John Wain

© Mark Gerson, October 1958

John Wain (1925-1994) was a writer whose work included novels, poetry, plays, criticism and biography. He was originally associated with the Movement poets and also with the so-called ‘Angry Young Men’ of the early 1950s, when his first novel Hurry On Down was published. He was born in the Potteries and educated at Newcastle High School, Newcastle Under Lyme, and at St John’s College Oxford. After Oxford he taught English at Reading University. In 1955 he resigned his academic post and for the rest of his life earned his living as a professional writer.

John Wain wrote thirteen novels, culminating in his massive Oxford Trilogy (1988 – 94), the third and last volume being published a few weeks after his death. He was also well known for his award-winning life of Samuel Johnson (1974). He also steadily wrote and published poetry, both short and long: his long poem Feng was based on the original Danish source for Hamlet’s stepfather Claudius in Shakespeare’s play. Based in Oxford from 1963 until his death, he served the University as Professor of Poetry from 1973 to 1978, nominated by Philip Larkin and Peter Levi. He was awarded the CBE for services to literature in 1984. John Wain was married three times and had four sons.

New –  January 2018. New Kindle edition of John Wain’s prize-winning biography of Samuel Johnson here.

January 2018 Forthcoming French-language editions of Hurry On Down and Strike the Father Dead from Editions Typhon

New – July 2016: Recording of John Wain’s Poem ‘Song About Major Eatherley’ by the poet himself added to the Audio Collection, plus  an extended interview with JW recorded in the same year in which he became Oxford Professor of Poetry

New – April 2016: Film of John Wain’s BBC programme about Gerard Manley Hopkins on the Video page

March 14th 2015 would have been John Wain’s 90th birthday. There have been a number of exciting developments in this year, including a film project (details to be announced) and especially the reissuing in new editions of his novels The Contenders, Strike The Father Dead (UK Edition) and his Whitbread Fiction Prize-winning Young Shoulders, all from the Foruli Press.  Stop Press : a celebration of John Wain’s life and work was  held on October 30th in  his home town of Stoke-on-Trent – local press coverage here

May 24th, 2014, was the twentieth anniversary of John Wain’s death at the age of 69. In the intervening years many of his novels have been republished, as well as a retrospective Selected Poems and Memoirs, and his reputation has not just consolidated but  grown. More of his novels are in print, in paperback and Kindle editions, than ever before. See the link above to the Happening Now pages for more information. Johnwainfinal



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