At her best - in The Last Resort (1956) and The Humbler Creation (1959) - she writes of desperate, unfulfilled lives with a painful insight that is invariably expressed with casual wit. Yet there is a madder, more carefree side to her talent, which comes to the fore in the rich comedy of The Unspeakable Skipton (1959). Its central character is based on Frederick William Rolfe, the deeply eccentric author of Hadrian V11, who renamed himself Baron Corvo after being expelled from the Scots College in Rome, where he had been training for the priesthood. Rolfe is a 'gift' for an imaginative novelist, and it is one that Pamela Hansford Johnson accepted happily. The fictional poet Dorothy Merlin, who likes to move in what might be called louche circles, is caught up in the adventures. She re-appears in Night and Silence! Who is Here? (1963) and Cork Street, Next to the Hatter's (1965), the other two jeux d'esprit she produced in her mellow and confident maturity.