Knight, Eric, 1897-1943

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1897-04-10
Death 1943-01-14
Britons
English

Biographical notes:

Author.

From the description of Correspondence of Eric Knight, circa 1930-1943. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 79455300

Eric Mowbray Knight was born on April 10, 1897 in Leeds, the third son of Frederick Harrison and Hilda Creasser Knight. Frederick Knight, a wholesale jeweller, died in the Boer War, leaving his family in poverty. Hilda Knight went to St. Petersburg as governess to the children of Princess Xenia, and later to America, while her sons were distributed among various relatives. Eric Knight was raised by an uncle and aunt in Yorkshire.

Knight began work at twelve, as a bobbin doffer in a Leeds mill, and over the next three years was employed in mills, an engine-works, a sawmill, and a glass factory. In 1912 he joined his mother and his two remaining brothers in Philadelphia, where he became a copy boy for the Philadelphia Press . Soon, however, he was sent back to school, first to Cambridge Latin, then to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the National Academy of Design.

During World War I, Knight went to Toronto, joined the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, and served in France as a signaler. Both of his brothers, enlisted in the Pennsylvania 110th Artillery, were killed in France on June 30, 1918. Hilda Creasser Knight died not long after.

Knight served as a captain of artillery in the U. S. Army Reserve until 1926, attempted to paint, and reported for several newspapers in Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania. Between 1926 and 1934 he was drama critic and movie critic for the Philadelphia Public Ledger, and during 1930 reviewed movies for the short-lived Town Crier magazine.

He sold his first short story, "The Two-Fifty Hat," to Liberty in 1930, and began contributing to various popular magazines, including Cosmopolitan, Esquire, MacLean's, and the Saturday Evening Post . In 1934 his first novel, Invitation to Life, appeared, and he moved to Hollywood as a script writer. His contract was not renewed. Determined to write full time, he designed and built a house in Southern California with the help of his second wife, Jere. In 1936 he published his second novel, Song on Your Bugles, which is set in a poor mining area in Yorkshire and describes the adolescence of an artistic young man.

In 1937 the Knights returned east, settling on a farm in Croton-on-Hudson. Knight's first real success was the publication of his novella, "The Flying Yorkshireman," in an anthology by the same title in 1938. During the later 1930s Knight also taught at the Boulder Writer's Conference and traveled again to Yorkshire, where his observation of the misery among the unemployed inspired his next novel, The Happy Land, a critical but not a popular success. Impoverished Yorkshire was also the setting for his most famous book, Lassie Come-Home (1940), which was a Junior Literary Guild Selection.

At the outbreak of World War II, Knight volunteered his services to the British Ministry of Information. His last novel, This Above All, was set in the Battle of Britain and acclaimed as "the first great novel to come out of the Second World War." It was an immediate best seller in both the United States and England and was made into a 1942 movie starring Joan Fontaine and Tyrone Power.

Knight arrived in England in October 1941 to begin work on the Ministry of Information's film World of Plenty . He also lectured and delivered radio talks on America for the British audience. In 1942, he returned to the United States, became an American citizen, and was commissioned as a captain in the Special Services Division. Knight contributed to many war information films and worked on the military pocket guides to several countries.

In January 1943 Knight was promoted to major and ordered to proceed to Cairo for "temporary duty." On January 13, 1943, he was killed when his transport plane crashed in Dutch Guiana. He received the Legion of Merit posthumously.

Eric Knight was married on July 28, 1917, to Dorothy Hall of Boston. The couple had three daughters: Betty Knight, Winifred Knight Mewborn, and Jennie Knight Moore. They were divorced in 1932.

On December 2, 1932, Knight married Jere Brylawski, herself a writer and story editor, in Philadelphia.

From the guide to the Eric Knight papers., 1908-1944, (Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library)

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Subjects:

  • Film criticism
  • Dogs in literature
  • Motion pictures--Reviews
  • Dogs in motion pictures
  • World War, 1939-1945--Literature and the war
  • World War, 1939-1945--England

Occupations:

  • Authors
  • Moving-picture critics

Places:

  • Great Britain (as recorded)
  • England, Northern. (as recorded)