol dependency relate to the questions of female desire and agency with which they are centrally concerned is in Jean Rhys pre-war novels as Quartet (1928), After Leaving Mr. Mackenzie (1930), Voyage in the Dark (1934) and Good Morning Midnight (1938). These texts take issue with the dominant early-twentieth-century view of alcoholism as a "volitional monomania" characterized by a failure of will, so they adumbrate ideas that do not appear in the alcoholism literatures of the social sciences and humanities until later in the century. Anticipating the claim of recent feminists that women's addictions can be seen as symptoms of patriarchal oppression or as protests against it, these novels suggest that women drinkers might choose addiction and refuse a recovery that would only return them to the predicament against which they were protesting in the first place. The bleak repetitiveness of female drinking in Rhys' pre-war novels is in constant tension with the forward movement of the romance plot their heroines fantasize. But alcoholic repetition usually triumphs, ironically undercutting not only the romance plot itself, but also the modernist celebration of femininity as comfortingly and naturally cyclical. Despite its importance, the role of alcohol in Rhys' early novels rarely receives more than a passing mention from their critics.After Leaving Mr. Mackenzie, Voyage in the Dark and Good Morning Midnight were written to exorcise her own pain. Rhys is brave enough to write down the ugliest, most uncomfortable feelings that any person has but try to hide.Rhys declared, “I have only ever written about myself”, it is important that her life and her writing not be confused.


Rhys's writing often centers on the lives of displaced and disenfranchised women left to die at the whims of unfamiliar societies—echoing her own lived experience. Her style is often noted for its distinctive blend of modernist techniques and West Indian sensibilities.

elected bibliography

*"The Left Bank and Other Stories", 1927
*"Postures", 1928 (released as "Quartet" in 1929)
*"After Leaving Mr Mackenzie", 1931
*"Voyage in the Dark", 1934
*"Good Morning, Midnight", 1939
*"Wide Sargasso Sea", 1966
*"Tigers Are Better-Looking: With a Selection from 'The Left Bank' ", 1968
*"Penguin Modern Stories 1", 1969 (with others)
*"My Day: Three Pieces", 1975
*"Sleep It Off Lady", 1976
*"Smile Please: An Unfinished Autobiography", 1979
*"Jean Rhys Letters 1931-1966", 1984
*"Early Novels", 1984
*"The Complete Novels", 1985
*"Tales of the Wide Caribbean", 1985
*"The Collected Short Stories", 1987


Rhys's collected papers and ephemera are housed in the University of Tulsa's McFarlin Library, Department of Special Collections and University Archives.




External links

* [ Literary Encyclopedia biography]
* [ Jean Rhys Biography page]
* [ Jean Rhys bio with particular ref. to her time in Dominica]
* [ University of Tulsa McFarlin Library's inventory of the Jean Rhys Archive housed in their Department of Special Collections and University Archives]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Jean Rhys — (eigentlich Ella Gwendolen Rees Williams) (* 24. August 1890 – möglicherweise auch 1894 – in Roseau auf Dominica; † 14. Mai 1979 in Exeter in England) war eine britisch koloniale Schriftstellerin. Rhys war die Tochter eines walisischen… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Jean Rhys — (Roseau, 24 de agosto de 1890 Exeter, 14 de mayo de 1979), cuyo nombre original era Ella Gwendolen Rees Williams, fue una novelista caribeña de la primera mitad del siglo XX. Sus primeras novelas fueron publicadas durante las décadas de los años… …   Wikipedia Español

  • Jean rhys — Ella Gwendolen Rees Williams, dite Jean Rhys, née aux Antilles, en Dominique le 24 août 1890, décédée le 14 mai 1979, est un écrivain britannique. Enfance et formation Fille d un médecin écossais et d une créole blanche, elle… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Jean Rhys — Ella Gwendolen Rees Williams, dite Jean Rhys, née aux Antilles, en Dominique le 24 août 1890, morte le 14 mai 1979, est un écrivain britannique. Enfance et formation Fille d un médecin écossais et d une créole blanche, elle… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • RHYS (J.) — RHYS JEAN (1890 1979) Née à Roseau (Dominique), de mère créole et d’un père médecin anglais, Ella Gwendolen Rees Williams est devenue Jean Rhys après avoir utilisé plusieurs pseudonymes. Comme la plupart des écrivains antillais, elle a passé la… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Rhys — is a surname or (usually male) given name of Welsh Origin that translates to the word Ardour, meaning Eagerness, Love and Passion. It also exists in the Anglicised forms Rice, Rees, Reese and Reece.Rhys is the last name of: * Keidrych Rhys, Welsh …   Wikipedia

  • Rhys — ist im englischen Sprachraum ein männlicher Vorname[1] walisischen Ursprungs mit der Bedeutung „Begeisterung“, „Eifer“,[2] der auch als Familienname auftritt. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 Namensträger 1.1 Historische Zeit …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Rhys, Jean — orig. Ella Gwendolen Rees William born Aug. 24, 1890, Roseau, Dominica, Windward Islands, West Indies died May 14, 1979, Exeter, Devon, Eng. Dominican born British novelist. Rhys left the West Indies for London to study acting at age 16. She… …   Universalium

  • Rhys — Cette page d’homonymie répertorie les différents sujets et articles partageant un même nom. Rhys est un prénom gallois historique, toujours utilisé, porté notamment par de nombreux joueurs de rugby gallois, mais également répandu dans le monde… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • jean — jeaned, adj. /jeen/ or, for 1, Brit. formerly /jayn/, n. 1. Sometimes, jeans. a sturdy twilled fabric, usually of cotton. 2. jeans, (used with a pl. v.) a. See blue jeans. b. pants of various fabrics, styled or constructed like blue jeans. Cf.… …   Universalium

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