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Ransome Autobiography cover

Front cover illustration of Ransome's Autobiography

The Autobiography of Arthur Ransome, Arthur Ransome’s autobiography, ended in 1932, but was published on 9 September 1976, after both Arthur and Evgenia had died. It was written (mainly) between 1949 and 1961, when he was 65 to 77, according to the Prologue by his friend Rupert Hart-Davis, who had promised Arthur several times to edit it and see it through the press. Rupert Hart-Davis and John Bell (the husband of Pamela Whitlock, the co-author of The Far-Distant Oxus) were Ransome’s literary executors. The book was published by Jonathan Cape, not by Rupert Hart-Davis’s own publishing firm.

Rupert Hart-Davis said it required editing, to remove references to episodes in Russia in which Arthur was not involved, eg discussion of Russian political parties or theories of the future; and to have people introduced only once, when they first appeared. This is because, like the books of the Swallows and Amazons series, he used to write a detailed synopsis with chapter titles first, then write "whichever chapter took his fancy or seemed easiest, leaving the most difficult to the last".

AR covers in the last two chapters his writing of Swallows and Amazons, with a “family of imaginary children”, and had sketched the story of how the family of four (five including the baby) met two girls on a lake like Coniston.

He wrote at the end of the book that after the publication and reprinting of Peter Duck in 1932:

“The turn of the tide had come just in time to save us and to justify Evgenia’s courage in risking financial disaster. Presently the sales of the first two books began to catch up with those of Peter Duck, and I knew I could afford to write another.”

Arthur died in 1967, and Evenia died in 1975, nearly eight years later. According to Brogan, her chief preoccupation was to act as guardian of Arthur’s reputation, writings and estate; and she took especial care over the preparation of the Autobiography for publication after her own death (Life, page 434). Wardale says that after Arthur’s death Genia took to remonstrating with the Altounyans over their “monstrously false claims on their part that they had been models for the Swallows” and "withheld his Autobiography from publication until after her death" (NBUS page 80).


The Autobiography of Arthur Ransome by Arthur Ransome (1976, Jonathan Cape, London) ISBN 0 224 01245 2

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