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Helen Jane Waddell (1889 - 1965):

Helen Waddell

Helen Waddell was born in Tokyo on 31 May 1889, where she learned to speak both Japanese and Chinese. She was educated at Victoria College, Belfast, Queen's College, Belfast, and Somerville College, Oxford, where she was Susette Taylor Fellow. Her first book was Lyrics from the Chinese, but her best known works are The Wandering Scholars, The Desert Fathers and Mediaeval Latin Lyrics and she translated from Latin Beasts and Saints. Her first play, The Spoilt Buddha, was performed at the Opera House, Belfast by the Ulster Literary Society and in 1935 The Abbe Prevost was staged.

In 1949 she published Stories from Holy Writ. Her novel Peter Abelard, 1933, has been translated into many languages and has run to over thirty editions. She contributed many articles to the Standard, Manchester Guardian and The Nation and was engaged in lecturing and broadcasting. She was assistant editor of the magazine The Nineteenth Century.

Among her friends in London, where she was Vice-President of the Irish Literary Society, were W. B. Yeats, Virginia Woolf, Rose Macaulay, Siegfried Sassoon, Max Beerbohm and George Russell. She received honorary degrees from Columbia, Belfast, Durham and St Andrew's and is the only woman to have won the A. C. Benson Medal of the Royal Society of Literature.

She died on 5 March 1965 in London and was buried in Magherally churchyard, County Down.

Born: 31 May 1889
Died: 5 March 1965
Patrick Devlin