Angus Wilson

Sir Angus Frank Johnstone-Wilson, CBE (11 August 1913 – 31 May 1991) was an English novelist and short story writer. He was awarded the 1958 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for The Middle Age of Mrs Eliot and later received a knighthood for his services to literature.[3]


Angus Wilson

BornAngus Frank Johnstone-Wilson[1]
11 August 1913[2]
Bexhill-on-Sea, Sussex[2]
Died31 May 1991 (aged 77)[2]
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk[2]
Resting placeWest Suffolk Crematorium, Risby, St Edmundsbury Borough, Suffolk, United Kingdom
Alma materWestminster School, Merton College, Oxford
Notable worksAnglo-Saxon Attitudes (1956), The Middle Age of Mrs Eliot (1958)
Notable awardsJames Tait Black Memorial Prize (1958), CBE (1968), Knight Bachelor (1980)
PartnerTony Garrett


Westminster School Arch
Westminster School

Wilson was born in Bexhill, Sussex, England, to an English father, William Johnstone-Wilson, and South African mother, Maude (née Caney), of a wealthy merchant family of Durban.[4][5][6] Wilson's grandfather had served in a prestigious Scottish army regiment, and owned an estate in Dumfriesshire, where William Johnstone-Wilson (despite being born at Haymarket) was raised, and where he subsequently lived.[4][5]

Wilson was educated at Westminster School and Merton College, Oxford,[7] and in 1937 became a librarian in the British Museum's Department of Printed Books, working on the new General Catalogue. Previous employment included tutoring, catering, and co-managing a restaurant with his brother.[8]

During World War II, he worked in the Naval section at the code-breaking establishment, Bletchley Park, translating Italian Naval codes. A wearer of large, brightly coloured bow-ties, he was one of the "famous homosexuals" at Bletchley. The work situation was stressful and led to a nervous breakdown, for which he was treated by Rolf-Werner Kosterlitz. A Wren, Dorothy Robertson, was taught traffic analysis by him and another instructor. She recalled him as:[9]

a brilliant young homosexual .... He used to mince into the room wearing, in those days, outrageous clothes in all colours; he chain-smoked; his nails were bitten down to the quick and he had a rather hysterical laugh.

He returned to the Museum after the end of the War, and it was there that he met Tony Garrett (born 1929), who was to be his companion for the rest of his life.

Wilson's first publication was a collection of short stories, The Wrong Set (1949), followed quickly by the daring novel Hemlock and After, which was a great success, prompting invitations to lecture in Europe.[10]

He worked as a reviewer, and in 1955 he resigned from the British Museum to write full-time (although his financial situation did not justify doing so) and moved to Suffolk.

He was instrumental in getting Colin Wilson's first novel published in 1956[11] and from 1957 he gave lectures further afield, in Japan, Switzerland, Australia, and the USA. He was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 1968 New Year Honours,[12] and received many literary honours in succeeding years. He was made a Knight Bachelor in the 1980 Birthday Honours,[13] and was President of the Royal Society of Literature from 1982 to 1988. His remaining years were affected by ill health, and he died of a stroke at a nursing home in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, on 31 May 1991, aged 77.[2]

His writing, which has a strongly satirical vein, expresses his concern with preserving a liberal humanistic outlook in the face of fashionable doctrinaire temptations. Several of his works were adapted for television. He was Professor of English Literature at the University of East Anglia from 1966 to 1978,[6] and jointly helped to establish their creative writing course at masters level in 1970,[14] which was then a groundbreaking initiative in the United Kingdom.

A group of medals claiming to be his medals, then in private ownership, were shown on the BBC Television programme Antiques Roadshow in August 2018.[15] He does not appear on the medal roll for the Queen's Silver Jubilee Medal 1977, yet one was included in the group.



Short story collections

  • The Wrong Set (1949)
  • Such Darling Dodos (1950)
  • A Bit Off the Map (1957)
  • Death Dance (selected stories, 1969)


  • The Mulberry Bush (1955)


  • For Whom the Cloche Tolls: a Scrapbook of the Twenties (1953)
  • The Wild Garden or Speaking of Writing (1963)
  • The World of Charles Dickens (1970)
  • The Naughty Nineties (1976)
  • The Strange Ride of Rudyard Kipling: His Life and Works (1977)
  • Diversity and Depth in Fiction: Selected Critical Writings of Angus Wilson (1983)
  • Reflections In A Writer's Eye: travel pieces by Angus Wilson (1986)


  1. ^ Guide to the Angus Wilson Papers. Biographical Note. The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City, Iowa, accessed 8 March 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Sir Angus Wilson". The Times. 3 June 1991. p. 16. Retrieved 30 May 2013.
  3. ^ MacKay, Marina (8 January 2001). "Sir Angus Wilson". The Literary Encyclopedia. Archived from the original on 29 June 2011. Retrieved 11 August 2011.
  4. ^ a b Angus Wilson, Averil Gardner, Twayne Publishers, 1985, pg 4
  5. ^ a b Angus Wilson, Jay L. Halio, Oliver & Boyd, 1964, pg 1
  6. ^ a b "WILSON, Sir Angus (Frank Johnstone)". Who Was Who. A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc. 1920–2008; online edn, Oxford University Press, Dec 2012 ; online edn, Nov 2012. Retrieved 30 May 2013. Check date values in: |year= (help)
  7. ^ Levens, R.G.C., ed. (1964). Merton College Register 1900-1964. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. pp. 239–240.
  8. ^ Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature, vol. 2, R. Reginald, Mary A. Burgess, Douglas Menville, 1979, pg 1130
  9. ^ Smith, Michael (2000). The Emperor’s Codes: Bletchley Park and the breaking of Japan’s secret ciphers. London: Bantam Press. p. 210. ISBN 0593 046412.
  10. ^ Drabble, Margaret (3 May 2008). "Back – due to popular demand: Margaret Drabble on Hemlock and After, Anglo-Saxon Attitudes and No Laughing Matter by Angus Wilson". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 11 August 2011.
  11. ^ Desert Island Discs Archive: 1976-1980
  12. ^ "No. 44484". The London Gazette (Supplement). 29 December 1967. p. 11.
  13. ^ "No. 48212". The London Gazette (Supplement). 13 June 1980. p. 2.
  14. ^ Liukkonen, Petri. "Angus Wilson". Books and Writers ( Finland: Kuusankoski Public Library. Archived from the original on 28 September 2006.
  15. ^ "Helmingham Hall 3". Antiques Roadshow. Series 40. Episode 22. 19 August 2018. BBC Television. Retrieved 19 August 2018.


  • Conradi, Peter, Isobel Armstrong and Bryan Loughrey (editors), "Angus Wilson", Northcote House, 1997, ISBN 0-7463-0803-5.
  • Drabble, Margaret. Angus Wilson: A Biography.London: Secker & Warburg, 1995. ISBN 0-436-20038-4 (Hardcover) ISBN 0-436-20271-9 (Paperback)
  • Halio, Jay, "Angus Wilson", Oliver & Boyd, London, 1964.
  • Stape, John Henry and Anne N. Thomas. Angus Wilson: A Bibliography 1947–1987. London & New York: Mansell Publishing, 1988. ISBN 0-7201-1872-7.

External links

1958 in literature

This article is a summary of the literary events and publications of 1958.

A Bit Off the Map

A Bit Off the Map, and Other Stories is a 1957 collection of eight short stories written by Angus Wilson.

Anglo-Saxon Attitudes

Anglo-Saxon Attitudes is a satirical novel by Angus Wilson, published in 1956. It was Wilson's most popular book, and many consider it his best work.

Angus Lennie

Angus Wilson Lennie (18 April 1930 – 14 September 2014) was a Scottish film and theatre character actor with a 50-year career span. His numerous credits include the character of Flying Officer Archibald Ives in The Great Escape, and Shughie McFee in the television soap opera Crossroads.

Angus W. MacPherson

Angus Wilson Macpherson (1888 – December 31, 1954) was a politician in Saskatchewan, Canada. He served as mayor of Saskatoon from 1944 to 1948.He was born in Orangeville, Ontario and moved to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan in 1912 to work in a bank. In 1931, Macpherson moved to Saskatoon, where he was manager of the Saskatoon Motor Club until 1943. He did not serve on Saskatoon city council before becoming mayor. Macpherson defeated former mayor John Sproule Mills in 1943 and again in 1947 before losing to Mills when he ran for reelection in 1948.After leaving politics, he worked in the oil industry and then served as chair of the advisory board for the provincial securities act. Macpherson died of a heart attack at the Royal Bank in Saskatoon at the age of 66. He is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery next to his wife Charlotte, who died in 1985.

Bobby Wilson (footballer, born 1943)

Robert "Bobby" Angus Wilson (born 23 July 1943) is a footballer who played as a right-back in the Scottish Football League for Cowdenbeath and Dundee. Wilson was given a testimonial match by Dundee, played against Celtic on 1 December 1975. He was inducted into the Dundee FC Hall of Fame in 2013.

David Spenser

David Spenser (born David De Saram: 12 March 1934 – 20 July 2013) was a Sri Lankan-born British actor, director, producer and writer. Spenser played the title role in a 1948 radio production of Richmal Crompton's Just William, and also appeared in popular films and TV series including Doctor Who. His documentary about Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies won an International Emmy Award. He was the elder brother of actor Jeremy Spenser.

Aged 11 he appeared in plays on BBC radio's Children's Hour. He was cast in Just William by the author of the books, Richmal Crompton.He played Harry in the first production of Benjamin Britten's opera Albert Herring.

One of his first TV appearances was in the ABC serial Secret Beneath the Sea. Spenser later appeared in episodes of Z-Cars, Dixon of Dock Green, and The Saint. In 1967 Spenser appeared as Thonmi in the Doctor Who serial The Abominable Snowmen alongside the second doctor, Patrick Troughton. Spenser later worked as a radio producer for the BBC. He produced several radio plays including Anthony Trollope's The Way We Live Now in 1988, and Christopher Isherwood's Mr Norris Changes Trains in 1984.Spenser wrote a historical drama about the Egyptian pharaoh Akhnaton, The City of the Horizon. It was broadcast in 1972 and 1976. Spenser subsequently produced documentaries about figures such as Benny Hill, Angus Wilson, Dodie Smith and Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies.

He was survived by his brother, and by his partner Victor Pemberton.

Don Wilson (Australian footballer)

Donald Angus Wilson (22 October 1914 - 6 December 2015) is a former Australian rules footballer who played with Footscray in the Victorian Football League (VFL).

Harvill Secker

Harvill Secker is a British publishing company formed in 2005 from the merger of Secker & Warburg and the Harvill Press.

Hemlock and After

Hemlock and After is a 1952 novel by British writer Angus Wilson; it was his first published novel after a series of short stories. The novel offers a candid portrayal of gay life in post-World War II England.

John Pitman (journalist)

John Pitman (18 November 1939 – 14 February 2018) was an English television producer, reporter and interviewer. He began his on-screen career as a researcher on Braden's Week but later became known for his reporting work on the BBC2 documentary series Man Alive.He was born in Whitecroft, in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire and attended Bexhill-on-Sea and then Cirencester Grammar Schools. He began his career in journalism with the Gloucestershire Echo and Brighton Argus newspapers before moving to the Daily Mail and then on to the BBC. His first on-screen role was as reporter on Braden's Week with Bernard Braden and Esther Rantzen.He was also known for reporting for the series The Big Time, an edition of which launched the career of the singer Sheena Easton and he presented a follow up programme Sheena Easton - the Making of a Star. The programmes helped to make her international career. Other editions included footballer Lol Cottrell, and "Beaminster and District Gardens and Allotments Society Goes to Chelsea". The series was produced by Esther Rantzen. In the late 1980s he devised and reported Just Another Day - a series of documentaries following a notional 'Day in the Life' of English places, institutions and professions. Another important series devised by Pitman was The Other Half, exploring the lives of less well-known partners of celebrities. The sensitive and sympathetic film "Angus and Tony", on Angus Wilson and Tony Garrett, directed by Jonathan Gili, broke new ground. As did his series Fame which he devised and reported and featured among others Barbara Windsor and Ronnie Knight, her then husband.

John Pitman was the reporter on the BBC1 documentary The Ritz, produced by Edward Mirzoieff, which won the BAFTA Award for Best Documentary of 1981. Later in the 1980s he turned director, contributing documentaries to the 40 Minutes series. Among the best-remembered are "Separate Tables", about retired elderly ladies in a hotel in Eastbourne, "Two sides of a Street", about gentrification in a West London suburb, and the life of Jessie Matthews.

After leaving the BBC, he became an independent producer and was appointed series producer of An Inspector Calls on Channel 4 for Twenty Twenty Television. He also contributed as reporter to the Holiday programme on BBC One.

Margaret Drabble

Dame Margaret Drabble, Lady Holroyd (born 5 June 1939) is an English novelist, biographer, and critic.

Mario Reading

Mario G. Reading (1953 - 29 January 2017) was a British author.Reading was born in Bournemouth in 1953, son of Gordon and Lieselotte Reading. He was brought up in England, Germany, and the South of France, and educated at Rugby School and at the University of East Anglia, where he studied Comparative Literature under Malcolm Bradbury and Angus Wilson.His novels include The Music-Makers, and the bestselling Antichrist Trilogy (which has sold more than a million copies in 39 countries), comprising The Nostradamus Prophecies, The Mayan Codex, and The Third Antichrist. His newest series of novels features photojournalist John "The Templar" Hart: The Templar Prophecy came out in 2014, The Templar Inheritance in April 2015, and Hart's newest adventure, The Templar Succession, appeared in April 2016.

He was a member of Mensa and the ultra high IQ organisation, The International Society For Philosophical Enquiry [ISPE]. In 2015, he was voted one of the Top 100 Most Spiritually Influential Living People by Watkins Mind Body Spirit Magazine.

After years of battling cancer, Mario Reading died on 29 January 2017.

Ninety-nine Novels

Ninety-Nine Novels: The Best in English since 1939 — A Personal Choice is an essay by British writer Anthony Burgess, published by Allison & Busby in 1984. It covers a 44-year span between 1939 and 1983. Burgess was a prolific reader, in his early career reviewing more than 350 novels in just over two years for the Yorkshire Post. In the course of his career he wrote over thirty novels.

The list represents his personal choices.

In an interview with Don Swaim Burgess reveals that the book was originally commissioned by a Nigerian publishing company, and written in two weeks.

Roger Senhouse

Roger Henry Pocklington Senhouse (1899 – 1970) was an English publisher and translator, and a peripheral member of the Bloomsbury Group of writers, intellectuals, and artists. The private letters of openly gay writer and Bloomsbury founder Lytton Strachey reveal that Roger Senhouse was his last lover, with whom he had a secretly sado-masochistic relationship in the early 1930s.Senhouse attended both Eton College and Oxford University, where he was friends with Michael Llewelyn Davies, one of the boys upon whom Peter Pan was based, and foster son of J. M. Barrie. Lord Robert Boothby, who was a friend of Senhouse and Davies during that period – and himself bisexual – said in a 1976 interview that the relationship between Senhouse and Davies was "fleetingly" homosexual in nature.In 1935, Senhouse became co-owner with Fredric Warburg of the publishing house which became Secker & Warburg, rescuing it from receivership. The firm translated several works by French novelist Colette and The Blood of Others by Simone de Beauvoir. It also published major writers and works of the era including George Orwell's 1984 and Animal Farm, Theodore Roethke, Alberto Moravia, Günter Grass, Angus Wilson, and Melvyn Bragg.

The Egoist (novel)

The Egoist is a tragicomical novel by George Meredith published in 1879.

The Middle Age of Mrs Eliot

The Middle Age of Mrs Eliot is a novel by Angus Wilson, first published in 1958. It won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for that year, and has been regularly reprinted ever since.

It describes the fortunes of Meg Eliot, a happy and active woman, the wife of a barrister, who finds herself a widow in reduced circumstances after the shocking murder of her husband abroad.

Her attempts to rebuild her life are placed in contrast with the self-isolation of her brother, David, who lives with his dying partner Gordon at a commercial nursery in Sussex.

Wilson conceived the idea for the story in September 1957, while visiting Thailand, which is possibly the model for the fictional country of Badai.The first edition dust jacket was designed by Michael Ayrton.

The Old Men at the Zoo

The Old Men at the Zoo is a novel written by Angus Wilson, first published in 1961 by Secker and Warburg and by Penguin books in 1964. It was adapted, with many changes—nuclear bombing of London, not present in the novel, is added—into a 1983 BBC Television serial by the scriptwriter Troy Kennedy Martin. The book deals with events before a nuclear attack on London during a (presumably) limited nuclear war, which results in the imposition of a later post-apocalyptic pan-European dystopian dictatorship, until rescue arrives for the prisoners at the zoo, transformed into a concentration camp.

UEA Creative Writing Course

The University of East Anglia's Creative Writing Course was founded by Sir Malcolm Bradbury and Sir Angus Wilson in 1970. The M.A. is widely regarded as the most prestigious and successful in the country and competition for places is notoriously tough.The course is split into four strands: Prose, Creative Non-Fiction, Poetry and Scriptwriting (which is Skillset accredited). All four result in an M.A. qualification upon successful completion of the course. The Course Directors are currently Andrew Cowan, Kathryn Hughes, Lavinia Greenlaw and Val Taylor respectively. Course tutors include Amit Chaudhuri, Trezza Azzopardi, Giles Foden, Tobias Jones, James Lasdun, Jean McNeil, Margaret Atwood and George Szirtes.

Writers such as Angela Carter, Rose Tremain, Andrew Motion, W. G. Sebald, Michèle Roberts and Patricia Duncker have also taught on the course.

Writers-in-residence have included Alan Burns and Margaret Attwood.

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