Lady Cynthia Asquith

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Lady Cynthia Asquith
Cynthia Mary Evelyn Charteris

(1887-09-27)27 September 1887
Wiltshire, England
Died31 March 1960(1960-03-31) (aged 72)
Oxford, England
Years active1926–1960
(m. 1910; died 1947)

Lady Cynthia Mary Evelyn Asquith (née Charteris; 27 September 1887 – 31 March 1960) was an English writer and socialite, known for her ghost stories and diaries.[1] She also wrote novels and edited a number of anthologies, as well as writing for children and on the British Royal family.

Early life[edit]

Lady Cynthia was born on 27 September 1887, one of seven children of Hugo Richard Charteris, 11th Earl of Wemyss (1857–1937), and Mary Constance Wyndham, of The Souls fame.[2] Among her siblings were Hugo Francis Charteris, Lord Elcho (who married Lady Violet Manners, the daughter of Henry Manners, 8th Duke of Rutland, and was killed in action during the Great War),[3] Guy Lawrence Charteris, Colin Charteris (who died young), Lady Mary Charteris (wife of Capt. Algernon Walter Strickland and, after his death, John George Lyon), Yvo Alan Charteris (who was also killed in action during the Great War),[4] and Lady Irene Charteris (wife of Ivor Windsor-Clive, 2nd Earl of Plymouth).[5]

Her paternal grandparents were Francis Charteris, 10th Earl of Wemyss and, his first wife, Lady Anne Frederica Anson (second daughter of Thomas Anson, 1st Earl of Lichfield). Her maternal grandparents were Capt. Hon. Percy Scawen Wyndham MP for Cumberland West (second son of George Wyndham, 1st Baron Leconfield), and the former Frances Eden Campbell (sixth daughter of Maj.-Gen. Sir Guy Campbell, 1st Baronet).[5]


In 1913, she met D.H. Lawrence in Margate, and became a friend and correspondent.[6] She took a position as secretary to Peter Pan creator J.M. Barrie,[7][8] with whom she became close friends, continuing to work for him until his death in 1937. Barrie left the bulk of his estate to her, minus the Peter Pan works.[9] Author L.P. Hartley became a lifelong friend after they met in the early 1920s.

Asquith became known for editing The Ghost Book, an anthology of supernatural fiction that included work by D.H. Lawrence, Algernon Blackwood, Arthur Machen, Oliver Onions, and May Sinclair.[10]

One of Asquith's stories, "The Follower", was adapted for BBC Radio, along with stories by Algernon Blackwood, Marjorie Bowen, and Noel Streatfeild; all these stories were later reprinted in the Cecil Madden anthology My Grimmest Nightmare (1935).[1]

In addition to her literary work, Asquith contributed to the screenplay of the 1937 film Dreaming Lips starring Elisabeth Bergner.[11]

Personal life[edit]

On 28 July 1910, Lady Cynthia married Herbert Asquith (1881–1947), the second son of H.H. Asquith, the Liberal Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1908 to 1916, with whom he is sometimes confused.[12] They had three children:[13]

  • John Michael Asquith (1911–1937), who suffered from mental problems and died in an institution.[14][15]
  • Michael Henry Asquith (1914–2004),[16] who married, firstly, Diana Eveline Montagu Battye, daughter of Lt.-Col. Perceval Lawrence Montagu Battye, in 1938. They divorced in 1952 and he married, secondly, Helga Brigitta Ebba Elizabeth Ritter, daughter of Dr. Walther Sigmund Casimir Ritter, in 1953.[17]
  • Simon Roland Anthony Asquith (1919–1973), who married Vivien Lawrence Jones, daughter of Sir Lawrence Jones, 5th Baronet and Lady Evelyn Alice Grey (a daughter of Albert Grey, 4th Earl Grey), in 1942.[18]

Her husband died in Bath on 5 August 1947, aged 66,[13] and Lady Cynthia died on 31 March 1960, aged 72.[5]


  • The Flying Carpet (1925), editor
  • Treasure Ship (1926), editor
  • The Ghost Book (1927), editor
  • The Duchess of York (1927), biography
  • The Black Cap (1928), editor
  • Shudders (1929), editor
  • The Children's Cargo (1930), editor
  • When Churchyards Yawn (1931), editor
  • My Grimmest Nightmare (1935), editor
  • The Spring House (1936), novel
  • Dreaming Lips (1937), screenplay
  • One Sparkling Wave (1943), novel
  • This Mortal Coil (1947), stories
  • Haply I May Remember (1950)
  • What Dreams May Come? (1951), stories
  • The Second Ghost Book (1952), editor
  • Portrait of Barrie (1954)
  • The Third Ghost Book (1955), editor
  • Married to Tolstoy (1960), biography
  • Thomas Hardy at Max Gate (1969)


"God Grante That She Lye Stille", collected in When Churchyards Yawn, was adapted in 1961 by Robert Hardy Andrews as an episode of the anthology TV series Thriller.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Richard Dalby, The Virago Book of Ghost Stories.Virago, London, ISBN 0-86068-810-0, 1987 (p. 236).
  2. ^ Debrett's Peerage and Baronetage. Debrett's Peerage Limited. 2018. p. 1213. ISBN 978-1-870520-73-7. Retrieved 11 September 2020.
  3. ^,-lord-hugo-francis/
  4. ^,-the-hon.-yvo-alan/
  5. ^ a b c "Wemyss, Earl of (S, 1633)". Heraldic Media Limited. Retrieved 11 September 2020.
  6. ^ See Mark Kinkead-Weekes, D. H. Lawrence: Triumph to Exile, 1912-1922 (Cambridge, 1996), pp.69ff.
  7. ^ Birkin, Andrew: J. M. Barrie & the Lost Boys, Constable, 1979; revised edition, Yale University Press, 2003
  8. ^ Telfer, Kevin. "Captain Scott and J M Barrie: an unlikely friendship", Telegraph, 9 March 2012
  9. ^ Chaney, Lisa. Hide-and-Seek with Angels - A Life of J. M. Barrie, Hutchinson, 2005
  10. ^ Mike Ashley and William Contento, The Supernatural Index: A Listing of Fantasy, Supernatural, Occult, Weird, and Horror Anthologies. Greenwood Publishing Group, 1995. ISBN 0313240302 (p. 728-9)
  11. ^ Film Reviews. Sydney Morning Herald [Sydney] 25 October 1937, p.8. Web. 17 Apr. 2013.
  12. ^ "Oxford and Asquith, Earl of (UK, 1925)". Heraldic Media Limited. Retrieved 11 September 2020.
  13. ^ a b "Mr. Herbert Asquith – Poet and Novelist". The Times. The Times Digital Archive. 8 August 1947. p. 7.
  14. ^ Beauman, Nicola, Cynthia Asquith Hamish Hamilton (1987)
  15. ^ Asquith, Margot (2014). Margot Asquith's Great War Diary 1914-1916: The View from Downing Street. Oxford University Press. p. 72. ISBN 978-0-19-822977-3. Retrieved 11 September 2020.
  16. ^ Atkinson, Damian (2018). The Selected Letters of Charles Whibley: Scholar and Critic. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. p. 152. ISBN 978-1-5275-1294-8. Retrieved 11 September 2020.
  17. ^ Kidd, Charles; Shaw, Christine (2008). Debrett's Peerage & Baronetage 2008. Debrett's. p. 1103. ISBN 978-1-870520-80-5. Retrieved 11 September 2020.
  18. ^ Fleming, Ann (1985). The Letters of Ann Fleming. Collins Harvill. p. 27. ISBN 978-0-00-217059-8. Retrieved 11 September 2020.
  19. ^ IMDB

Further reading[edit]

  • The Diaries of Cynthia Asquith 1915-1918 (1969)
  • Best Friends: Memories of David and Rachel Cecil, Cynthia Asquith, L. P. Hartley and Others (1991) Julian Fane
  • Tuck, Donald H. (1974). The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy. Chicago: Advent. p. 23. ISBN 0-911682-20-1.

External links[edit]