A good student, with a flair for languages (many of which he would teach himself later in life), Molloy had his plans for college dashed with his father’s death.
Novelist, editor, critic. Son of R. William Molloy and Edyth Estelle Johnson, Robert Molloy was born on January 9, 1906, in Charleston, the place he would always remember and summon up vividly in his writing. Living first on Tradd Street and then near Colonial Lake, the boy was the next to youngest of five siblings in a comfortably middle-class Catholic family. His first artistic passion was for the piano, and later in life he would be an accomplished musician. At about the age of twelve, following financial reverses, he moved with his family first to Philadelphia and then to New York City. Molloy never spent any significant time in Charleston after that.
A good student, with a flair for languages (many of which he would teach himself later in life), Molloy had his plans for college dashed with his father’s death. He supported himself with numerous jobs and married Marion Knapp Jones on June 29, 1929. They would have two sons, Brian and Thomas, both professional musicians. A job as a publisher’s reader led him into writing book reviews; translating (with Madeleine Boyd) two of Lucien Pemjean’s works from the French (Captain D’Artagnan and When D’Artagnan Was Young); and translating Spanish-speaking authors, including Romulo Gallegos (Dona Barbara, 1931), Luis Spota, and Victor Alba. He also authored articles on European literature for the first edition of the Columbia Encyclopedia and contributed to the Encyclopedia Americana and British Authors of the Nineteenth Century.
By 1936 Molloy was working as book reviewer and copy editor for the New York Sun. In that capacity he befriended the British novelist William McFee. Molloy eventually became literary editor of the Sun from 1943 to 1945, and interested in writing, he took a course under the gifted writing instructor Sylvia Chatfield Bates. He first wrote short stories, seeing them published over the years in such magazines as Good Housekeeping, Woman’s Home Companion, Colliers, and others. Bates suggested he try novel writing, and he dedicated his first, Pride’s Way (1945), to her. In this engaging social comedy of a large Charleston Catholic family, Molloy summoned up the city of his youth, viewing his characters and his native city with affection, humor, and gentle irony. It was the May 1945 Literary Guild selection, a play version was staged in Charleston, and two novels in the same vein followed: Pound Foolish (1950) and A Multitude of Sins (1953). Two other works featured Charleston exclusively: the nonfiction Charleston: A Gracious Heritage (1947) and An Afternoon in March (1958), a fictional retelling of the 1888 Thomas McDow murder of News and Courier editor Francis W. Dawson. Molloy’s New York City novels include Uneasy Spring (1946); The Best of Intentions (1949); The Reunion (1959), partially set in Charleston; and The Other Side of the Hill (1962). The latter two reflect a mature, sophisticated, and urbane worldview, reflective of Molloy. He died in Paramus, New Jersey, on January 27, 1977.
Greene, Karen. “Writer Draws on Charleston Childhood.” Charleston News and Courier, April 9, 1975, p. B2.
Jones, Katherine M., and Mary Verner Schlaefer. South Carolina in the Short Story. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1952.
“Robert Molloy, Writer Is Dead.” Charleston News and Courier, February 6, 1977, p. A17.
Yoken, Melvin B., ed. The Letters (1971–1977) of Robert Molloy. Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen, 1989.