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John Wain (John Barrington Wain) Biography

(1925–94), (John Barrington Wain), Hurry on Down, Strike the Father Dead, A Winter in the Hills

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British poet, novelist, and critic, born in Stoke-on-Trent, educated at St John's College, Oxford. His first substantial publication was the novel Hurry on Down (1953), which charts the fortunes of its disaffected hero through a range of occupations, legitimate and illicit. Among his subsequent novels are Strike the Father Dead (1962), a further treatment of youthful rebellion, and A Winter in the Hills (1970), in which his comic spirit is most evident. Where the Rivers Meet (1988), Comedies (1990), and Hungry Generations (1994) form a trilogy set in Oxford between the wars. In 1956 his poetry appeared in Robert Conquest's New Lines anthology; A Word Carved on a Sill (1956) was his first independent collection. The understated intensities, technical accomplishment, and ironic rationality of his verse exemplified the attributes of the Movement. His subsequent collections, which display an increasing inventiveness of form and manner, include Weep before God (1961), Wildtrack (1965), Feng (1975), and Open Country (1987). Poems, 1949–1979 was published in 1981. The most highly regarded of his numerous scholarly works is the biography Samuel Johnson (1974; James Tait Black Memorial prize); his intense affinity with Johnson resulted in a play, Johnson Is Leaving (1994), written for one voice, about the last years of Johnson's life. From 1973 to 1978 he was Oxford Professor of Poetry, publishing his lectures under the title Professing Poetry (1978).

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