Motherhood Need Not Spell the End of Literature

The Evening Standard (London, England), October 16, 2007 | Go to article overview
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Motherhood Need Not Spell the End of Literature


Byline: SEBASTIAN SHAKESPEARE

THERE IS NO more sombre enemy of good art than the pram in the hall,wrote Cyril Connolly. Britain's latest Nobel Laureate for Literature, DorisLessing, would doubtless agree.

Lessing abandoned her two infant children (both under five) after leaving herfirst husband. "I had these two children and just couldn't afford to keepthem," she said. Her two prams were not only enemies of promise but becameemblematic of female poverty.

Some of the best female writers of the 20th century found it difficult tocombine motherhood and creativity.

Dame Muriel Spark walked out on her son when he was six to write novels andseek fame and fortune. She eventually cut her estranged son out of hermulti-million pound will, leaving every penny of her assets to the femalefriend she lived with for 40 years.

Colette, who never wanted children, hardly ever saw her daughter whom she leftin the hands of an English nanny. She chillingly, albeit rather brilliantly,described children as "those happy unconscious little vampires who drain thematernal heart". And as for Virginia Woolf, well, we all know what happened toher. The author of A Room of One's Own, who argued that "a woman must havemoney and a room of her own if she is to write fiction", ended up withoutchildren and committed suicide.

My wife, who is writing a book, recites this litany of names above as proofpositive that motherhood and creativity do not go hand in handand the reason why she is putting procreation on hold.

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