Ealing Literary Figures
By Dr. Piotr Stolarski
It is August. A month in which many of us will be going on holiday, and enjoying a novel or non-fiction book on a sunny beach or perhaps in a café or airport somewhere. Whether we borrow our books or buy them new or second-hand, we often favour particular authors and return to their works again and again. It is only natural to want to find out about our favourite writers. Particularly if they live(d) in our neck of the woods.
At least 50 writers have links to Ealing (to exclude numerous authors of one or just a few books). This post highlights 29 of the well-known and more obscure literary figures with links to the borough. Some, of course, were far from famous when they lived here (many were children) and not all went on to great fame and fortune, while not all published books which are easily obtainable today. Yet many of the following have produced books – for adults or children – which can be borrowed from Ealing libraries, and enjoyed on a sunlounger this summer.
MARGERY ALLINGHAM (West Ealing)
1904 - 1966. Writer.
Born in Ealing, and resident at 5 Broughton Road, West Ealing until about 1909, she was one of the key writers of crime fiction in England between the World Wars.
Her detective hero was Albert Campion in novels such as Mystery Mile and Police at the Funeral. Some of these were televised in 1989-1990. She died of breast cancer in Colchester in 1966; her husband finished her final Campion novel, Cargo of Eagles (published 1968), according to her wishes.
LYNNE REID BANKS (Acton)
1929 - . Writer and journalist.
She lived at Rosemont Road, Acton, in the 1980s. Before becoming a writer, Banks was an actress and one of the first woman TV reporters in Britain. She wrote The L shaped room in 1960, about a single mother, a daring novel for its time, later adapted into a film.
She is also a writer of fairy stories. Her children’s novel, The Indian in the Cupboard (1980), has sold over 10 million copies, and was made into a film.
She has written 45 books in all, and won the J. M. Barrie award for outstanding contribution to children’s arts in 2013.
REV. RICHARD HARRIS BARHAM (Hanwell)
1788 - 1845. Church of England clergyman and writer.
He lived in Hanwell in the late 1830s. Barham was a humourist and novelist, writing under nom de plume of 'Thomas Ingoldsby'.
He wrote the Ingoldsby Legends (first published in 1837) while staying at Bridge House, Church Road, Hanwell. These were whimsical poems for a recently initiated magazine, Bentley's Miscellany, which became very popular. They were published in a collected form in three volumes between 1840 and 1847, and have since appeared in numerous editions.
RICHARD BAXTER (Acton)
1615 - 1691. Nonconformist clergyman and writer.
He lived in Acton, 1663-1667. A famous preacher and theologian from Kidderminster. He left the Church of England in 1662 because he refused to sign the new oath of allegiance.
He moved to Acton in 1663, due to the Five Mile Act, which required Nonconformists to live at least five miles away from a corporate town – in his case, London. Baxter lived near St. Mary's church, Acton, until about 1667.
In old age he married a girl of 20. A friend of Matthew Hale, he continued to write and involve himself in contemporary religious controversies. Baxter wrote some 141 works, mostly theological in nature, some of which are still in print and available from Christian outlets.
JOHN ALLEN BROWN (Ealing)
1831 - 1903. Historian and geologist.
Allen Brown, an Ealing resident, was the author of Chronicles of Greenford Parva, about Perivale history. Also published on the geology and prehistory of the Ealing, Hanwell, and Perivale area.
Some of his works are available to view at Ealing Local History Centre. Dr. Oates, Borough Archivist, shall be giving a talk on John Allen Brown on 20 September 2016 at Ealing Central Library.
EDWARD BULWER (LORD LYTTON) (Acton)
Novelist and politician. Lived at the Priory,
1835 - 1836.
He was a prolific author, mainly of historical novels, and his most famous work was The Last Days of Pompeii.
He was also interested in political reform and became an MP. He later sat in the Cabinet, as Secretary for the Colonies.
Very popular in his time, he is credited with coining the phrases: ‘the great unwashed’, ‘pursuit of the almighty dollar’, ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’, ‘dweller on the threshold’, as well as the well-known opening line ‘It was a dark and stormy night’.
AGATHA CHRISTIE (Ealing)
1890 - 1976. Writer.
With some 2 billion books sold worldwide, she is the best-selling novelist of all time; And Then There Were None, Murder on the Orient Express, and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd being among her most admired works.
She often visited her grandmother's house at 9 Craven Gardens, Ealing, in the 1890s and 1900s, and used local settings for her stories.
Agatha Christie is known as the Queen of Crime, for her detective stories, many featuring Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple (based partly on her grandmother).
Most of the stories have been adapted for television, radio, or film. Dr. Jonathan Oates gave a talk on Agatha Christie and Ealing in 2016.
DAME MARGARET COLE, OBE (West Ealing)
1893 - 1980. Socialist politician and writer.
Embraced atheism, socialism, feminism and pacifism (but abandoned pacifism in the 1930s). A member of Fabian Society and the Labour Party, she was an Alderman of London County Council, 1952-1965. She co-wrote mystery novels with her husband, and lived in West Ealing.
MICHAEL COLE (Acton)
1933 - 2001. Writer.
A writer of children's books, Cole created a number of children's TV programmes from the 1970s to the 1990s, such as Alphabet Castle, Heads and Tails, Ragtime (for which he won a BAFTA in 1973), Bod, Fingerbobs, Gran, Pigeon Street, Fingermouse, as well as being involved with Playschool from the late 1960s.
His children’s works included the Bod series, and the Kate and Sam series. He lived in South Parade, Acton Green, Acton, by 1982.
JOHN CREASEY, MBE (Southall)
1908 - 1973. Writer
Creasey was a prolific crime and science fiction novelist, who lived in Southall. He wrote over 600 novels under 28 different pseudonyms. Commander George Gideon of Scotland Yard was his most famous character, later portrayed on television in Gideon’s Way. The Baron (John Mannering) was another character, later appearing on television in the 1960s.
Other characters included The Toff (an aristocratic sleuth appearing in 59 novels), and Dr. Palfrey (a British spy, starring in 34 books). Creasey received the award of Grand Master from the Mystery Writers of America in 1969, and was also a supporter of the Liberal Party.
GOLDSWORTHY LOWES DICKINSON (Hanwell)
1862 - 1932. Political scientist and philosopher.
Dickinson led most of his life at Cambridge. He lived at Spring Cottage, Hanwell, for a time (his main home was in 11 Edwardes Square, London, W8, however). Much distressed by the fighting, he came up with the idea for the League of Nations, during the First World War (it was duly created in 1920).
He also wrote on religious matters, and the question of immortality. A member of Bloomsbury Group, Dickinson was homosexual.
HENRY FIELDING (Ealing)
1707-1754. Writer, dramatist, satirist.
Lived at Fordhook House, near Elm Grove, off Ealing Common, in 1753-1754. Came to Ealing hoping the air would cure his sickness. It did him no good, and he moved to Portugal, dying in Lisbon.
He had also been an Opposition journalist in the 1730s, targeting Walpole, wrote anti-Jacobite propaganda during the Rebellion of 1745 and helped his half-brother found the Bow Street Runners, forerunner of the Police force.
Fielding was also a novelist; Tom Jones being his key work.
DAVID GEMMELL (Acton)
Fantasy fiction author, most famous for his first book, Legend (1984). During a troubled childhood he had gone to school in Acton and had later been an Acton Gazette journalist.
He published over 30 novels, with over 1 million copies sold, most dealing with themes of heroism, honour, loyalty, lost causes, and redemption, influenced by his Christian faith.
His main works fall into the Drenai series (11 novels, 1984-2004), the Rigante series (4 novels, 1999-2002), the two Stone of Power novels (1988), the John Shannow books (19871994), the Hawk Queen series (1995), not counting individual fantasy books.
MAXWELL GRAY (real name, MARY GLEED TUTTIETT) (Ealing)
1846-1923. Writer and Poet.
Writer, essayist and poet under the pseudonym of 'Maxwell Gray'. She suffered from asthma and rheumatism and was largely self-educated. Strongly interested in women’s rights, she was one of a number of writers who petitioned in support of the Women’s Suffrage Bill, and such issues often appear in her novels.
Like many authors she began her career by contributing articles to journals. Her breakthrough came in 1886 with the The Silence of Dean Maitland, which was a critical and popular success, later made into a successful stage play. She lived in west Richmond, London, after 1895, and died in Ealing in 1923.
MICHAEL GREEN (Ealing)
1927 - . British journalist and humourist.
He wrote the successful The Art of Coarse Rugby (1960). Like many authors Green began his career as a journalist, in his case for local papers in the Midlands. He later worked for The Observer and Sunday Times.
Green is known for his zany and eccentric behaviour. The ‘Coarse’ series included subjects ranging from acting, sailing, golf, drinking, sport, and sex. Green has also written novels and plays.
CHARLES HAROLD HAMILTON (Literary name: FRANK RICHARDS) (Ealing, Acton)
Real name Charles Hamilton. He was born in Ealing and lived at 15 Oak Street, which is now demolished and incorporated into the Ealing Broadway Centre, where a blue plaque is displayed to his memory. In the early 1900s he resided in Acton.
He wrote the famous Billy Bunter schoolboy stories under the name Frank Richards, which featured in The Magnet comics. He is reckoned to have written about 100 million words in his lifetime, and specialised in boys’ public school stories. His other pseudonyms were Martin Clifford, Owen Conquest, and Ralph Redway.
He also wrote hundreds of stories under his real name for The Modern Boy (a boys’ magazine published between 1928 and 1939). A recluse who never married, Hamilton nevertheless corresponded extensively with his readers.
DILIP HIRO (Ealing)
Born in India, Hiro was educated there as well as in the UK and USA. He is an Asian writer on history, politics, and social issues (mainly Asian, also race relations). He has also been a contributor to newspapers.
His book Black British, White British (1992) skilfully tackled racism, identity, and the histories of Britain’s African, Asian and Caribbean communities since World War Two. It is available to consult at Ealing Local History Centre.
More recent works include histories of Islamist terrorism in Asia, and Indian-Pakistani relations. Hiro has also written scripts for television, theatre, and cinema. He lived in Waldegrave Road, Ealing, by 1975.
MARY HOCKING (Acton, Ealing)
1921 - 2014. Novelist.
The author of 24 novels between 1961 and 1996, Mary Hocking was educated at Haberdashers' Aske's Girls' School, Acton, and lived in Acton and Ealing. She served in the Women’s Royal Naval Service during World War Two, then worked in local government in Middlesex. Her books are often witty and concern women characters in the contemporary world. The Fairley family trilogy (1984, 1985, 1988), for instance, tackled twentieth century social history.
ANNA BROWNELL JAMESON (Hanwell, Ealing)
1794 - 1860. Author.
She was born in Dublin, but her family ultimately settled in Hanwell. She wrote and illustrated a number of books on art, and was a friend of Lady Annabella Byron.
Jameson was the author of Shakespeare's Heroines (originally, The Characteristics of Women) (1832), which insightfully analysed Shakespeare’s female characters.
She was also interested in women’s issues, and published the essay The Relative Social Position of Mothers and Governesses. She died in Ealing 17 March 1860, having lived at Broomfield Place, Ealing Dean, with her mother.
FATHER JOHN MAIN, OSB (Ealing)
1926 - 1982. Catholic monk and author.
Main was born in Ireland and came to Ealing Abbey as a novice in 1959, was ordained in 1963, and founded a Christian meditation group there in 1974. He left Ealing in 1977 to found a Benedictine Priory in Canada.
He produced many cassettes and books on meditation, which he had practised since the 1950s after contact with an Indian guru who encouraged him to use a Christian mantra. His work led to the founding of the World Community for Christian Meditation (WCCM) – an ecumenical spirituality movement.
CAPTAIN FREDERICK MARRYAT (Ealing)
1792 - 1848. Writer.
Marryat attended the Great Ealing School. He enlisted in the Royal Navy when 14, as a midshipman, serving at sea in the Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812.
He wrote The Children of the New Forest (1847), and other books, many with a nautical flavour, such as his semi-autobiographical novel Mr Midshipman Easy (1836) – his most successful novel.
The naval stories were admired by Mark Twain, Joseph Conrad, and Ernest Hemingway, and used as models by C. S. Forester and Patrick O’Brien. He also pioneered the use of a widely used flag-signalling system known as Marryat’s Code, and invented a lifeboat.
THOMAS MERTON (Ealing)
1915-1968. Catholic monk and author.
Merton lived with his uncle and aunt at 18 Carlton Road, Ealing, as a young man from 1927-1936. He also went to Durston House School, Ealing.
After converting to Catholicism he later became a Trappist Monk in a Cistercian Abbey in America where he wrote numerous books about spirituality, biblical studies, monastic life, prayer, and meditation, and engaged in extensive inter-faith work, particularly with Buddhists. His most popular work is his spiritual autobiography The Seven Storey Mountain (1948).
GLADYS MITCHELL (Hanwell)
1901 - 1983. Well-known crime writer.
She was a former teacher at St. Ann's Senior Girls' School, Hanwell (1925-1939). Mitchell wrote 66 Mrs. Bradley crime novels, being considered in the same league as Agatha Christie, and used the men’s pseudonyms Stephen Hockaby (1933-1939) and Malcolm Torrie (1966-1971) for other books.
Some of the Mrs. Bradley books were adapted for radio and television. Mitchell was highly regarded during her lifetime, being called ‘the Great Gladys’ by poet Philip Larkin, but has proved less popular since. Interested in Freudian psychology and witchcraft, she never married, and died in 1983, aged 82.
LADY MARY WORTLEY MONTAGU (Acton)
1689 - 1762. Writer and poet.
She lived at the Priory with her family from about 1706-1712. Her father was Edward Pierrepoint. She was well educated and began writing at an early age. Her works include writings about womens' rights and a vast correspondence.
She married Edward Wortley Montague, a diplomat, in 1712 and so left the family home. She accompanied him abroad when he became ambassador at Constantinople, and wrote influentially about the Muslim Orient in her Embassy Letters.
While her work is not widely available today, numerous portraits of her, many in Eastern dress, survive, and can be viewed online.
CARDINAL JOHN HENRY NEWMAN (Ealing)
1801 - 1890. Catholic Cardinal, theologian, and hymn writer.
Born in the City of London, Newman attended Great Ealing School, as a boarder, from the age of seven to sixteen.
Initially an Anglican priest, he became a Tractarian and leader of the Oxford Movement, and converted to Roman Catholicism in 1842. He became a Cardinal in 1879.
One of the greatest English intellectuals and prose stylists of the nineteenth century, his Apologia Pro Vita Sua (1864), an autobiography of his conversion, is his masterpiece.
Newman was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI in England in 2010, and is now known as Blessed John Henry Newman.
JOHN OXENHAM (WILLIAM ARTHUR DUNKERLEY) (Ealing)
1852 - 1941. Ealing-based author, poet, and journalist.
His real name was William Arthur Dunkerley. Born in Manchester, he moved to America briefly, before settling in Ealing, where he was deacon and teacher at Ealing Congregational Church from the 1880s. Here he would have known fellow Congregationalist Charles Jones – Ealing Surveyor, Architect, and Engineer (1863-1913) – who designed the church. His poetry collection Bees in Amber was a success in 1913, and he also wrote the poem Greatheart. Dunkerley also wrote for Jerome K. Jerome’s magazine, The Idler.
ROBERT RANKIN (Ealing)
1949 - . Writer.
Fantasy and science fiction writer, living in West Ealing by 1981 (when his novel The Antipope was published). He also has links to Brentford, where many of his books are set.
Rankin had studied at Ealing School of Art (based in St. Mary’s Road, Ealing) at the same time as Freddie Mercury, during the 1960s.
He had sold around 1 million copies of his 18 novels by 1999, when his bestseller Snuff Fiction was published.
NEVIL SHUTE (AKA NEVIL SHUTE NORWAY) (Ealing)
1899 - 1960. Writer.
Born in Ealing, Shute resided at 16 Somerset Road, 1899-1907, then at 26 Corfton Road, 1908-1912. His father, Arthur Hamilton Norway, was born in Cornwall.
Shute served in the First World War, and became an aeronautical engineer before becoming a writer. His most famous books are A Town Called Alice (1950), and On the Beach (1957), both of which have been filmed.
Known for his simple and clear writing style, all 23 of his novels were reprinted in 2009.
SERGIUS STEPNIAK (Acton)
1852 - 1895. Russian revolutionary theorist and practitioner.
His full name was Sergey Stepnyak-Kravchinsky. He lived at 31 Blandford Road, Acton, from about 1892-1895.
He is most famous for assassinating General Nikolai Mezentsov, head of the Russian secret police, with a dagger in St. Petersburg in 1878.
He also wrote revolutionary tracts. His book, Underground Russia, came out in London in 1882; and Stepniak later wrote on social conditions in Russia as well as on Nihilism.
He died in 1895 on his way to meet a fellow comrade, after being hit by a train at the Woodstock Road level crossing. He had also lived at Woodstock Road, Bedford Park.
Ealing libraries catalogue at http://www.ccslibraries.com/libraries/ealing-libraries/onlinereference-resources
British Library Catalogue at http://www.bl.uk/
Fantastic Fiction (over 50,000 author bibliographies) at https://www.fantasticfiction.com/
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography http://www.oxforddnb.com/auth/login.jsp