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L. P. Hartley (Leslie Poles Hartley) Biography

(1895–1972), (Leslie Poles Hartley), Spectator, Observer, Night Fears, Simonetta Perkins, The Shrimp and the Anemone

major novelist childhood trilogy

British novelist, critic, and short-story writer, born at Whittlesey, Cambridgeshire, into a prosperous family and brought up at Fletton Towers, the family home near Peterborough; he was educated at Balliol College, Oxford. Throughout his literary career he was a fiction reviewer for the Spectator, the Observer, and many other journals. The first of his many volumes of short stories, a genre in which he excelled, was Night Fears (1924). Much of his adult life was spent in Venice, which formed the setting of his novella Simonetta Perkins (1925). His major work was his trilogy beginning with The Shrimp and the Anemone (1944), followed by The Sixth Heaven (1946) and Eustace and Hilda (1947), the latter providing the title for the trilogy as a whole. While the trilogy secured his reputation as a major novelist, his most critically successful work was The Go-Between (1953). All four books share a magical evocation of childhood and of the recent past, and draw on the Norfolk landscape and comfortable circumstances of his own childhood; all are influenced by Freud's teachings on childhood character-formation. His other novels include My Fellow Devils (1951), set in the world of film; A Perfect Woman (1955); The Hireling (1957), which describes the sexually charged relationship between an aristocratic widow and her cynical driver; Facial Justice (1960), a science fiction fable of the future; The Brickfield (1964), and a sequel, The Betrayal (1966); Poor Clare (1968), which is set in Bloomsbury and in Italy; and The Love Adept (1969). In his later novels Hartley turned away from the evocative Edwardian backdrops of his major works, but his principal themes remained the same: the search for identity, the desire properly to confront the past, the influence of early life on the development of the adult character, and the mutually threatening class structures of British society and the dangerous allure of the inter-class sexual attraction. Over all is a deep concern for human and moral values. A volume of his critical essays, The Novelist's Responsibility, was published in 1968.

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