Jean Rhys

(August 24th, 1890 — May 14th, 1979)

Jean Rhys (born Ella Gwendolyn Rees Williams) was a British-Dominican author.

Rhys was born to wealthy anglo-saxon plantation owners in Dominica. At the age of 16, her difficult relationship with her mother ended with Rhys being sent to relatives in England for the rest of her schooling.

Mocked for her Caribbean roots and her accent, she had difficulties with other students and her instructors. After two terms at an academy for acting, her instructor advised for her to be sent back to Dominica. Rhys resisted and began taking work as a chorus girl, often under a pseudonym.

When her father died, she began a relationship with a wealthy stockbroker. Though the affair ended quickly, he continued to help her financial for some time. At this point, distraught by a number of events, including a near-fatal abortion, she began to write. For a while she was self-employed, and then in a pension office.

She came under the influence of Ford Maddox Ford around the time when her first husband was imprisoned. Though her relationship with Ford resulted in her writing being published and critically well-received, the affair ended her marriage. Eventually, she and her husband were divorced, and she lost custody of her only child.

She continued to write, publishing her first novel within a year of her first publication. She returned to Dominica only once more, with her second husband. In 1937, she developed a friendship with Eliot Bliss, another author of Caribbean background.

In the 1940s, Rhys retired from the public eye. She was rediscovered by Selam Vaz Dias and encouraged to write again. At this point, she wrote one of her more famous novels, The Wide Saragossa Sea, which received much literary acclaim. Though she complained, “It has come too late.” She also expressed her general unhappiness in her later years.

Rhys died in 1979, after having published two more short-story collections and being widowed twice. An unfinished autobiography was published posthumously.

Jean Rhys is a book author.

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