Lorna Sage

Lorna Sage (13 January 1943 – 11 January 2001) was an English academic, literary critic and author, known for her contribution to the consideration of women's writing and a memoir of her early life, Bad Blood (2000).[1] She was Professor of English literature and the University of East Anglia.

Lorna Sage
BornLorna Stockton
(1943-01-13)13 January 1943
Dodington, Whitchurch, England
Died11 January 2001(2001-01-11) (aged 57)
Norwich, England
literary critic
EducationWhitchurch High School
Alma materDurham University
University of Birmingham
Notable worksBad Blood (Sage book)
Notable awardsWhitbread Biography of the Year award (2001)


Sage was born in Hanmer, a village on the English-Welsh border, the eldest child of Valma (née Meredith-Morris) and Eric Stockton, a haulage contractor, then serving as a second lieutenant in the Royal Welch Fusiliers.[1] She was named after Lorna Doone. As her father was away serving during the war, she was initially raised in her grandparents' home in Flintshire, north Wales, where her grandfather was an Anglican clergyman, a ladies' man and a drinker disliked by his wife. She was educated at a nearby village school in Flintshire, then at the Girls' High School in Whitchurch.[2][3][4]

Lorna Stockton became pregnant by Victor Sage when she was 15 years old, they married in 1959 when she was 16. Their daughter Sharon was born in 1960, after which the couple managed to continue their education. Lorna Sage won a scholarship to read English at Durham University, after the university's St Aidan's College changed its admission rules to admit married students. They both graduated in 1964 with first class honours, a front-page story on the Daily Mail at the time.[3] Although the couple divorced in 1974, they remained friends. Sage later received an MA from the University of Birmingham for her thesis entitled "Poems on Poetry in the 17th Century".[1][5]

Sage's spent her entire academic teaching career at the University of East Anglia, where she became Professor of English Literature in 1994. She was twice Dean of the School of English and American Studies (in 1985–1988 and 1993–1996).[4] She edited The Cambridge Guide to Women's Writing in English in 1999, which has become a standard work. As she wrote in the Preface: "In concentrating on women's writing... you stress the extent and pace of change, for the scale of women's access to literary life has reflected and accelerated democratic, diasporic pressures in the modern world."[6]

Sage's book reviews appeared in the London Review of Books, The Times Literary Supplement, the The New York Times Book Review and The Observer, mentioning the works of Angela Carter and covering studies of works of authors who included Christina Stead, Doris Lessing, Thomas Love Peacock, John Milton and Thomas Hardy.

Sage married Rupert Hodson in 1979 after meeting him in Florence on a sabbatical.[4][2] The couple rented a house near Florence from Harry Brewster, where Sage wrote outside academic terms.[3]

Sage's childhood is recalled in her autobiographical memoir Bad Blood (2000), an account of childhood disappointment in a family where warped behaviour was passed down from generation to generation. The book won the Whitbread Biography Award on 3 January 2001.[7][8] A week later Sage died in London as a result of emphysema, from which she had suffered for some years.[9][3] She left behind the draft of the first part of a work on Plato and Platonism in literature, which, according to her former husband in 2001, she had been working on intermittently for many years.[5] The posthumous collection Moments of Truth partly consists of reprinted introductions to classic works.[3]


  • Peacock: The Satiral Novels (1976)
  • Doris Lessing (1983)
  • Last Edwardians: An Illustrated History of Violet Trefusis & Alice Keppel (1985)
  • Angela Carter (1990)
  • Women in the House of Fiction (1992)
  • Flesh and the Mirror; Essays on the Art of Angela Carter (1994)
  • The Cambridge Guide to Women's Writing in English (1999)
  • Bad Blood (2000)
  • Moments of Truth: Twelve Twentieth century Women Writers (2001): a collection of her literary essays
  • Good as her word: Selected Journalism (2004)


  1. ODNB entry by Maureen Duffy, "Sage , Lorna (1943–2001)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 22 January 2013. Pay-walled.
  2. Cook, Jon (13 January 2001). "Lorna Sage". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 October 2019.
  3. Fenton, James (13 June 2002). "The Woman Who Did". Retrieved 21 October 2019. (subscription required)
  4. "Lorna Sage". The Daily Telegraph. 13 January 2001. Retrieved 21 October 2019.
  5. Sage, Victor (7 June 2001). "Diary". London Review of Books. 23 (11). p. 37. Retrieved 21 October 2019. (subscription required)
  6. Sage, Lorna, ed. (1999). The Cambridge Guide to Women's Writing in English. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. p. v.
  7. Ezard, John (4 January 2001). "Double first for novel newcomer Zadie Smith". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 October 2019..
  8. "Tributes to 'brilliant' Sage". BBC News. 12 January 2001. Retrieved 21 October 2019.
  9. Saner, Emine (9 October 2010). "Lorna Sage, my mum". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 October 2019.
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