Denis George Mackail (3 June 1892 - 4 August 1971) was an English novelist and short-story writer, publishing between the two world-wars. Although his work is now largely forgotten, 'Greenery Street', a novel of early married life in upper-middle class London, was republished by Persephone Books in 2002.
He was born in Kensington, London on 3 June 1892 to John William Mackail and Margaret Burne-Jones. Educated at St Paul's School, Hammersmith, he went to Balliol College, Oxford, but failed to complete his degree through ill-health after two years.
His first work was as a set designer, notably for J. M. Barrie's The adored one and George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion (1914). The outbreak of World War I interrupted this promising start, however, and Denis, not fit enough for active service, worked in the War Office and the Board of Trade.
In 1917 he married Diana Granet, only child of the railway manager Sir Guy Granet, who was a director-general for railways in the War Office. The couple had two children, Mary (born 28 March 1919) and Anne (born 12 January 1922) and lived in Chelsea, London. It was the necessity of supporting his young family that lead Denis to write a novel when office jobs became insecure after the end of the war.
With his novel published, his first short-story accepted by the prestigious Strand Magazine and the services of a literary agent, A. P. Watt, Denis was soon earning enough from his writing to give up office work. He published a novel every year from 1920 to 1938 and among his literary friends were P. G. Wodehouse and A. A. Milne.
During the 1930s Mackail lived at Bishopstone House, Bishopstone near Seaford, Sussex
As therapy from a nervous breakdown, Denis agreed to write the official biography of J. M. Barrie, which appeared in 1941. He went on to produce seven more novels and some books of reminiscences, but after the early death of his wife in 1949, he published no more and lived quietly in London until his death. He died on 4 August 1971.
Denis Mackail's sister was the novelist Angela Thirkell.
Books by Denis Mackail
- What next? (1920)
- Romance to the rescue (1921)
- Bill the bachelor (1922)
- According to Gibson (1923)
- Summertime (1923)
- The Majestic mystery (1924)
- Greenery Street (1925) (Republished in 2002 by Persephone Books)
- The fortunes of Hugo (1926)
- The flower show (1927)
- Tales from Greenery Street (1928)
- Another part of the wood (1929)
- How amusing! (1929)
- The young Livingstones (1930)
- The Square circle (1930)
- David's day (1932)
- Ian and Felicity [US title: Peninsula Place] (1932)
- Having fun (1933)
- Chelbury Abbey (1933)
- Summer leaves (1934)
- The wedding (1935)
- Back again (1936)
- Jacinth (1937)
- London lovers (1938)
- Morning, noon and night (1938)
- The story of J. M. B. [US title: Barrie] (1941)
- Life with Topsy (1942)
- Upside-down (1943)
- Ho! or, How it all strikes me (1944)
- Tales for a godchild (1944)
- Huddlestone House (1945)
- Our hero (1947)
- We're here! (1947)
- Where am I? or, A stranger here myself (1948)
- By auction (1949)
- Her ladyship (1949)
- It makes the world go round (1950)
- 'Denis Mackail' in Obituaries from The Times, 1971-1975, Reading : Newspaper Archive Developments, 1978
- 'Mackail, Denis George' in Who was who, [vol. 7] : 1971-1980, London : Black, c.1982
- Denis Mackail, Life with Topsy, London : Heinemann, 1942
- Bishopstone & Seaford by Pople & Berry : Sutton Press 1991
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