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.


Connections Sort descending Author name Excerpt
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...
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
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 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...
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
Leisure and Society Penelope Mortimer
Her garden at Chastleton was a great delight to her.
Matthew, Henry Colin Gray et al., 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 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...
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.
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
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 Olivia Manning
As to gender politics, though she admired the suffragists and felt strongly about women's rights, she thought of herself not as a woman writer but as a writer who happened to be a woman, and...


1826: The Royal Society of Literature received...

Writing climate item


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,...

Building item

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,...

Writing climate item

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.

1977: Elaine Showalter published A Literature of...

Writing climate item


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...

Women writers item

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...

Writing climate item

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.


Lessing, Doris. A Man and Two Women. Granada, 1965.
Lessing, Doris. A Proper Marriage. Michael Joseph, 1954.
Lessing, Doris. A Ripple from the Storm. Michael Joseph, 1958.
Lessing, Doris. African Laughter. HarperCollins, 1992.
Lessing, Doris. Ben, in the World. Flamingo, 2000.
Lessing, Doris. Briefing for a Descent into Hell. Jonathan Cape, 1971.
Lessing, Doris. Collected African Stories. Michael Joseph, 1973.
Lessing, Doris. Collected African Stories. Flamingo, 1994.
Lessing, Doris. Collected Stories. Michael Joseph, 1978.
Lessing, Doris. Collected Stories Volume Two. Flamingo, 1994.
Lessing, Doris. Documents Relating to the Sentimental Agents in the Volyen Empire. Jonathan Cape, 1983.
Lessing, Doris. “Each His Own Wilderness”. New English Dramatists, edited by Elliott M. Browne, Penguin, 1959, pp. 11-95.
Lessing, Doris. Five: Short Novels. Michael Joseph, 1953.
Lessing, Doris. If the Old Could . . . Michael Joseph, 1984.
Lessing, Doris. Landlocked. MacGibbon and Kee, 1965.
Lessing, Doris. London Observed. HarperCollins, 1992.
Lessing, Doris. Love, Again. Flamingo, 1996.
Lessing, Doris. Martha Quest. Michael Joseph, 1952.
Lessing, Doris. Martha Quest. Flamingo, 1993.
Lessing, Doris. “On Not Winning the Nobel Prize”. PMLA, Vol.
, No. 3, pp. 780-7.
Lessing, Doris. Particularly Cats. Michael Joseph, 1967.
Lessing, Doris. Play with a Tiger. Michael Joseph, 1962.
Lessing, Doris, and Charlie Adlard. Playing the Game. Harper Collins, 1995.
Lessing, Doris. Shikasta. Jonathan Cape, 1979.
Lessing, Doris. Shikasta. Flamingo, 1994.