When young John Ellery came to London to study architecture, he straightway fell in love. First of all, he fell in love with the colour and the line and the lovely old masonry of Chelbury Abbey and then quite shyly and confusedly with Penny herself. Penny Wick, Lady Penelope, if one must be so old-fashioned, lived with her father, the seventh earl, in a cottage near the Abbey and pined to get up to London and find a job. She belonged to England's aristocratic new poor and rather took the glories of her pleasant old Abbey for granted. But John had lots of ideas--more or less practical. His pursuit of them and of Penny makes one of the most human and delightful stories that Denis Mackail has written. And this is praise indeed if you remember Greenery Street and Peninsula Place.
Denis Mackail was born in London on 3 June 1892. He went to Balliol College, Oxford, but failed to complete his degree through ill-health after two years. In 1917 he married Diana Granet, only child of the railway manager Sir Guy Granet, who was a director-general for railways in the War Office. The couple had two children and lived in Chelsea, London. It was the necessity of supporting his young family that lead Denis to write a novel when office jobs became insecure after the end of the war. With his novel published, his first short-story accepted by the prestigious Strand Magazine and the services of a literary agent, A. P. Watt, Denis was soon earning enough from his writing to give up office work. He published a novel every year from 1920 to 1938 and among his literary friends were P. G. Wodehouse and A. A. Milne. During the 1930s Mackail lived at Bishopstone House, Bishopstone near Seaford, Sussex. Denis agreed to write the official biography of J. M. Barrie, which appeared in 1941. He went on to produce seven more novels and some books of reminiscences, but after the early death of his wife in 1949, he published no more and lived quietly in London until his death. He died on 4 August 1971.
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