Fowles, John, 1926-2005

Alternative names
Birth 1926-03-31
Death 2005-11-05
English, French

Biographical notes:

English novelist, translator of French plays, screenplay writer, essayist, local historian, and museum curator.

From the description of Papers, 1926-1992 (bulk 1953-1991). (Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center (HRC); University of Texas at Austin). WorldCat record id: 122492232

John Robert Fowles was born in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, on 31 March 1926. He was educated at Bedford School, 1940-1944, and spent a year at Edinburgh University before entering military service with the Royal Marines, 1945-1946. He went on to read French at New College, Oxford, receiving his degree in 1950. In 1954 John Fowles married Elizabeth Whitton, who died in 1990. He married his second wife, Sarah Smith, in 1998. In the 1950s and early 1960s, John Fowles worked first as a university lecturer in English in France, and later as a school teacher in Greece and London. His international reputation as a novelist was assured early with the publication in 1963 of 'The Collector', the success of which was followed by 'The Magus' (1965), 'The French Lieutenant's Woman' (1969), 'Daniel Martin' (1977), and 'The Maggot' (1985). In 1981, Harold Pinter's screenplay of 'The French Lieutenant's Woman' was filmed with Jeremy Irons and Meryl Streep in the lead roles. John Fowles also published poetry, criticism, and wrote on historical and topological subjects, mainly about the South West of England. He received a number of literary awards and honours, including an honorary degree from the University of Exeter in 1983. John Fowles lived at Lyme Regis, on the Devon-Dorset border and died in 2005.

From the guide to the Items from John Fowles Library, 1916; 1957, (Special Collections Archives, University of Exeter (GB0029))

John Robert Fowles was born March 31, 1926, at Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, the son of Robert and Gladys Richards Fowles. He was educated at Alleyn Court School (1934-1939) and Bedford School (1939-1944), excelling in both scholarship and sports. When his family was evacuated from the London suburbs during World War II, Fowles lived in and became acquainted with the Devon countryside. He served two years military service in the Royal Marines (1945-1947) after receiving training at the University of Edinburgh (1944-1945), but did not see any combat duty. In 1947, he entered New College, Oxford, to read French and German languages and literature, graduating in 1950.

Upon completion of his education, Fowles taught at the University of Poitiers in France (1950-1951) and at the Anargyrios College (1951-1953) on the Greek island of Spetsai. It was here that he met his future wife, Elizabeth Whitton, to whom he was married April 2, 1954. Upon his return to London, teaching remained his profession at Ashridge College (1953-1954) and at St. Godric's College (1954-1963), until one of several writing projects bore fruit. The publication and immense success of his novel The Collector (1963) enabled Fowles to concentrate his energies upon a career as a writer.

Fowles's major works include The Aristos (1964), The Magus (1965), The French Lieutenant's Woman (1969), Poems (1973), The Ebony Tower (1974), Daniel Martin (1977), Mantissa (1982), and A Maggot (1985). From these, three major motion pictures have been produced to date: The Collector (1965), The Magus (1968), and The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981). In addition to his novels, short stories, poems, philosophical writings, and screenplays, Fowles was also the translator of several plays from the French for the National Theatre ( Don Juan, Lorenzaccio, The Lottery of Love, and Martine ) and of other French works, such as Cinderella and Ourika . Nonfiction books to his credit include Shipwreck, Islands, Land, The Tree, and The Enigma of Stonehenge, and reflect such interests as antiquarianism, conservation and ecology, local history, and the appreciation of nature. His articles appeared in a variety of journals and he contributed numerous forewords and introductions to works by others.

In 1966, Fowles and his wife Elizabeth left London for Dorset, living first at Underhill Farm, then moving to Lyme Regis in 1968, where he resided until his death on November 5, 2005. In 1978, he was appointed joint honorary curator of the Lyme Regis (Philpot) Museum, and served from 1979-1988 as the sole honorary curator.

The bulk of this collection was acquired from Mr. Fowles in 1991, though separate smaller acquisitions were made 1968-1989 for materials relating to The Aristos, Don Juan, and The French Lieutenant's Woman . Additional items were received, 1982-1993, as gifts from Robert Huffaker and Charlotte Rhodes, and in 1999. Mr. Fowles died in 2005 at the age of 79.

From the guide to the John Fowles Papers TXRC93-A76., ca. 1926-1992, (Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin)


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  • Bird watching--Great Britain
  • English literature--20th century
  • Authors, English--20th century--Manuscripts
  • Nature study
  • Botany--England
  • Authors, English--20th century
  • Archaeology--Great Britain
  • Archaeology
  • Photography--Landscapes
  • French drama--Translations into English
  • Printing
  • Bird watching
  • Private presses
  • Plants--Identification
  • Historic sites
  • Nature
  • Authors, English--20th century--Correspondence
  • Botany
  • Historic sites--England


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  • United States (as recorded)
  • Lyme Regis (England) (as recorded)
  • Great Britain (as recorded)
  • Lyme Regis (England) (as recorded)
  • England--Antiquities (as recorded)
  • Great Britain (as recorded)
  • California (as recorded)
  • England (as recorded)
  • Dorset (England) (as recorded)
  • England (as recorded)
  • Dorset (England) (as recorded)