His best-known novel is The Citadel (1937), the story of a Scottish doctor in a Welsh mining village, who quickly moves up the career ladder in London. Cronin had observed the venues closely as a medical inspector of mines and later as a doctor in Harley Street. The book promoted what were then controversial new ideas about medical ethics and helped to inspire the launch of the National Health Service. Another popular mining novel of Cronin's, set in the North East of England, is The Stars Look Down. Both these novels have been adapted as films, as have Hatter's Castle, The Keys of the Kingdom and The Green Years. Cronin's novel Country Doctor was adapted as a long-running BBC radio and TV series Dr. Finlay's Casebook, revived many years later.
A. J. Cronin
Cronin in 1944
|Born||Archibald Joseph Cronin|
19 July 1896
Cardross, Dunbartonshire, Scotland
|Died||6 January 1981 (aged 84)|
Cronin was born in Cardross, Dunbartonshire, Scotland, the only child of a Presbyterian mother, Jessie Cronin (née Montgomerie), and a Catholic father, Patrick Cronin. Cronin often wrote of young men from similarly mixed backgrounds. His paternal grandparents had emigrated from County Armagh, Ireland, and become glass and china merchants in Alexandria. Owen Cronin, his grandfather, had had his surname changed from Cronague in 1870. His maternal grandfather, Archibald Montgomerie, was a hatter who owned a shop in Dumbarton. After their marriage Cronin's parents moved to Helensburgh, where he attended Grant Street School. When he was seven years old, his father, an insurance agent and commercial traveller, died from tuberculosis. He and his mother moved to her parents' home in Dumbarton, and she soon became a public health inspector in Glasgow.
Cronin was not only a precocious student at Dumbarton Academy who won many prizes in writing competitions, but also an excellent athlete and footballer. From an early age he was an avid golfer, and he enjoyed the sport throughout his life. He also loved salmon fishing.
The family later moved to Yorkhill, Glasgow, where Cronin attended St Aloysius' College in the Garnethill area of the city. He played football for the First XI there, an experience he included in one of his last novels, The Minstrel Boy. A family decision that he should study either to join the church or to practise medicine was settled by Cronin himself when he chose "the lesser of two evils". He won a Carnegie scholarship to study medicine at the University of Glasgow in 1914. He was absent in 1916–1917 for naval service. In 1919 he graduated, with highest honours, with the degree of MBChB. Later that year he made a trip to India as ship's surgeon on a liner. Cronin went on to earn additional qualifications, including a Diploma in Public Health (1923) and his MRCP (1924). In 1925 he was awarded an MD by the University of Glasgow for his dissertation, entitled "The History of Aneurysm".
During the First World War Cronin served as a surgeon sub-lieutenant in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve before graduating from medical school. After the war he trained at various hospitals, including Bellahouston and Lightburn Hospitals in Glasgow, and the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin. He undertook general practice in a small village on the Clyde, Garelochhead, as well as in Tredegar, a mining town in South Wales. In 1924 he was appointed Medical Inspector of Mines for Great Britain, and his survey of medical regulations in collieries, and his reports on the correlation between coal dust inhalation and pulmonary disease, were published over the next few years. Cronin drew on his medical experience and his research on the occupational hazards of the mining industry for his later novels The Citadel, set in Wales, and The Stars Look Down, set in Northumberland. He subsequently moved to London, where he practised in Harley Street before opening his own thriving medical practice in Notting Hill. Cronin was also the medical officer for Whiteleys at this time and was becoming increasingly interested in ophthalmology.
In 1930 Cronin was diagnosed with a chronic duodenal ulcer and was told that he must take six months' complete rest in the country on a milk diet. At Dalchenna Farm by Loch Fyne he was finally able to indulge his lifelong desire to write a novel, having previously "written nothing but prescriptions and scientific papers". From Dalchenna Farm he travelled to Dumbarton to research the background of his first novel, using the files of Dumbarton Library, which still has the letter from Cronin requesting advice. He composed Hatter's Castle in the span of three months, and the manuscript was quickly accepted by Gollancz, the only publishing house to which it had been submitted (it was apparently chosen when his wife randomly stuck a pin into a list of publishers). This novel, which was an immediate and sensational success, launched Cronin's career as a prolific author, and he never returned to practising medicine.
Many of Cronin's books were bestsellers in their day and have been translated into many languages. Some of his stories draw on his medical career, dramatically mixing realism, romance and social criticism. Cronin's works examine moral conflicts between the individual and society, as his idealistic heroes pursue justice for the common man. One of his early novels, The Stars Look Down (1935), chronicles transgressions in a mining community in Northeast England and an ambitious miner's rise to be a Member of Parliament.
A prodigiously fast writer, Cronin liked to average 5,000 words a day, meticulously planning the details of his plots in advance. He was known to be tough in business dealings, although in private life he was a person whose "pawky humour ... peppered his conversations," according to one of his editors, Peter Haining.
Cronin also contributed many stories and essays to various international publications. During the Second World War he worked for the British Ministry of Information, writing articles as well as participating in radio broadcasts to foreign countries.
The Citadel (1937), a tale of a mining company doctor's struggle to balance scientific integrity with social obligations, helped to incite the establishment of the National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom by exposing the inequity and incompetence of medical practice at the time. In the novel Cronin advocated a free public health service in order to defeat the wiles of those doctors who "raised guinea-snatching and the bamboozling of patients to an art form." Dr Cronin and Aneurin Bevan had both worked at the Tredegar Cottage Hospital in Wales, which served as one of the bases for the NHS. The author quickly made enemies in the medical profession, and there was a concerted effort by one group of specialists to get The Citadel banned. Cronin's novel, which was the highest-selling book ever published by Victor Gollancz, informed the public about corruption within the medical system, planting a seed that eventually led to reform. Not only were the author's pioneering ideas instrumental in the creation of the NHS, but the historian Raphael Samuel asserted in 1995 that the popularity of Cronin's novels played a substantial role in the Labour Party's landslide victory in 1945.
By contrast, according to one of Cronin's biographers, Alan Davies, the book's reception was mixed. A few of the more vociferous medical practitioners of the day took exception to one of its many messages: that a few well-heeled doctors in fashionable practices were ripping off their equally well-off patients. Some pointed to the lack of balance between criticism and praise for hard-working doctors. The majority accepted it for what it was, a topical novel. The press attempted to incite passions within the profession in an attempt to sell copy, while Victor Gollancz followed suit in an attempt to promote the book, all overlooking the fact that it was a work of fiction, not a scientific piece of research, and not autobiographical.
In the United States The Citadel won the National Book Award, Favorite Fiction of 1937, voted by members of the American Booksellers Association. According to a Gallup poll conducted in 1939, The Citadel was voted the most interesting book readers had ever read.
Some of Cronin's novels also deal with religion, which he had grown away from during his medical training and career, but which he reacquainted himself with during the 1930s. At medical school, as he recounts in his autobiography, he had become an agnostic: "When I thought of God it was with a superior smile, indicative of biological scorn for such an outworn myth." During his practice in Wales, however, the deep religious faith of the people he worked among made him start to wonder whether "the compass of existence held more than my text-books had revealed, more than I had ever dreamed of. In short I lost my superiority, and this, though I was not then aware of it, is the first step towards finding God."
Cronin also came to feel that "If we consider the physical universe,... we cannot escape the notion of a primary Creator.... Accept evolution with its fossils and elementary species, its scientific doctrine of natural causes. And still you are confronted with the same mystery, primary and profound. Ex nihilo nihil, as the Latin tag of our schooldays has it: nothing can come of nothing." This was brought home to him in London, where in his spare time he had organised a working boys' club. One day he invited a distinguished zoologist to deliver a lecture to the members. The speaker, adopting "a frankly atheistic approach," described the sequence of events leading to the emergence, "though he did not say how," of the first primitive life-form from lifeless matter. When he concluded, there was polite applause. Then, "a mild and very average youngster rose nervously to his feet," and with a slight stammer asked how there came to be anything in the first place. The naïve question took everyone by surprise. The lecturer "looked annoyed, hesitated, slowly turned red. Then, before he could answer, the whole club burst into a howl of laughter. The elaborate structure of logic offered by the test-tube realist had been crumpled by one word of challenge from a simple-minded boy."
It was at university that Cronin met his future wife, Agnes Mary Gibson (May) (1898–1981), who was also a medical student. She was the daughter of Robert Gibson, a master baker, and Agnes Thomson Gibson (née Gilchrist) of Hamilton, Lanarkshire. The couple married on 31 August 1921. As a physician, May worked with her husband briefly in the dispensary while he was employed by the Tredegar Medical Aid Society; she also assisted him with his practice in London. When he became an author, she would proofread his manuscripts. Their first son, Vincent, was born in Tredegar in 1924. Their second son, Patrick, was born in London in 1926. Andrew, their youngest son, was born in London in 1937.
With his stories being adapted to Hollywood films, Cronin and his family moved to the United States in 1939, living in Bel Air, California; Nantucket, Massachusetts; Greenwich, Connecticut; and Blue Hill, Maine. In 1945, the Cronins sailed back to England aboard the RMS Queen Mary, where they stayed briefly in Hove and then in Raheny, Ireland before returning to the U.S. the following year. They subsequently took up residence at the Carlyle Hotel in New York City and then in Deerfield, Massachusetts before settling in New Canaan, Connecticut in 1947. Ever the nomad, Cronin also frequently travelled to his homes in Bermuda and Cap-d'Ail, France, where he summered.
Ultimately Cronin returned to Europe, to reside in Lucerne and Montreux, Switzerland, for the last 25 years of his life. He continued to write into his eighties. He included among his friends Laurence Olivier, Charlie Chaplin and Audrey Hepburn, to whose first son he was godfather.
Although the latter part of his life was spent entirely abroad, Cronin retained a great affection for the district of his childhood, writing in 1972 to a local teacher: "Although I have travelled the world over I must say in all sincerity that my heart belongs to Dumbarton.... In my study there is a beautiful 17th-century coloured print of the Rock.... I even follow with great fervour the fortunes of the Dumbarton football team." Further evidence of Cronin's lifelong support of Dumbarton F.C. comes from a framed typewritten letter hanging in the foyer of the club's stadium. In the letter, written in 1972 and addressed to the club's then secretary, Cronin congratulates Dumbarton on their return to the top division after an absence of 50 years and recalls his childhood supporting the Sons (the club's nickname) and on occasion being "lifted over" the turnstiles (a common practice in times past so that children did not have to pay).
Cronin died on 6 January 1981 in Montreux, and is interred at La Tour-de-Peilz. Many of Cronin's writings, including published and unpublished literary manuscripts, drafts, letters, school exercise books and essays, laboratory books and his M.D. thesis, are held at the National Library of Scotland and at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas.
A Song of Sixpence is a 1964 novel by A. J. Cronin about the coming to manhood of Laurence Carroll and his life in Scotland. Its sequel is A Pocketful of Rye.
As with several of his other novels, Cronin drew on his own experiences growing up in Scotland for this book. The titles of both novels come from the children's nursery rhyme, "Sing a Song of Sixpence".Adventures in Two Worlds
Adventures in Two Worlds is the 1952 autobiography of Dr. A. J. Cronin, in which he relates, with much humour, the exciting events of his dual career as a medical doctor and a novelist.
From the flye leaf of 'Beyond This Place' (Angus and Robertson Sydney - London):
Adventures in Two Worlds: Dr Cronin's published novels make up an imposing list of successes. This book, his first non-fiction work, which relates moving and dramatic episodes from his dual career as doctor and novelist will certainly be as widely ready and applauded as his preceding publications.
Dr Cronin has recorded not only the achievements of his early life but also the struggles and setbacks that gave him such a sympathetic understanding of the sufferings of others.Beyond This Place
Beyond This Place is a novel by Scottish author A. J. Cronin first published in 1950. The first Edition for Australia and New Zealand was in 1953. A serial version appeared in Collier's under the title of To Live Again.Beyond This Place (1959 film)
Beyond This Place (US: Web of Evidence) is a 1959 British film based on the novel, of the same name, by A. J. Cronin. It was directed by Jack Cardiff and stars Van Johnson and Vera Miles.
The film tells the story of Paul Mathry, a man who left Britain for the United States as a child evacuee, and who returns to Liverpool twenty years later. Believing his father, Patrick,
had died a war hero, he is shocked to discover he is alive and serving a life sentence in prison for murder. Paul embarks upon his own investigation and finds the true culprit, clearing his father's name.Grand Canary (film)
Grand Canary is a 1934 Fox film of A. J. Cronin's novel of the same title. The film was produced by Jesse L. Lasky and directed by Irving Cummings.Grand Canary (novel)
Grand Canary is the third novel by British author A. J. Cronin, initially published in 1933.Hatter's Castle (film)
Hatter's Castle is a 1942 British film noir based on the 1931 novel Hatter's Castle by A. J. Cronin, which dramatizes the ruin that befalls a Scottish hatter set on recapturing his imagined lost nobility. The film was made by Paramount British Pictures and stars Robert Newton, Deborah Kerr, James Mason, and Emlyn Williams. It is believed to be the only film that depicts the Tay Bridge disaster.Madhura Swapnam
Madhura Swapnam is a 1982 Telugu-language film based on A. J. Cronin's novel, The Citadel. It was directed by K. Raghavendra Rao and stars Krishnam Raju, Jayasudha, and Jaya Prada in the lead. This is the remake of 1972 Bengali film Jiban Saikate.Mausam (1975 film)
Mausam (English: Season) is a 1975 Indian film starring Sanjeev Kumar and Sharmila Tagore, and directed by Gulzar. It is loosely based on the novel, The Judas Tree, by A.J. Cronin. Sharmila Tagore for her acting received The Silver Lotus Award at the 23rd National Film Festival and the movie was honoured by presenting an award for 2nd Best Feature Film. The movie received two of eight nominations at the 24th Filmfare Awards. The film also won many other accolades as well.
The film was remade in Tamil as Vasandhathil or Naal, with Sivaji Ganesan.Once to Every Woman
Once to Every Woman is a 1934 American black-and-white Pre-Code film adaptation of A. J. Cronin's short story "Kaleidoscope in 'K'". The film was made by Columbia Pictures and stars Ralph Bellamy and Fay Wray.Shining Victory
Shining Victory is a 1941 film based on the play, Jupiter Laughs, by A. J. Cronin. It stars James Stephenson, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Donald Crisp, and Barbara O'Neil, and it was the first film directed by Irving Rapper. Bette Davis makes a brief cameo appearance as a nurse in the film.The Citadel (film)
The Citadel is a 1938 British drama film based on the novel of the same name by A. J. Cronin, first published in 1937. The film was directed by King Vidor and produced by Victor Saville at Denham Studios, with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer distributing the film in the UK and the US. It stars Robert Donat and Rosalind Russell.The Citadel (novel)
The Citadel is a novel by A. J. Cronin, first published in 1937, which was groundbreaking in its treatment of the contentious theme of medical ethics. It has been credited with laying the foundation in Great Britain for the introduction of the NHS a decade later. In the United States, it won the National Book Award for 1937 novels, voted by members of the American Booksellers Association.For his fifth book, Dr. Cronin drew on his experiences practising medicine in the coal mining communities of the South Wales Valleys, as he had for The Stars Look Down two years earlier. Specifically, he had researched and reported on the correlation between coal dust inhalation and lung disease in the town of Tredegar. He had also worked as a doctor for the Tredegar Medical Aid Society at the Cottage Hospital, which served as the model for the National Health Service.
Cronin once stated in an interview, "I have written in The Citadel all I feel about the medical profession, its injustices, its hide-bound unscientific stubbornness, its humbug ... The horrors and inequities detailed in the story I have personally witnessed. This is not an attack against individuals, but against a system."The Green Years
The Green Years is a 1944 novel by A. J. Cronin which traces the formative years of an Irish orphan, Robert Shannon, who is sent to live with his draconian maternal grandparents in Scotland. An introspective child, Robert forms an attachment to his roguish great-grandfather, who draws the youngster out of his shell with his raucous ways.The Innkeeper's Wife
"The Innkeeper's Wife" is a 1958 Christmas story, written by A. J. Cronin for The American Weekly. The story is about the wife of the innkeeper in Bethlehem who had no room for Mary and Joseph to spend the night. It originally appeared in the December 21 issue before being printed in book form by Hearst Publishing and is accompanied by Ben Stahl's illustrations.
Mary & Joseph
Pages of the Kings
CriersThe Minstrel Boy (novel)
The Minstrel Boy (also published under the title Desmonde) is a 1975 novel by A. J. Cronin.The Northern Light (novel)
The Northern Light is a 1958 novel by A. J. Cronin. In the story, The Northern Light is a respected local newspaper which has just resisted a takeover bid from a London conglomerate. The book is about the London company's unsuccessful attempt to ruin the paper by running a sensationalist rival paper.The Spanish Gardener (film)
The Spanish Gardener is a 1956 VistaVision and Technicolor film based on the novel of the same name by A. J. Cronin, first published in 1950. The film stars Dirk Bogarde and Jon Whiteley, and was directed by Philip Leacock. The adaptation was filmed both at Pinewood Studios, near London, and in Palamós, nearby Mas Juny estate, and in S'Agaro, on the Costa Brava, Catalonia. Nicholas (1958) and O Jardineiro Espanhol (1967), are adaptations of the story for Brazilian television.
The film was entered into the 7th Berlin International Film Festival.Vigil in the Night
Vigil in the Night is a 1940 film (produced and distributed by RKO Pictures) based on the 1939 serialized novel Vigil in the Night, by A. J. Cronin. The film was produced and directed by George Stevens and stars Carole Lombard, Brian Aherne and Anne Shirley.
Works by A. J. Cronin
A. J. Cronin's Beyond This Place
A. J. Cronin's The Citadel
A. J. Cronin's The Stars Look Down