Frankau, Pamela

BORN 3 Jan 1908, London - DIED 8 Jun 1967, London: Hampstead
BIRTH NAME Frankau, Pamela Sydney
CAUSE OF DEATH breast cancer
GRAVE LOCATION London: Hampstead Cemetery, Fortune Green Road, Camden (WA 9)

Daughter of the novelist Gilbert Frankau and his first wife Dorothea Frances Drummond-Black. Pamela was the granddaughter of novelist Julia Frankau. Her father took little interest in his two daughters and he left the family for another woman in 1919. Together with her elder sister Ursula she attended the Burgess Hill School for Girls as boarders until 1924 and she described this later in "I Find Four People" (1935).

When she was nineteen her first novel, "Marriage of Harlequin" (1927) was published and it was an immediate success. She formed close friendships with Rebecca West and Gladys Stern. For a long time she had an affair with poet Humbert Wolfe, although he was married. Rebecca West didn't like him and after she wrote a novel in which Pamela and Humbert figured only thinly disguised, Pamela broke off all relations to her. In later years they were resumed. After Humbert died in 1940 she stopped writing for almost ten years.

During the war she worked for the BBC, the Ministry of Food and the Auxiliary Territorial Service. There she had an affair with the officer Marjorie Vernon Whitefoord (d.1944), who supported her conversion to Roman Catholicism in 1942. She married the American academic Marshall Dill (1916-2000) in 1945 and lived with him in the USA. After their only child died in infancy in 1946 the marriage fell apart, they divorced in 1951 and she returned to England.

In 1949 she had published her best known novel "The Willow Cabin" which was partly inspired by her relationship with Wolfe. Back in England she started a long relationship with theatre director Margaret Webster in the 1950s. They lived in their residences in Hampstead, France and the USA.

In 1954 "A Wreath for the Enemy" was published. "Pen to Paper" (1961) was about her relationship with her father. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1962. In her last finished work "Clothes of a King’s Son" (trilogy, 1963-1967) she writes openly about sexual desire between women. In 1967 she died of the cancer.

Rebecca West wrote her obituary in The Times and observed that 'none of her novels, though they are better than most, was as good as she was'. In recent years her reputation has faded although some of her books have been reprinted by Virago Press.

• Father: Frankau, Gilbert
• Sister: Frankau, Ursula

Related persons
• is grandchild of Frankau, Julia
• was a friend of West, Rebecca


The grave of Pamela Frankau at Hampstead Cemetery, Fortune Green Road, London.
Picture by Androom (17 Mar 2006)


Pamela Frankau - Wikipedia

Frankau, Ursula

Published: 16 Apr 2006
Last update: 30 Mar 2024