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Senate House Library

Writing for Peace: No Time Like The Present


Written by
Mura Ghosh

Margaret Storm Jameson (1891-1986), pen name 'Storm Jameson', came to my attention for the first time when researching women peace writers for the Writing in times of conflict exhibition. A largely forgotten peace activist and literary figure for many decades, Storm Jameson’s reputation was very high in her own lifetime.

After losing her brother in the Great War, Storm was an ardent supporter of the reconciliation work of the League of Nations. A committed socialist and feminist, she fought for peace through her fiction writing in the 1920s and as a member of the Women’s International League.

In the early 1930s, Storm began a close friendship with Vera Brittain, with whom she shared a deep passion for peace advocacy. They both published their autobiographical pacifist creeds in 1933. Jameson self-deprecatingly deemed her No Time Like the Present to be an inferior precursor to Brittain’s Testament of Youth.

Peace Pledge Union

Throughout the tumultuous world events of the 1930s and 1940s, Storm Jameson wrote furiously. She was in high demand as a literary critic and commentator on social and political issues. Her commitment to peace was unwavering and she joined the Peace Pledge Union as a founding member in 1934. She fought fascism tenaciously in her writing but also on the streets. On 7 June 1934 she stormed the Olympia rally of the British Union of Fascists alongside 500 other anti-fascists, including Vera Brittain and Aldous Huxley.

Senate House Library has a large collection of pamphlets published by the Peace Pledge Union. A few are on display in the Writing in Times of Conflict exhibition.

Challenge to death

With Hitler’s accession to power in 1933 and the growing existential threat to Europe, many leading British intellectuals recognised that war would be a disaster. With characteristic zeal, Storm Jameson took on the controversial peace initiative instigated by Robert Cecil to publish Challenge to death, a collection of essays by prominent writers, featuring in the exhibition.

Storm wrote the introductory article “The Twilight of reason” in a grave tone, attacking the dangers of nationalism, which she saw as the essence of fascism. In her epilogue “In the End” she outlined her vision for “a settled Europe, with England at its heart”. She wrote eloquently:

“For ill or good England is a close part of Europe and will remain so until aeroplanes are forbidden to be built. In Europe the majority of the nations have the misfortune to be foreigners, and close enough to us to make living with them uncomfortable and dangerous if it is not regulated. In such circumstances we ought to sit in conference with them the whole time, for our safety’s sake”.

Storm wrote continuously throughout her life. She produced over 45 novels and numerous non-fiction books, reviews, plays, critical essays and biographies. At the age of 78 she wrote a comprehensive two-volume memoir Journey from the North (1969-70) of her life and work.

The Library has been fortunate to receive a donation from Elisabeth Maslen including 73 titles by Storm Jameson. Elisabeth Maslen’s biography Life in the Writings of Storm Jameson reveals a figure who held her own beside fellow British women writers, including Virginia Woolf.

About the author

Mura Ghosh

Research Librarian & Co-Curator of Writing in Times of Conflict exhibition