Hinkson, Pamela (1900–82), novelist, was born 19 November 1900 in Ealing, London, England, the only daughter among five children of Katharine Tynan Hinkson (qv), novelist and poet, and Henry Albert Hinkson (1865–1919). Her father, a novelist, barrister, and classical scholar, was born 18 April 1865 at 76 Dame St., Dublin, son of John Hinkson, saddler, of that address, and Sarah Jane Hinkson (née Fawcett). He was educated at the High School, Dublin, and TCD, where he studied classics. After a period in Germany, he took an MA in classical studies at the RUI (1890), and afterwards became senior classical tutor at Clongowes Wood College, Co. Kildare. He met Katharine Tynan in 1888, and converted to Roman catholicism before their marriage in May 1893. They initially settled in England, where he studied law and was called to the Inner Temple (1902). After suffering the loss of their first two sons in infancy, they had two more sons besides their daughter, Pamela. During this time his wife earned the main family income, and it is likely that she determined their return to Ireland in 1911. They initially stayed in Dalkey, Co. Dublin, before moving to a house called Clarebeg in Shankill, Co. Dublin. When Hinkson was appointed resident magistrate for south Mayo (Castlebar) (October 1914), the family moved to Claremorris, Co. Mayo. Despite his being a catholic convert and a supporter of home rule, because he was a member of the English bar his appointment was initially met by objections from local nationalists. The Tynan home was described as a place where ‘... a protestant home ruler hob-nobbed fraternally with an enthusiastic conservative, or a Fenian leader. All politics were forgotten as well as all creeds’ (Colles, 212). However, the scorn they experienced locally heightened their sense of isolation in Mayo, and ultimately wore away at their affection for Ireland. Hinkson was a frequent contributor to The Bookman and other journals, and wrote numerous short stories, poems, and novels, without ever achieving critical acclaim. His most notable fictional works include: Golden lads and girls (1895); O'Grady of Trinity: a story of Irish university life (1896); Up for the green: a romance of the Irish rebellion of 1798 (1898); When love is kind (1898); Fan Fitzgerald (1902); and The Considine luck (1912). He also wrote Student life in Trinity College, Dublin (1892). He died at his residence, Brookhill, Claremorris, on 11 January 1919.
His daughter, Pamela Hinkson, was educated privately in England and on the Continent, and in Ireland attended a local convent day-school. She was exposed to her mother's literary milieu which included prominent writers of the Irish revival, including George Russell (qv) (AE), James Stephens (qv), and Padraic Colum (qv). Her mother's memoir The years of the shadow (1919) recalls Pamela's developing talent for writing poetry and her predilection for war themes, as evidenced by ‘The blind soldier’, one of her first published poems. Katharine also reveals that by the time Pamela turned her hand to short stories, her earnings from writing enabled her to buy the latest fashions.
Two key events that consumed her life and later sparked her creativity were the first world war and the Easter rising. H. G. Wells describes in the foreword to his war novel Mr Britling sees it through (1916) a conversation he had with Pamela when she was 12, recalling how she had boldly set him straight on ‘the Irish question’. Her parents sent her away to boarding school in Co. Wicklow in the hope that she would be distracted from her gloomy preoccupations, which were accentuated by the absence of her brothers, serving in the British army. After the war she was deeply concerned by the redundancy experienced by demobilised and often maimed soldiers, and contributed to the welfare work of the Irish servicemen's Shamrock Club in London. These issues informed two early novels, The victors (1925) and Harvest (1926), both written in the guise of an ex-serviceman under the pseudonym ‘Peter Deane’. By masking her identity she avoided the possibility of her works being discredited because of her gender and lack of first-hand experience of war. Subsequently she wrote under her own name for thirty years.
In contrast to her close relationship with her mother, she deeply disliked her father. With the exception of her beloved brother Giles A. Hinckson (d. 1957) – correspondent for The Times in Buenos Aires and Santiago – she never met a man who matched her high ideals; though briefly engaged to be married, she was ultimately disillusioned by all men, dismissing them as she had her father. After his death early in 1919, she and her mother were left in financial difficulties, and had to resort to friends and boarding houses for accommodation. Without the financial means to embark on a university degree, Pamela remained at her mother's side; though she continued to write, she led a somewhat stifled life. From 1922 onwards they spent several years on the Continent. Her first novel, The end of all dreams (1923), addressed the decline of the ‘big house’ amid the revolutionary upheavals of recent Irish history, a theme to which she returned in later works, such as The deeply rooted (1935) and her last book, The lonely bride (1951). During the 1920s she wrote much girls' school fiction, while her novel Wind from the west (1930) was informed by a period spent in France, where she worked as a governess. Her transcription of the memoirs of Lady Fingall (Elizabeth Burke Plunkett (qv)), published under the title Seventy years young (1937), illustrated the decline of the Anglo-Irish ascendancy. Informed by war and the Irish troubles, her novels characteristically were solemn, and reflected her ambivalent relationship with Ireland. Inspired by the Irish landscape, but never an ardent supporter of Irish independence, she maintained an abiding attachment to England. The death of her mother in 1931 was a devastating blow that triggered her most forceful and first truly successful novel, The ladies' road (1932). Documenting the lives of the Irish and English ascendancies before, during, and after the first world war, this novel, without being explicitly autobiographical, contains many motifs that resonate with her own life story. When published in America in 1946 it proved a massive success, selling 100,000 copies in the Penguin edition, a rare feat for a first-world-war novel appearing immediately after the second world war. Other notable works are The light on Ireland (1935) and her sketches of Irish life, Irish gold (1939), written while she lodged with friends near Lough Derg, Co. Tipperary. Her visit to India in the late thirties as a guest of the viceroy, which she recounted in Indian harvest (1941), resulted in her appointment to the Ministry of Information in London (1939–45). She lectured on India in America during the second world war, and also lectured to British troops and local audiences in Germany (1946–7), broadcast on radio, and contributed to the Observer, Spectator, New Statesman, Manchester Guardian, and Time and Tide. Her novel Golden rose (1944), written in London during the blitz, romanticised the British colonial presence in India. Forthright in the expression of her numerous strongly held opinions, she argued ardently and controversially for women's rights, animal welfare, and retention of Northern Ireland in the UK. Devout in her catholicism, she was none the less critical of certain catholic precepts. She returned to Ireland in 1959 where she suffered poor health for twenty years till her death in Dublin on 26 May 1982.