Neglected Women Writers’ Month: E. Arnot Robertson

Eileen Arbuthnot Robertson, known as E. Arnot Robertson, was born in January 1903 in Surrey, and worked as a novelist, critic, and broadcaster.  She had one older sister, Mary (1899).  Her family, which she described as ‘stultifying’, moved to London in 1917, and Eileen was educated in both France and Switzerland thereafter.

NPG x23000; E. Arnot Robertson by Howard Coster

by Howard Coster, transferrotype print, 1931

Her first job was at the London-based magazine Answers, when she was nineteen.  She married Henry Turner in 1927, and the couple adopted a son named Gordon in the late 1930s.  The pair were passionate sailors, and five months after Henry was killed in a boating accident in 1961, Eileen committed suicide.

Her novels were well received, and a film of her 1931 novel, Four Frightened People, was directed by Cecil B. DeMille, and released in 1934.  She was a contestant on the BBC’s panel gameshow ‘My Word!’ between 1957 and 1961.

“He looked away, and suddenly it was hard to attend to what he said, every muscle of the turned throat, the set of the arm in the loose shoulder next me, the lines of mouth and chin outlined against the grey-green forest background, took on an enormous, inexpressible significance for me. All the desires of the flesh, knowing its own transience, was in these things, and the unending pain and joy of human longing wore for a moment the garment of our tried, weary bodies, burning them into a new semblance, as doomed vessels of immortality.”
(From Four Frightened People)


  • Cullum (1928)
  • Three Came Unarmed (1929)
  • Four Frightened People (1931)
  • Ordinary Families (1933)
  • Thames Portrait (1937)
  • Summer’s Lease (1940)
  • Mr. Cobbett and the Indians (1942)
  • The Signpost (1943)
  • Devices and Desires (1954)
  • Justice of the Heart (1958)
  • The Spanish Town Papers (edited, 1959)
  • The Strangers on My Roof (1964)

– A review of the 1934 film version of ‘Four Frightened People’ can be found here.
– The University of Glasgow’s exploration of the Arnot Robertson vs. MGM court case can be read here.


3 thoughts on “Neglected Women Writers’ Month: E. Arnot Robertson

    • I had heard of Robinson before, but I came across a lot of them in Nicola Beauman’s ‘A Very Great Profession’, and then did further research on them.

  1. She’s one of those writers I’ve had books by for ages and never read – and I know she causes strong views on the Virago Librarything Group!

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