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About Arabella Kenealy – Author

(1864–1938). Born at Portslade, Sussex, she was one of the eleven legitimate children of the Irish barrister E. V. H. Kenealy (1819–1880), who was once imprisoned for violence to his illegitimate son, and who was disbarred (1874) for his mad behaviour (perhaps owing to diabetes) while defending the Tichborne Claimant. Kenealy published an admiring biography (1908) of her father. Annesley Kenealy was her sister; and their brother Alexander Kenealy (1864–1915) became editor of the Daily Mirror in 1904.

Educated at home and the London School of Medicine for Women, she practised medicine in London and Watford (1888–1894) before retiring from ill health after catching diphtheria.

Her first novel, Dr Janet of Harley Street (1893), about a female doctor and her protégée, has lesbian overtones. Her later fiction is much concerned with problems of sex and marriage. In The Love of Richard Herrick (1902) Sybilla, a painter, refuses Herrick’s offer of marriage because she wants to be independent. He then marries an ordinary girl, who goes mad, and has an affair with a fascinating widow, before the mad wife dies, enabling him to marry the now repentant Sybilla. Eugenicism, sexuality, and feminism are major themes. But some of the stories in the collection Dr. Smith of Queen Anne Street (1907) are far more conventional treatments of the motif of the woman who doesn’t realize what she wants. In ‘Bridge and Marriage’ a girl must marry a man to whom she owes money. In ‘A Mésalliance’ Sir Brian is magnanimous to a former fiancée who eloped foolishly with a gamekeeper. An American Duchess (1906) is a novel about the decadence of high society; Stella Herbert, a beautiful graduate, is too high-minded to cope and divorces the husband she loves, only to end by wooing him in disguise.

Kenealy also wrote non-fiction about medical and sexual issues. Like many feminists of her generation, she was an anti-vivisectionist and interested in the occult. Her books include The Failure of Vivisection (1909), Feminism and Sex-Extinction (1920) and The Human Gyroscope: A Consideration of the Gyroscopic Rotation of Earth as Mechanism of the Evolution of Terrestrial Living Forms (1934).

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