Richard Hughes (writer)

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Richard Arthur Warren Hughes OBE (19 April 1900 – 28 April 1976) was a British writer of poems, short stories, novels and plays.

He was born in Weybridge, Surrey. His father was a civil servant Arthur Hughes, and his mother Louisa Grace Warren who had been brought up in Jamaica. He was educated at Charterhouse and graduated from Oriel College, Oxford in 1922.

A Charterhouse schoolmaster had sent Hughes's first published work to The Spectator in 1917. The article, written as a school essay, was an attack on The Loom of Youth, by Alec Waugh, a recently published novel which caused a furore for its frank account of homosexual passions between British schoolboys in a public school. At Oxford he met Robert Graves, also an Old Carthusian, and they co-edited a poetry publication, Oxford Poetry, in 1921. Hughes's short play The Sister's Tragedy was in the West End at the Royal Court Theatre by 1922. He was the author of the world's first radio play, Danger, commissioned from him for the BBC by Nigel Playfair and broadcast on January 15, 1924.

Hughes was employed as a journalist and travelled widely before he married, in 1932, the painter Frances Bazley. They settled for a period in Norfolk and then in 1934 at Castle House, Laugharne in south Wales. Dylan Thomas stayed with Hughes and wrote his book Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog whilst living at Castle House.

He wrote only four novels, the most famous of which is A High Wind in Jamaica (1929), which was first published in the USA under the title of its successful stage adaptation, The Innocent Voyage. Set in the 19th century, it explores the events which follow the accidental capture of a group of English children by pirates: the children are revealed as considerably more amoral than the pirates (it was in this novel that hughes first described the cocktail Hangman's Blood). He wrote an allegorical novel In Hazard (1938), and volumes of children's stories, including The Spider's Palace.

During the Second World War, Hughes had a desk job in the Admiralty. He met the architects Jane Drew and Maxwell Fry, and Jane and Max's children stayed with the Hughes family for much of that time. After the end of the War, he spent ten years writing scripts for Ealing Studios, and published no more novels until 1961.

His most important work is perhaps the trilogy The Human Predicament, of which only the first two volumes, The Fox in the Attic (1961) and The Wooden Shepherdess (1973), were complete when he died; twelve chapters, under 50 pages, of the final volume are now published. In these he follows the course of European history from the 1920s through the Second World War, including real characters and events — such as Hitler's escape following the abortive Munich putsch— as well as fictional.

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