A Thoroughly Mischievous Person: The Other Arthur Ransome

By Alan Kennedy

A unique literary and psychological perspective on the biographical aspect of Arthur Ransome’s children’s literature.

ISBN: 9780718895822


First published in 1930, Swallows and Amazons secured Arthur Ransome’s reputation as one of the most influential children’s authors of all time, yet prior to writing fiction he had had a turbulent career as a journalist and war correspondent in revolutionary Russia. In this refreshing account of Ransome’s work, Alan Kennedy sets out to explain his enduring appeal, combining literary criticism with psychological expertise.

Not only did Ransome apply a careful narrative theory to his works, his use of symbolism aligning them more with the modernist tradition than with the event-driven children’s literature of contemporaries such as Richmal Crompton and Enid Blyton, but his novels are also more than usually autobiographical. This Kennedy ably demonstrates with reference to three particular challenges Ransome faced in a seriously conflicted life: his father’s untimely death, his abandonment of his infant daughter in order to escape his catastrophic first marriage, and the innumerable compromises that kept him alive during his Russian exile. A Thoroughly Mischievous Person is the first study to tackle this matter systematically, giving casual and scholarly readers alike new insights into the ‘other’ Arthur Ransome.

Additional information

Dimensions 234 × 156 mm
Pages 155
Illustrations 12 b&w

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Trade Information LGENPOD

About the Author

Alan Kennedy is Emeritus Professor of Psychology at the University of Dundee. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, an Honorary Member of The Experimental Psychology Society, and a Member of the Society of Authors. Previous publications include Reading as a Perceptual Process (Elsevier, 2000) and The Psychology of Reading (Routledge, 2020) as well as several articles in the journal of the Arthur Ransome Society.


List of Illustrations


1. Are They Real?
2. The Allusive Word
3. The Language of the Psyche
4. The Lost Girl
5. The Invitation
6. The Hazel Wand
7. The Ball of String
8. To Fish the Waters Cyril Fished
9. The Fellow Traveller?
10. Coming Home
11. Lottie Blossom

Additional Reading


Endorsements and Reviews

In A Thoroughly Mischievous Person, Alan Kennedy shows how Ransome’s magical Swallows and Amazons novels are far more than stories of holiday adventure. Full of allusion to myth, fairy tale and the difficulties of his own family, and largely ignored by his biographers, they are in fact a hidden autobiography and set out to resolve the psychological tensions in his own conflicted life.
Julian Lovelock, Senior Research Fellow at the University of Buckingham and author of Swallows, Amazons and Coots.

Alan Kennedy presents a multi-layered psychological analysis of Ransome’s literary genius. Experimental research is combined with psychoanalytic insights to show how individual characters, objects, and events capture the reader because they are pointers to deeper universal experiences. The book also offers a fascinating perspective on Ransome’s complex personality, and on his use of fiction to reach a child that he could not reach in real life.
Albrecht Inhoff, Emeritus Professor of Psychology, Binghamton University

Sharing lodgings at different times with the nature poet Edward Thomas and the Bolshevik agent Karl Radek, Arthur Ransome moved with apparent ease through many different worlds. Alan Kennedy brings both a lifetime’s admiration and psychological interpretation to bear upon this fascinating and enigmatic character, exploring his life and character in the light of a psychoanalytic reading of his novels that opens up some of the darkest places of the man and the century.
Stan Smith, Emeritus Professor of English, Nottingham Trent University and author of Edward Thomas

The best piece of writing on Ransome to have come out in years.
Peter Willis, Signals, p38, August 2021

…a fascinating and very well researched (and referenced) narrative, bringing a new approach to the study of a series of children’s classics.
Nothwest News and Features, September 2021