Jean Rhys: Biography

Jean Rhys

24 aug 1890

Famous for her book, ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’ Jean Rhys was a Caribbean novelist of the mid 20th century. The only best part of her life was her involvement in writing. Jean Rhys personal life is not as good as her professional life.

Jean Rhys was born as Ella Gwendolen Rees Williams on the island of Dominica on Aug 24, 1890 to a Welsh father and White Creole mother. Right from her childhood she felt isolated. Jean moved to England when she was 17. Aspiring to become an actress, she joined the Academy of Dramatic Art, but due to her West Indies accent she has to discontinue.

Jean tried to fulfil her desire by working as a chorus girl, mannequin and model. She faced much poverty that at one point in her life, she became a prostitute. Jean was abandoned by many men, but she accepted money from them for her living even after they left her.

Jean started to write about her life but it did not fetch her any money. It was writer Ford Madox Ford who taught her the way of bringing her writing into publishing form and gave her the name Jean Rhys. When Jean’s affair with Ford ended, she wrote about it in a novel called Quartet. More books like, ‘After Leaving Mr Mackenzie’ ‘Ford Voyage in the Dark’ and ‘Good Morning, Midnight’ followed.

Jean once confessed that she has written only about herself in all her books. Although Jean had three unsuccessful marriages, took to alcoholism and even stayed in prison, her writing skills were highly appreciated. Her book ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’ won her the WH Smith Literary Award. For her contribution to literature, Jean was honoured as a commander of British Empire in 1978.

Jean Rhys, who always felt lonely, died alone in a nursing home in Devon on May 14, 1979.