Caryll Houselander: A Biography
By: Mary Frances Coady
"Maisie Ward, who knew Caryll Houselander and published many of her books, called her a “Divine Eccentric.” Houselander suffered much in her short life. She was singular, awkward, and odd, and also the most popular and prolific writer for Catholics in postwar England. She focused on the passion of Christ and how personal suffering might be linked to it. Based on deep research, grounded in the historical and religious context, and written in accessible prose, Mary Francis Coady’s biography of Caryll Houselander adds to understanding this “Divine Eccentric.” "- Dana Greene, is Dean Emerita of Oxford College of Emory University an author of “The Living of Maisie Ward” and four other biographies.
This biography tells the life of the elusive twentieth-century English writer, Caryll Houselander, who saved no personal letters and left only her books, which included a short autobiography, a few classics of Catholic spirituality including The Reed of God and The Flowering Tree, and various unpublished personal scratchings. She never had robust health, and mentally had the tendency to live in her own world. Her one aim in life, discovered from adolescence onward, was to see the suffering Christ in humanity.
Born in 1901, Houselander was of the generation that lived through two world wars. In between the two were days of wandering: art school, bohemianism, a love affair, and self-torture as she desperately sought to find herself in her search for God. Living in London during World War II, she found herself at the heart of catastrophe in the form of the Blitz, and came to understand human suffering firsthand. She also developed a wicked sense of humor and a quality for seeing into things that many around her termed a “sixth sense.” Houselander’s life was cut short by cancer, but not before earning a reputation as a Catholic eccentric.
Mary Frances Coady’s books include Merton and Waugh: A Monk, a Crusty Old Man, and The Seven Storey Mountain. Her work on Caryll Houselander was supported by a grant from the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism at the University of Notre Dame. She lives in Toronto.