Marghanita Laski, date unknown

Marghanita Laski (24 October 1915 – 6 February 1988) was an English journalist, radio panellist and novelist; she also wrote literary biography, plays and short stories.

Personal life

Marghanita was born in Manchester, England, to a prominent family of Jewish intellectuals (Neville Laski was her father, Moses Gaster her grandfather and Harold Laski her uncle), she was educated at Lady Barn House School and St Paul's Girls' School in Hammersmith, worked in fashion, then studied English at Somerville College, Oxford[1]

In 1937 she married publisher John Eldred Howard, a founder of the Cresset Press in Paris, and worked in journalism.[2]

Marghanita Laski lived in Hampstead and Abbots Langley.[3]


After her son and daughter were born, Laski began writing in earnest. An omnivorous reader, from 1958 onward she became a prolific and compulsive contributor to the Oxford English Dictionary and by 1986 had "carded" around 250,000 quotations,[4] making her (according to Ilan Stavans) "the supreme contributor, male or female, to the OED".[5]

In the 1960s, Laski was the science fiction critic for The Observer.[6] Elected Vice Chairwoman of the Arts Council in 1982, she served as chair of its Literature Panel between 1980 and 1984.[7]


Laski was a panelist on the popular UK BBC panel show What's My Line? (1951-63), The Brains Trust (late 1950s), and Any Questions? (1960s).[citation needed]

Religious views

An avowed atheist,[8] she was also a keen supporter of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.[8] Her play, The Offshore Island, is about nuclear warfare.

Critical reception

Anthony Boucher described her novella The Victorian Chaise Longue as "an admirably written book, highly skilled in its economic evocation of time, place and character -- and a relentlessly terrifying one."[9]Ecstasy: A Study of Some Secular and Religious Experiences has been compared to The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James in its importance.[5]


She died in London (see her DNB entry) on 6 February 1988, aged 72, and was survived by her husband and children.[citation needed]


  • Love on the Supertax (1944) comic novel
  • Stories of Adventure (1946) (editor?)[citation needed]
  • The Patchwork Book (1946) editor
  • To Bed with Grand Music (1946), as Sarah Russell[10]
  • Victorian Tales for Girls (1947) editor
  • Tory Heaven or Thunder on the Right (1948) political satire
  • Little Boy Lost (1949) novel
  • Toasted English (1949)
  • Mrs Ewing, Mrs Molesworth and Mrs Hodgson Burnett (1950) biography
  • The Village (1952) novel (reprinted by Persephone Books in 2004)
  • The Victorian Chaise-longue (1953) novel (reprinted in 1999 by Persephone Books)
  • The Tower (1955) shortstory
  • Apologies (1955) caricature
  • The Offshore Island (1959) play
  • Ecstasy: a Study of Some Secular and Religious Experiences (1961) psychology
  • A Chaplet for Charlotte Yonge (1965) editor with Georgina Battiscombe
  • Jane Austen and Her World (1969) literary history
  • God and Man (1971) with Metropolitan Anthony (Bloom) of Sourozh religion
  • George Eliot and Her World (1973) literary history
  • Kipling's English History (1974) Rudyard Kipling poems, editor
  • Everyday Ecstasy (1980) psychology
  • Ferry, the Jerusalem Cat (1983) story
  • From Palm to Pine: Rudyard Kipling Abroad and at Home (1987) biography
  • Common Ground: an Anthology (1989) editor
  • To Bed with Grand Music (2001) (posthumous)

Republished by Persephone Books

Persephone Books reprinted The Victorian Chaise-longue in 1999, Little Boy Lost in 2001, The Village in 2004 and To Bed with Grand Music in 2009.


  1. ^ "MARGHANITA LASKI NOVELIST AND CRITIC; AT 72". Boston Globe. Highbeam. 8 February 1988. 
  2. ^ AP News Archive, 7 February 1988, "Marghanita Laski dies at 72",; accessed 14 February 2016.
    "She is survived by her husband, publisher John [Eldred] Howard, who founded the Cresset Press"
  3. ^ Hastie, Scott (1993). Abbots Langley—a Hertfordshire Village. Abbots Langley Parish Council. ISBN 0-9520929-0-5. 
  4. ^ Charlotte Brewer (22 July 2010). "Examining the OED". Oxford University. 
  5. ^ a b Verónica Albin: On Dictionaries: A Conversation with Ilan Stavans, Translation Journal, Volume 9, No. 2, April 2005.
  6. ^ Brian W. Aldiss, "Book Review," sfImpulse, October 1966, p. 19.
  7. ^ "Marghanita Laski". National Portrait Gallery. Retrieved 17 July 2011. 
  8. ^ a b Christine Finn: Chapter Eight Stanford University
  9. ^ "Recommended Reading," F&SF, October 1954, p.95.
  10. ^ Burchfield (2004)