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Hamilton, Cicely

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author, Theatre.

Pseudonym under which UK playwright, actor, Feminist and author Mary Cicely Hammill (1872-1952) published all her adult work, though her children's fiction, including some stories for the Sexton Blake series, was written as by Scott Rae and by Max Hamilton. Her best-known plays are eloquently suffragist; they include How the Vote Was Won (1908 chap; first performed 1909) with Christopher St John (1871-1960) (who had decades previously abandoned her birth name Christabel Marshall), in which the outcome predicted by the title is achieved when those women without means go on strike.

Hamilton is one of the first – and among the darkest – of those UK sf novelists whose vision of things was shaped by World War One, which they saw as foretelling the end of civilization; she herself served throughout the war, either in hospital work or with Concerts at the Front. Her sf novel, Theodore Savage: A Story of the Past or the Future (1922; rev vt Lest Ye Die 1928), bitterly depicts a Future War which destroys London and escalates towards a full-scale Holocaust, in whose aftermath the people of the UK, driven out of the remaining cities, revert to superstitious barbarism; the revised version presents a more "savage" Theodore Savage, whose increased coldness to the woman he loves emphasizes the dispassionate long view characteristic of the Scientific Romance, making some reference to the use of gas in warfare, and eventually comparing the ruins of previous civilizations with the ruins created in his own time (see Ruins and Futurity), and concluding that human history on the planet is cyclical. Savage himself lives to a great age in a small village full of savages who think of pre-collapse artefacts as obscene, a trope typical of many subsequent Ruined Earth novels.

Hamilton's Feminism was cogent and ably directed to the correction of multifarious legal oppressions women suffered under; twenty-first century references to Hamilton tend to focus on her feminism and her playwriting, but (deficiently) fail to mention her sf. [JC/SFN]

see also: End of the World; History in SF.

Mary Cicely Hammill

born London: 15 June 1872

died London: 5 December 1952



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