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Catherine Carswell

Born 27 March 1879, Glasgow, Scotland.
Died 18 February 1946.

A celebrated novelist and biographer, and one of the most significant Scottish women writers of the early 20th century.

Connection to the University of Glasgow: Alumnus

Discover more biographers; novelists on the University of Glasgow Story website


The following achievement is associated with Catherine Carswell:

Contributing to the Scottish literary renaissance of the early 20th century
Scottish author, biographer and journalist, Catherine Carswell is now known as one of the few women who took part in the Scottish Renaissance. Her works are still widely read today.


The following honour is associated with this person:


Catherine Roxburgh Carswell, née Macfarlane, afterwards Jackson (1879-1946) was a University alumnus who became famous as a novelist and biographer. She is the sister of fellow alumnus George Macfarlane.

The daughter of a Glasgow merchant, Carswell was educated at the Park School. From 1901 to 1903 she attended classes in English Literature at the University, where she met Donald Carswell. Carswell was a contributor to Glasgow University Magazine and Catherine is said to have collaborated with him. She went on to study music at the Schumann Conservatorium in Frankfurt am Main before taking up employment as reviewer and dramatic critic at the Glasgow Herald from 1907 until 1915. She was subsequently an assistant theatre critic for the Observer.

Carswell's first marriage, to Herbert Jackson in 1903, was annulled in 1908, and in 1915 she married Donald Carswell. Her first novel, Open the Door, was published in 1920, followed in 1922 by The Camomile. She developed a particular interest in the life and work of Robert Burns, publishing her celebrated The Life of Robert Burns in 1930: her unsentimental account of his life upset many Burns traditionalists. She was a close friend of DH Lawrence, and in 1932 she published The Savage Pilgrimage: a Narrative of DH Lawrence.