Doris Lessing

Standard Name: Lessing, Doris
Birth Name: Doris May Tayler
Married Name: Doris May Wisdom
Married Name: Doris May Lessing
Pseudonym: Jane Somers
The formidably productive and versatile DL , Nobel Prize winner, set her mark on late twentieth-century fiction and remained a force to be reckoned with in the twenty-first. Her major themes—life in colonial Africa, the problems confronting women (political, sexual, spiritual), human experience depicted through recourse to imaginary, extraterrestrial cultures—embrace most of the central concerns of her generation. As well as novels, short stories, science fiction, poetry, plays, essays, political analysis, travel books, and autobiography, she published light-hearted cultural satire and books about cats.
Head-shot of Doris Lessing, with her grey hair pulled back, and wearing a colourful patchwork jacket.
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Connections Sort descending Author name Excerpt
Education Margaret Drabble
MD has recalled how her father, newly demobbed after his wartime army service, patiently taught me to read from a primer called The Radiant Way. Later, Mary McCarthy 's The Group and Doris Lessing
Education Sarah Daniels
SD was still at school, aged sixteen, when a friend persuaded her that they should use free tickets given the school by the local repertory theatre. At first the theatre was boring (its main attraction...
Friends, Associates Michèle Roberts
MR 's memoir, Paper Houses, features a huge roster of close friends warmly evoked, some of them long-term commitments and others belonging to some particular period of her life. They include many women who...
Intertextuality and Influence Olive Schreiner
To Vera Brittain and some of her contemporaries, Women and Labour was the Bible of the Women's Movement. It influenced the writings of many early-twentieth-century feminists, including historian Alice Clark and suffragette Constance Lytton
Intertextuality and Influence Charlotte Brontë
Jane Eyre has also been subject to a host of feminist revisions. Beatrice Kean Seymour 's The Hopeful Journey (1923) presents a response to, and The Second Mrs. Conford (1951) a reworking of, the novel's...
Intertextuality and Influence Virginia Woolf
Most immediate comment on the appearance of this writing focussed, predictably, on accusations and defences about anti-Semitism. Lessing , however, produced a thoughtful piece which touches on Woolf's wider achievements and influence (particularly on women...
Intertextuality and Influence Sarah Daniels
SD began writing after reading an injunction from Doris Lessing about putting one's life in order. Some fringe plays that she attended were absolutely dreadful, which made her confident that she could do better...
Intertextuality and Influence Elma Napier
Critic Elaine Campbell reads this novel as a precursor to Doris Lessing 's The Summer Before the Dark, 1973. Campbell sees EN 's courage—in writing a novel of a middle-aged woman's second chance at...
Leisure and Society Penelope Mortimer
Her garden at Chastleton was a great delight to her.
Matthew, Henry Colin Gray, Brian Harrison, and Lawrence Goldman, editors. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
Doris Lessing , who met her at the end of her life, described her as entertaining a houseful of adolescent strays, and reported her as...
Literary responses Maureen Duffy
Doris Lessing wrote that MD created the world of her early years so that one can feel, smell, and taste it.
Duffy, Maureen. That’s How It Was. Virago, 1983.
Literary responses Olive Schreiner
The book is a landmark text. In an introduction to an edition of 1968, Doris Lessing (who first read it when she was fourteen) identified it as one of the few rare books ....
Literary responses Irene Handl
Almost all responses to this novel quoted on the cover of its 1985 reprint use somewhere the word original. The Sioux was welcomed at its first appearance by Noel Coward and by Daphne du Maurier
Literary responses Naomi Mitchison
Brian Morton , reviewing for the Times Literary Supplement, was intrigued but not wholly convinced. For Mitchison as for Doris Lessing , he remarked, the relation of myth to science demands a futurological setting...
Occupation Eva Figes
EF had a long stint as co-editor of this series, which includes works on Margaret Atwood , Jane Austen , Elizabeth Bowen , Elizabeth Barrett Browning , Frances Burney , Willa Cather , Colette ,...
politics Margaret Drabble
She also remembered the rise of feminism: the books by Doris Lessing , Sylvia Plath , Nell Dunn , and Edna O'Brienthat would irreversibly affect women's destiny, and the pioneering of feminist journalism by Mary Stott .
Drabble, Margaret. “1960s”. The Guardian, pp. Weekend 25 - 31.


The Royal Society of Literature received its charter; it had been founded several years previously.
17 February 1958
CND, or the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament , was founded at a public meeting in London; it held its first march that spring, at the Easter weekend.
By late 1963
The best-known novel by US author Mary McCarthy , The Group, appeared in Britain. It traces the later lives of a number of graduates of Vassar , then an all-women's college.
Elaine Showalter published A Literature of Their Own: British Women Novelists From Brontë to Lessing, an important work in women's literary history.
By mid-October 1983
Ursula Owen , editor of Virago Press , published with them an anthology of essays: Fathers: Reflections by Daughters.
9 December 2006-17 July 2007
The National Portrait Gallery in London mounted an exhibition of photographs of women writers, mostly novelists, from 1920 to 1960.