In 1916, when Rebecca West was not yet twenty-five years old, George Bernard Shaw wrote: ‘Rebecca can handle a pen as brilliantly as ever I could and much more savagely.’ These early writings, collected ehre for the first time, established Rebecca West’s reputation as a brilliant journalist and a dedicated yet undogmatic feminist and socialist. From the age of nineteen, writing articles for The Freewoman, and later the Clarion, she displayed her characteristic fierce intelligence, her passion and her biting wit in articles on women’s suffrage, imperialism, the Labour Party, and trade unionism as well as literature, religion, domesticity, men and crime. Whether reviewing the latest novel by H.G. Wells (‘the sex obsession that lay clotted on Ann Veronica… like cold white sauce’), describing police brutality against suffragettes (‘An Orgy of Disorder and Cruelty’), or arguing for better conditions for working women (‘Women ought to understand that in submitting themselves to this swindle of underpayment, they are not only insulting themselves, but doing a deadly injury to the community’), she demonstrated again and again a characteristic fearlessness and a formidable grasp of events.
Including a short story, ‘Indissoluble Matrimony’, which appeared in the historic first issue of Blast, and a biographical essay of great psychological penetration on the suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, this exhilerating collection introduces the early work of one of the most distinguished writers of our time and provides a portrait of a fascinating and turbulent period of British political and literary history.