Catherine Roxburgh Carswell (née Macfarlane) was a Scottish author, biographer and journalist Her work is now considered an integral part of Scottish women's writing of the early 20th century.
The daughter of a Glasgow merchant, Carswell was educated at the Park School. From 1901 to 1903 she attended classes in English Literature at Glasgow University. She went on to study music at the Schumann Conservatorium in Frankfurt before becoming a reviewer and drama critic at the Glasgow Herald from 1907 until 1915. She then became assistant theatre critic for the Observer.
Carswell married Herbert Jackson in 1903, though this was annulled in 1908. Jackson was a Second Boer War veteran and an artist who suffered paranoid delusions. Thinking he was sterile, he accused Carswell of betraying him when he heard news of her pregnancy and in March 1905 threatened to kill her. He was placed in a mental institution for the rest of his life, being considered too dangerous for release. In 1915 she married Donald Carswell, a colleague from the Glasgow Herald.
Carswell’s first novel, "Open the Door," was published in 1920 and won her a 250-guinea Andrew Melrose Prize. Though not strictly autobiographical, the story of Joanna Bannerman, struggling against the conventions of her evangelical, genteel family in Edwardian Glasgow does resonate with the writers’ own upbringing. Joanna studies at the Art School, and some of the characters in the book appear to be drawn from GSA staff. Carswell would have known many of them; her friend Phyllis Clay was an art student, Carswell attended evening classes there and went on to have relationship with Maurice Grieffenhagen, then Head of Life Classes.
Another novel, "The Camomile" followed two years later then a notable biography, "The Life of Robert Burns" in 1930 which upset many Burns traditionalists. She was a close friend of DH Lawrence, and in 1932 she published, "The Savage Pilgrimage: a Narrative of DH Lawrence". She went on to work with Lady Tweedsmuir, widow of John Buchan, producing a two volume biography of the author.
Carswell died of pleurisy aged 66. Her son John edited her fragmentary autobiographical texts and published them in 1950 as "Lying Awake: An Unfinished Autobiography".