Burgess, Anthony, 1917-1993

Alternative names
Birth 1917-02-25
Death 1993-11-22
English, Italian, French, Swedish, German, Polish

Biographical notes:

Anthony Burgess, adaptor, playwright and composer. James Joyce, author of original source material.

From the description of Blooms of Dublin: typescript, 1982. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 86164196

Anthony Burgess, British writer, playwright, and critic.

From the description of Letter by Anthony Burgess to Howard Owens, Dec. 10, 1987. (Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens). WorldCat record id: 122545810

English author.

From the description of Anthony Burgess Papers, 1956-1997. (Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center (HRC); University of Texas at Austin). WorldCat record id: 122365906

Anthony Burgess (John Anthony Burgess Wilson) was born February 25, 1917, and died November 25, 1993 . Burgess wrote widely, including textbooks, essays, scripts for stage television and film, essays, and other material. He is best know for the novel A Clockwork Orange, but also is highly regarded for his other work. Critics judge him as one of the most prolific and important writers of the twentieth century.

From the guide to the Inventory of the Anthony Burgess Collection (John Anthony Burgess Wilson): SCI FI MSS 00181., ca. 1979, (Cushing Memorial Library)

Anthony Burgess was born John Anthony Burgess Wilson on February 25, 1917, in Manchester, England. His mother and young sister died of influenza in 1919, leaving Burgess to a blue collar upbringing by his father--a cashier and piano player--an aunt, and later a stepmother. As a child, Burgess was made keenly aware of his Irish Catholic heritage and his education at the parochial Xaverian College instilled an interest in theological themes of good and evil, free will, and social authority which appeared in much of his writing years later.

Burgess entered Manchester University in 1936 with the intention of studying music. Poor grades in physics blocked his acceptance into the Music Department, so he chose instead to focus on composition and language in Manchester's English Department. After graduating with a bachelor's degree in 1940, he entered the Royal Army Medical Corps, later transferring to the Education Corps. In 1942 he married Llewela Isherwood Jones, whom he first met when both were students at Manchester.

Burgess remained in the Army until 1946, serving in Gibraltar. After the war, he held teaching positions with Birmingham University, the Ministry of Education, and Banbury Grammar School. In 1954 he accepted a position with the Colonial Office teaching in Malaya and later Brunei.

While in Malaya, Burgess published his first novels, Time for a Tiger, The Enemy in the Blanket, and Beds in the East, using the pseudonym Anthony Burgess to avoid any repercussions from the Colonial Office. These works were republished as the compilation The Long Day Wanes: A Malayan Trilogy (Norton, 1965) and again as Malayan Trilogy (Penguin, 1972).

In 1959 Burgess was sent back to England and released from the Colonial Office after being diagnosed with terminal cancer. Troubled by the thought of leaving his wife without income, he wrote five novels in the next year and a total of eleven by 1964. These include The Doctor Is Sick, The Wanting Seed, A Clockwork Orange, Honey for the Bears, and Nothing Like the Sun. He also produced two works, One Hand Clapping and Inside Mr. Enderby, under the pseudonym Joseph Kell.

During the following years, Burgess continued to prove his doctors' prognoses wrong and claimed to write 2,000 words of fair copy per day. He supplemented the income from his novels with literary reviews and essays for numerous newspapers and magazines. He also produced non-fiction books on English literature, linguistics, and the works of James Joyce, D.H. Lawrence, and William Shakespeare.

In 1968 Llewela died after years of poor health. Later that year Burgess discovered he had a four-year-old son by Liana Macellari, who he soon married. The three moved to Malta to avoid high British income taxes, and later to Italy and then Monaco. From 1969 to 1973 Burgess held a series of visiting instructor positions at the University of North Carolina, Columbia, Princeton, and City College in New York.

By 1970 Burgess was well known in Britain and Europe for his satirical style and linguistic inventiveness. In 1971 his notoriety grew in America with the release of the movie version of A Clockwork Orange. He continued to write throughout the next two decades, publishing over 30 novels including MF (1971), Napoleon Symphony (1974), Beard's Roman Women (1976), Earthly Powers (1980), The End of the World News (1983), The Kingdom of the Wicked (1985), and Any Old Iron (1989). He also edited literature text books, produced several translations, wrote screenplays for film and television, and continued with his first love, music composition. Over the course of his life, Burgess wrote pieces ranging from small chamber works to symphonies, primarily as a means of relaxation and amusement.

By the early 1990s Burgess had written more than 60 books, over 150 musical compositions, and continued to publish articles and reviews worldwide. He died in 1993 at age 76, thirty-four years after receiving his one-year terminal diagnosis.

From the guide to the Anthony Burgess Papers TXRC00-A18., 1956-1997 (bulk 1970s-1980s), (Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin)


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  • Music--Manuscripts--Facsimiles
  • Authors, English--20th century--Correspondence
  • Authors, English--20th century--Archives
  • Music--20th century
  • Authors, English--20th century
  • Radio plays
  • Choruses, Secular (Mixed voices, 4 parts), Unaccompanied--Scores
  • Symphonies--Scores
  • Music--Twentieth century


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  • England (as recorded)
  • Ireland (as recorded)