Pryce-Jones, Alan, 1908-2000

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Alan Pryce-Jones, English author, editor and critic. Born in London, Pryce-Jones was educated at Eton and Oxford. He was editor of The Times Literary Supplement from 1948 to 1959. In 1960, he emigrated to the United States, where he worked briefly for the Ford Foundation before returning to writing and criticism.

From the description of Alan Pryce-Jones papers, 1857-2000 (bulk 1915-1990). (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 702135899

Heralded as one of the most promising writers of his generation in the early 1930s, Alan Pryce-Jones made his mark on twentieth century literature as an editor and critic, most significantly as editor of the Times Literary Supplement in the 1950s. A member of both the social and the intellectual elite in Britain, Europe and America, he lived his life on a large scale, finding success in what pleased him most: literature, music, travel, and society.

Alan Payan Pryce-Jones was born in London on November 18, 1908. He was the first child of Henry Morris Pryce-Jones, a colonel in the Army's Coldstream Guards and son of Welsh textile manufacturer Sir Pryce Pryce-Jones, and Vere Dawnay Pryce-Jones, granddaughter of Charles Grey, Private Secretary to Queen Victoria. His only sibling, Adrian, was born in 1919. The family lived near Buckingham Palace in Pryce-Jones's childhood, moving to a residence in Windsor Castle when his father joined the King's Body Guard in the 1920s. Pryce-Jones was close to his parents, and also to his maternal grandmother, Lady Victoria Dawnay, sister of the fourth Earl Grey. With her, he was a frequent guest throughout his early life in the great houses and castles of numerous titled relations.

He was educated at Eton, where he displayed a strong interest in and talent for music and literature, winning the school's Hervey prize for English Literature three years in a row. By his own account a precocious talent, he was encouraged by his parents and by critics to whom they sent his writings. After Eton he spent several months at Montbazon, in Touraine, France, before entering Magdalen College, Oxford, in 1927. Apparently without even a pretense of study, he enjoyed a busy social life at Oxford with new friends such as John Betjeman, and was sent down before the end of his second term.

Despite this unpromising exit from academia, in 1928 Pryce-Jones was offered an unpaid position as assistant editor of The London Mercury . He remained there, under editor J. C. Squire, until 1932, building a network of literary connections and earning money by writing for other publications.

During this period Pryce-Jones also began to travel extensively with a friend of the family, Robert Pratt-Barlow. Pratt-Barlow introduced him to Sicily, the Middle East and Eastern Europe in 1930. The two travelled to South America in 1931, and to Africa in 1932. From these experiences came Pryce-Jones's first two books, The Spring Journey (1931), an account of his travels in the Middle East, and People in the South (1932), a collection of stories set in South America. Both were very well received, and they, along with his Beethoven (1932) and Little Innocents (1932), earned Pryce-Jones literary celebrity by the age of twenty-four.

After leaving the Mercury, Pryce-Jones wrote for the illustrated paper The Sketch, among other publications. He based himself in London, but continued to travel often. In December 1932 he became engaged to Joan Eyres-Monsell, the sister of an Eton friend, but the disapproval of her parents gradually put an end to this attachment. Not long afterwards, while spending the winter of 1933-34 in Vienna, Pryce-Jones met Baroness Thérèse Fould-Springer.

Called "Poppy" by those close to her, Thérèse Fould-Springer was the daughter of Baroness Mary ("Mitzi") Springer (later Mrs. Frank Wooster) and the late Baron Eugène Fould, and heir, with her three siblings, to a vast inheritence including estates in France, Austria, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. With the enthusiastic approval of her mother and stepfather, Thérèse and Alan Pryce-Jones were engaged in September of 1934, and married on December 28 at Royaumont, one of the family's homes near Paris.

After their wedding, the couple lived in the Fould-Springers' house in Meidling, outside Vienna. Their only child, David, was born there on February 15, 1936. That same year, Pryce-Jones's Private Opinion: a Commonplace Book was published. Despite a comfortable life in Austria, by 1937 Thérèse's Jewish background made it unwise to remain there, and they moved to England at the end of that year.

Back in England, Pryce-Jones finished his first novel, Pink Danube, which was published in 1939 under the pseudonym Arthur Pumphrey. He ran as the Liberal Party's candidate for Louth, in Lincolnshire, in 1939, but his political career was cut short by the outbreak of the Second World War. He began the war as a captain in the 4th Hussars, and served briefly in France before transferring to MI14 in 1940. As an intelligence officer, he remained in London until 1945, although his family moved to Tonbridge, Kent after their London home was damaged by bombs in 1942. Following final assignments in Italy and Vienna, Lieutenant-Colonel Pryce-Jones was discharged in 1946.

After the war, Pryce-Jones joined the staff of the Times Literary Supplement . He became assistant editor in 1947, and was chosen to succeed Stanley Morrison as editor in 1948. He remained in this post for eleven years, earning the highest praise from his contemporaries. He is credited with significantly revitalizing the publication--and with it English literary culture--by broadening its scope to include work by European and American writers, and by raising the quality of the reviews.

Early in Pryce-Jones's tenure at the Times, his wife became seriously ill following a miscarriage. After several years of struggle against what was eventually diagnosed as cancer, Thérèse died in February 1953, in Paris. Pryce-Jones remained very close to her family for the rest of his life. He also maintained close ties with the Rothschilds, relations by marriage through Thérèse's younger sister Liliane, Baroness Elie de Rothschild.

Throughout the late 1940s and '50s, Pryce-Jones led a busy life, both professionally and personally. In addition to his work at the Times, he travelled throughout the world on lecture tours for the British Council, made frequent appearances on BBC radio and television, translated, among other works, Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier (1947), and wrote the libretto for Lennox Berkeley's opera Nelson (1954). He was a trustee of the National Portrait Gallery, the Old Vic Trust, and the Royal Literary Fund, among other such duties. He converted to Catholicism in 1950. Several years after his wife's death, he began to see a great deal of his distant cousin Mary ("Mollie"), Duchess of Buccleuch and Queensberry, who remained his close confidante until her death in 1993.

Pryce-Jones voluntarily stepped down as editor of the Times Literary Supplement in 1959, in order to pursue fresh challenges. He became theater critic for The Observer for a year, while its regular critic Kenneth Tynan was on leave in New York, and then accepted an offer to go to New York himself for a short time as an adviser to the Ford Foundation, in 1960. A widower for some years, with both parents now deceased and his son grown, Pryce-Jones had few responsibilities in England, and soon decided to stay in America permanently.

He did not remain with the Ford Foundation long, preferring to resume his own writing career. He collaborated on a musical version of Vanity Fair with Robin Miller and Julian Slade, which premiered in London in 1962. He became a literary critic for the New York Herald Tribune, and, after it folded, the World Journal Tribune and the Washington Post . He also had a column in Theatre Arts, and wrote for a wide range of other publications. Throughout the 1960s and '70s, he appeared frequently on BBC radio both as a reviewer and as a commentator on American life, and continued to lecture through the British Council and other agencies.

In 1963 Pryce-Jones purchased two small houses in Newport, Rhode Island, which he renovated extensively. A third house made possible extended visits by friends and family from abroad, and throughout the 1960s he divided his time between New York and Newport. In 1968, he married Mary Jean Kempner Thorne, a journalist and member of a prominent Galveston, Texas, family. A year later, she became ill while vacationing in Portugal and was rushed to the American Hospital in Paris, where she died, in September 1969, of aplastic anaemia. After her death, Pryce-Jones remained close to her mother and to his stepson, Daniel Thorne, Mary Jean's only child by her first marriage.

Pryce-Jones moved to Newport permanently in the 1970s. He spent part of each year abroad with family and friends, particularly with his son David and daughter-in-law Clarissa (Caccia), their three children, and the extended Fould-Springer family. He traveled frequently, most often with the Duchess of Buccleuch or Cecile de Rothschild, but also with Larry Hudson, his close companion in later years.

Pryce-Jones continued to write and review throughout the rest of his life, on a wide variety of subjects. In 1987 his memoir, The Bonus of Laughter was published in England. He died January 22, 2000, in Galveston, Texas.

For more information about Pryce-Jones's family connections, see the Appendix . See also his memoir, The Bonus of Laughter .

From the guide to the Alan Pryce-Jones papers, 1857-2000, 1915-1990, (Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Betjeman, John, 1906-1984. John Betjeman fonds. [1913-1986]. University of Victoria Libraries, UVic
creatorOf Alan Pryce-Jones papers, 1857-2000, 1915-1990 Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
referencedIn Cummings, E. E. (Edward Estlin), 1894-1962. Papers, 1870-1969 Houghton Library
referencedIn Papers of Robert Graves: Correspondence (arranged by correspondent), c1909 to 2004 St John's College, Oxford
creatorOf Kinross, Patrick Balfour, Baron, 1904-. Papers of Patrick Balfour, Baron Kinross, 1922-1976. Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens
referencedIn Sitwell, Edith, 1887-1964. Autograph letter signed : Montagnana, Italy, to Jane Clark, 1957 Sept. 29. Pierpont Morgan Library.
creatorOf West, Paul, 1930-. Paul West papers, 1951-1992. Pennsylvania State University Libraries
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Astor, David, Hon., 1912- person
associatedWith Astor, David, Hon., 1912- person
associatedWith Berkeley, Lennox, 1903-1989. person
associatedWith Betjeman, John, 1906-1984. person
associatedWith Betjeman, John, Sir, 1906- person
associatedWith Buccleuch and Queensberry, Mary, Duchess of, 1900-1993. person
associatedWith Candolle, Roger de. person
associatedWith Connolly, Cyril, 1903-1974. person
associatedWith Cummings, E. E. (Edward Estlin), 1894-1962 person
associatedWith Dawnay, Victoria Alexandrina Elizabeth Grey, Lady, d. 1922. person
associatedWith Dix, George. person
associatedWith Dix, George. person
associatedWith Ford Foundation. corporateBody
associatedWith Fould family. family
associatedWith Fould family. family
associatedWith Graves, Robert Windham, 1858-1934 person
associatedWith Gray family. family
associatedWith Gray family. family
associatedWith Grey, Albert Henry George Grey, 4th earl, 1851-1917. person
associatedWith Harrod, Wilhelmine Margaret Eve Cresswell, Lady. person
associatedWith Kempner, Mary Jean, 1913-1969. person
associatedWith Kinross, Patrick Balfour, Baron, 1904-. person
associatedWith Maugham, W. Somerset (William Somerset), 1874-1965. person
associatedWith Morgan, Evan, 1893-1949. person
associatedWith Morrison, Stanley. person
associatedWith Morrison, Stanley. person
associatedWith Nicolson, Harold George, Sir, 1886-1968. person
associatedWith Pratt-Barlow, Robert. person
associatedWith Pratt-Barlow, Robert. person
associatedWith Propper de Callejon, Hélène Fould-Springer. person
associatedWith Pryce-Jones, David, 1936- person
associatedWith Pryce-Jones, Henry Morris, 1878-1952. person
associatedWith Pryce-Jones, Thérèse Fould-Springer, 1914-1953. person
associatedWith Pryce-Jones, Vere Dawnay, d. 1956. person
associatedWith Rothschild, Cecile de. person
associatedWith Rothschild, Cecile de. person
associatedWith Rothschild family. family
associatedWith Rothschild family. family
associatedWith Rothschild, Liliane Fould-Springer de, 1914- person
associatedWith Sitwell, Edith, 1887-1964. person
associatedWith Sitwell, Osbert, 1892-1969. person
associatedWith Sitwell, Sacheverell, 1897-1988. person
associatedWith Spender, Stephen, 1909-1995. person
associatedWith Squire, John Collings, Sir, 1884-1958. person
associatedWith Stern, James, 1904- person
associatedWith Times literary supplement. corporateBody
associatedWith West, Paul, 1930- person
associatedWith Wooster, Mary. person
associatedWith Wooster, Mary. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Newport (R.I.)
Newport (R.I.)
Great Britain
Aristocracy (Social class)
Aristocracy (Social class)
Authors, English
World War, 1939-1945
World War, 1939-1945
World War, 1939-1945
World War, 1939-1945


Birth 1908

Death 2000



Ark ID: w6nz8bcg

SNAC ID: 67739554