Poet, critic and novelist. John Barrington Wain was born in Stoke-on-Trent, the son of a dentist, and educated at Newcastle-under-Lyme Grammar School, Staffordshire, before going on to St. John's College, Oxford. From 1949 until 1955 he lectured in English at Reading University before turning to freelance writing full-time. From 1973 to 1978 he was Professor of Poetry at the University of Oxford. For most of his life, John Wain worked as a freelance jouranlist and author, writing and reviewing for newspapers and the radio. He died in May 1994 at Oxford. From 1974 his literary manuscripts have been deposited at Edinburgh University Library.
His output has been considerable, encompassing fiction, poetry, plays and literary criticism. He had great success with his early novel, Hurry on down (1953), entitled Born in captivity in the United States, which was an amusing but critical view of post-war British society. It tells of a university graduate, Charles Lumley, who turns his back on his enhanced prospects as a result of his education to seek employment in a series of menial jobs in order to discover his own identity. He won the Whitbread Award in 1982 for his novel Young shoulders His poetry is witty, but has been described as being, at times, rather self-conciously clever. He wrote several studies of literary characters associated with the West Midlands of England, including William Shakespeare, Samuel Johnson and Arnold Bennett.
John Wain was associated with several literary groups. His early writing led to him being dubbed as one of The Angry Young Men, that included within its ranks writers such as John Braine, Kingsley Amis, Alan Sillitoe and John Osborne. His publisher refuted this. He was a member of The Inklings, an Oxford literary group united by a love of literature and traditional values. Other members included C.S. Lewis and J.R.R Tolkien. John Wain was also associated with The Movement, a group mainly made up of post-war British poets. Its title came from an article by J.D. Scott published in The Spectator in 1954 and found a voice in several anthologies, particularly New Lines (1956), compiled by Robert Conquest. Contributors included D.J. Enright, Thom Gunn, Elizabeth Jennings and Philip Larkin.
The following works are available in the West Midlands Creative Literature Collection:-
The contenders (1958)
Death of the hind legs and other stories (1966)
A house for the truth; critical essays (1972)
Hurry on down (1953)
John Wain selection
Letters to five artists (1969)
The Life guard and other stories (1971)
Mid-week period return: home thoughts of a native
The Pardoner's tale (1978)
Poems 1949-1979 (1981)
Professing poetry (1977)
Samuel Johnson (1974)
The shape of Feng (1975)
The smaller sky (1967)
Strike the father dead (1962)
A travelling woman (1959)
Weep before God: poems (1961)
A winter in the hills (1971)
Young shoulders (1982)
The young visitors (1965)
Page created 24 November 2001 and last updated 28 October 2002
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