Keane, Molly

Molly Keane
Molly Keane. Image source

Molly Keane was born in Co Kildare in 1904 into an Anglo-Irish gentry family, the daughter of Walter Clarmount Skrine of Warleigh Manor, Somerset and Agnes Shakespeare Higginson, who published under the pseudonym Moira O’Neill, and whose novels The Elf Errant and An Easter Vacation, as well as a collection Songs of the Glen of Antrim, were popular in the 19th century. Her birth name was Mary Nesta Skrine.

Her early novels were written under the pseudonym M.J.Farrell, and include The Knight of Cheerful Countenance (London, Mills and Boon, 1926); Young Entry (London, Elkin Mathews & Marrot, 1929/New York, Henry Holt, 1929); Taking Chances (Elkin Mathews & Marrot, 1929/Philadeliphia, J.B. Lippincott Co, 1930.); Mad Puppetstown (London: Collins, 1931/New York, Farrar and Rinehart, 1932); Devoted Ladies (Collins, 1934/Boston, Little, Brown & Co, 1934) ; Conversation Piece (Collins, 1937); Full House (Collins/Little, Brown, 1937); Rising Tide (Collins/New York, The MacMillan Company, 1937); Two Days in Aragon (Collins, 1941); Red Letter Days (with Snaffles, Collins 1944); and Loving Without Tears (Collins, 1951/New York, Crowell. 1951).

After a twenty year hiatus, thought to be caused by a savage review, she resumed writing under her married name, Molly Keane.

As Molly Keane her work includes Good Behaviour (London, Andre Deutsch/New York, Knopf, 1981); Time after Time (Andre Deutsch/Knopf, 1983); and Loving and Giving (Andre Deutch, 1988/ published as Queen Lear, New York, E.P. Dutton, 1988).

Her plays, certain of them with John Perry, include Spring Meeting (Gielgud Productions 1938, Collins 1938); Ducks and Drakes (1941, published London, Collins, 1952); Treasure Hunt (1949, Collins 1952); and Dazzling Prospect (1961, Samuel French 1961).

Her non-fiction includes, with her daughter, Molly Keane’s Nursery Cookbook (London, MacDonald, 1985); and Molly Keane’s Ireland: An Anthology (London, HarperCollins 1993).

Her work has been republished by Virago.

Among her many honours she received a D.Litt. from the National University of Ireland and the University of Ulster. Good Behaviour was shortlisted for The Booker McConnell Prize in 1981, and was adapted for television by Hugh Leonard in 1983.

She was a member of Aosdána, and died in 1996.

She is buried at Ardmore, Co Waterford.

Molly Keane Writers’ Retreat

Molly Keane at The National Library of Ireland