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A. N. Wilson (Andrew Norman Wilson) Biography

(1950– ), (Andrew Norman Wilson), Spectator, The Sweets of Pimlico, Unguarded Hours, Kindly Light, The Healing Art

British novelist and biographer, born in Staffordshire, educated at New College, Oxford. He has been a lecturer at St Hugh's College and New College, Oxford, and literary editor of the Spectator. His first novel, The Sweets of Pimlico (1977), a comedy of manners about the relationship between an ageing hedonist and a Cambridge graduate with a passion for natural history, was followed by Unguarded Hours (1978), which satirizes aspects of the Anglican Church, and its sequel Kindly Light (1979). The highly acclaimed The Healing Art (1980; Somerset Maugham Award), opens with the discovery, by its Anglo-Catholic heroine, Pamela Cowper, that she has cancer. Despite its sombre beginning, which turns out to be a mistaken diagnosis, the novel is characterized by the sardonic humour for which the author has become renowned. Subsequent novels include Who Was Oswald Fish? (1981), which satirizes the casual promiscuity of the late 1970s; Wise Virgin (1982; W. H. Smith Prize, 1983), exploring the relationship between Giles Fox, a blind scholar engaged in annotating a medieval treatise on virginity, his adolescent daughter, Tibba, and Louise Agar, the Cambridge academic he engages as his secretary; Scandal (1983); Gentlemen in England (1985); and Love Unknown (1986), a satire on romantic love, describing the complex marital and extra-marital relationships of its three female characters. The first volume of the Lampitt Papers series about contemporary life, Incline-Our Hearts (1988), opens with an account of the wartime childhood of its narrator, Julian Ramsay; A Bottle in the Smoke (1990) begins in the late 1950s and deals primarily with Julian's sentimental education; Daughters of Albion (1991) concerns the mystery surrounding the death of an ageing writer. Hearing Voices (1995) begins in the late 1960s and ends in AD 2000. The Vicar of Sorrows (1993), whose central character, Francis Keere, an Anglican vicar, falls in love with a beautiful young ‘New Age’ girl, returned to themes about the nature of religious belief and the conflict between faith and worldly desire. Wilson, who has at various times publicly reviewed his own religious and political beliefs, has shown a marked predilection for such themes in his fiction, which are generally treated in the mildly satirical manner which also distinguishes his journalism. He has published a study of Christianity, How Can We Know? (1985), and a collection of literary journalism, Penfriends from Porlock (1988). Wilson's other works include The Laird of Abbotsford (1981), a study of Sir Walter Scott, and biographies of John Milton (1983), Hilaire Belloc (1984), Tolstoy (1988; Whitbread Prize), C. S. Lewis (1990), and Jesus (1992).

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Patrick White (Patrick Victor Martindale White) Biography to David Wojahn Biography