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J. B. Priestley (John Boynton Priestley) Biography

(1894–1984), (John Boynton Priestley), Brief Diversions, Figures in Modern Literature, Apes and Angels, The Good Companions

British novelist, playwright, critic, and essayist, born in Bradford, educated at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, after serving throughout the First World War. The short essays of Brief Diversions (1922) impressed J. C. Squire, who assisted Priestley to establish himself as a journalist in London. Among his other early publications are the critical study Figures in Modern Literature (1924) and the essays of Apes and Angels (1928). He became well known with the novel The Good Companions (1929), a picaresque narrative of a travelling theatre troupe, which was enormously popular in Britain and America. Among the more notable of his more than thirty novels are Angel Pavement (1930), a treatment of London on the eve of the Depression; Daylight on Saturday (1943), set in a wartime aircraft factory; and Bright Day (1946), a Jungian allegory of the quest for psychic integration. Out of Town (1968) and London End (1968), the two parts of The Image Men, present his good-humouredly pessimistic view of modern mass communications. Following the stage adaptation of The Good Companions in 1930, Priestley began his career as one of the most highly regarded playwrights of his day; among the best-known of his many plays are the comedies Laburnum Grove (1934) and When We Are Married (1938), and the morality parables of Johnson over Jordan (1939) and An Inspector Calls (1947); Dangerous Corner (1932), Time and the Conways (1937), and I Have Been here before (1937), which he discusses in Three Plays about Time (1947), reflect his preoccupation with the theories of J. W. Dunne. During the Second World War Priestley made distinguished contributions to national morale through his broadcasts, collections of which include Britain Speaks (1940) and All England Listened (1968). His many other publications include the travel books English Journey (1934) and Russian Journey (1946); the ambitiously synoptic critical work Literature and Western Man (1960); and the trilogy of historical studies The Prince of Pleasure and His Regency (1969), Victoria's Heyday (1972), and The Edwardians (1970). Thoughts in the Wilderness (1957) and Outcries and Asides (1974) are among the collections of his post-war journalism, much of which is strongly informed by his socialist convictions. Midnight on the Desert (1937), Rain upon Godshill (1939), Margin Released (1962), and Instead of Trees (1977) are autobiographical. He was awarded the Order of Merit in 1977. A biography by Vincent Brome appeared in 1988.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog to Rabbit Tetralogy