J. B. Priestley

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John Boynton Priestley, OM (13 September 1894 – 14 August 1984), known as J.B. Priestley, was an English novelist, playwright and broadcaster. He published 27 novels, notably The Good Companions (1929), as well as numerous dramas such as An Inspector Calls. His output included literary and social criticism.

Contents

Early years

Priestley was born at 34 Manningham Road, Heaton, which he described as an "ultra-respectable" suburb of Bradford. His father was a headteacher. His mother died when he was still an infant and his father remarried four years later.[1] Priestley was educated at Belle Vue Grammar School, which he left at sixteen to work as a junior clerk at Helm & Co., a wool firm in the Swan Arcade. During his years at Helm & Co. (1910–1914), he started writing at night and had articles published in local and London newspapers. He was to draw on memories of Bradford in many of the works he wrote after he had moved south, including Bright Day and When We Are Married. As an old man he deplored the destruction by developers of Victorian buildings in Bradford such as the Swan Arcade, where he had his first job.

Priestley served during the First World War in the 10th Battalion, the Duke of Wellington's Regiment. He was wounded in 1916 by mortar fire. In his autobiography, Margin Released he is fiercely critical of the British Army and in particular of the officer class.

After his military service Priestley received a university education at Trinity Hall, Cambridge. By the age of 30 he had established a reputation as a humorous writer and critic. His novel Benighted (1927) was adapted into the James Whale film The Old Dark House (1932); the novel has been published under the film's name in the United States.

Career

Priestley's first major success came with a novel, The Good Companions (1929), which earned him the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction and made him a national figure. His next novel, Angel Pavement (1930) further established him as a successful novelist. However, some critics were less than complimentary about his work, and Priestley began legal action against Graham Greene for what he took to be a defamatory portrait of him in the novel Stamboul Train (1932).

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