Josephine Tey

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Writer on Young and Innocent


Inverness, Scotland, in 1897



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  • Josephine Tey also wrote under the pseudonym of Gordon Daviot but her real name was Elizabeth Mackintosh. She was a Scottish novelist, dramatist, biographer, short story writer and poet, and most of her novels have been made into films, either for the big screen or for television. Tey was a noted mystery writer whose works became popular during the golden age of detective fiction, an era spanning the 1920s through the 1950s. Her most famous novel 'The Daughter of Time, is considered a mystery classic. 'The Daughter of Time' and Tey's seven other detective novels are often singled out by critics of mystery fiction for their divergence from the strict formulaic guidelines of the genre. The intricate puzzles, grisly murders, and infallible sleuths that dominated the field are essentially absent from Tey's works, which are noted for their sympathetic, sometimes ambivalent portraits of victims, suspects, and overly sensitive detectives, as well as for Tey's keen observations of personality. Tey was born in Inverness, where she attended the Royal Academy in preparation for an advanced education in the humanities. However, after graduation Tey embarked upon a rigorous course of study in physical culture at Anstey Physical College, and later taught physical education at several schools in England. Around 1926 she gave up teaching in order to care for her invalid father at her family home. There Tey began writing poetry, short stories, and eventually, novels and plays. Throughout the rest of her life she pursued few interests except writing. Horse racing and fishing, both of which play a part in her fiction, were Tey's primary diversions. Extremely shy, she refused press interviews, had few friends, and seemingly no confidantes. After her death it was discovered that Tey had concealed the secret of a fatal illness for over a year. In addition to her detective novels, Tey wrote seven plays, and all except 'The Stars Bow Down' were produced. These dramas are generally based on historical and biblical events. Despite her tenacity and sincerity as a dramatist, Tey's only great theatrical success was 'Richard of Bordeaux', which ran on the London stage for over a year with Sir John Gielgud in the title role. Unlike earlier works based on the life of Richard II, the play depicts his development from a young man in his teens to a successful king and demonstrates the survival instinct that surfaces during various crises. Sandra Roy and John Mason Brown have praised Tey's selection of critical and dramatic incidents in Richard's life. Brown has also observed that Tey's use of colloquial language enabed her to avoid an imitation of Shakespeare or Bernard Shaw. Depicted as variously tender, impulsive and cruel, Tey's Richard is described by Stark Young as comparable in power to and more intelligent than the Richard of Shakespeare. Young adds that Tey's point of view makes the play more contemporary and applicable "to the world of men and thoughts." In spite of her goals as a serious dramatist, Tey is remembered for her detective fiction. While she adhered to many of the proprieties of the English detective story, her work is not typical of the genre. Summing up the distinct quality of Tey's detective novels, James Sandoe has observed: "One cannot comprehend any one of these eight tales by recalling its characters or its plot ... It is perhaps the infusion into all of them of a singularly delicate and humorous perception that fixes them in remembrance as cheeringly as a friend, a warm hearth, and a bracing glass on a snowy day."moreless

    Birth Name:

    Elizabeth Mackintosh

    Birth Place:

    Inverness, Scotland, in 1897