Cover image for John Fowles : a life in two worlds
John Fowles : a life in two worlds
Warburton, Eileen.
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New York : Viking, 2004.
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xvi, 510 pages, 32 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, portraits ; 25 cm
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PR6056.O85 Z89 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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John Fowles has been compared to Henry James and Virginia Woolf. Christopher Lehmann-Haupt in The New York Timeshailed him as “a remarkable novelist,” and the novelist John Gardner described him as “the only writer in English who has the power, range, knowledge, and wisdom of a Tolstoy.” Four of his works have been adapted for film, including the Academy Award–nominated The French Lieutenant’s Woman.Despite his immense critical and popular success, only now has Fowles found the capable biographer he has long deserved. In John Fowles: A Life in Two Worlds, Eileen Warburton provides a richly detailed portrait that emphasizes his emergence as one the twentieth century’s most important writers. She chronicles his prewar childhood in a London commuter town and in wartime rural England, his Oxford education, and his apprentice years in Europe and London. From a lifetime of intimate correspondence, she narrates Fowles’s thirty-seven-year love affair with the wife who inspired his most memorable women characters. And she follows the astonishing trajectory of Fowles’s long writing career—from his spectacular debut novel, The Collector(1963), to the haunting The French Lieutenant’s Woman(1969), through his later fiction, poems, essays, and translations.

Author Notes

Eileen Warburton is a writer who lives in Newport, Rhode Island

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Warburton's voluminous biography offers a textured portrait of a somewhat reserved and nettlesome man. The Fowles that emerges from these pages comes across as an intensely private, contemplative, ambitious, serious, and intermittently likable artist who enjoyed a series of complex relationships with a variety of extraordinary people. Interesting characters inhabit Fowles' life story as surely--and as plentifully--as they do his fiction (including The Magus0 and The French Lieutenant's Woman0 ). 0 His father, Robert, a thoughtful man who harbored secret literary ambitions of his own, and Elizabeth, his tempestuous wife of many years, are sharply drawn, and these two reveal much about the formative influences in Fowles' life. Warburton's access to Fowles' private diaries has made possible a number of telling insights into the inner workings of a first-rate literary intelligence. Fowles' fierce engagement with the natural world, his almost romantic attachment to "the wild," is also thoroughly explored. For anyone interested in Fowles' work and life, this will surely become the definitive biography. --Trygve Thoreson Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Granted full access by the reclusive author to his voluminous journals and personal papers, Warburton's first book is a sweeping, all-but-authorized biography that will surprise fans of The Magus with its account of Fowles's conventional background and entice those of The French Lieutenant's Woman with its intimate portrait of his marriage. Born into a thoroughly bourgeois English family in 1926, Fowles grew up in suburban Essex, was head boy at a prestigious public school, dutifully trained in the Marines during WWII and studied French at Oxford. Only when he went abroad did he begin to set himself apart and pursue writing. While teaching on the Greek isle of Spetsai, Fowles fatefully got involved with a colleague's wife, Elizabeth Christy, in a passionate affair that, Warburton cogently argues, was the central event of his emotional and creative life. Eventually Elizabeth obtained a divorce, and their subsequent marriage encompassed Fowles's novelistic career. Although Elizabeth destroyed most of her own papers in 1982, Warburton convincingly conveys her central role as not only Fowles's inspiration for his strong female characters but also his best reader and critic. Elizabeth often rankled at being an author's wife after the bestselling The Collector, but her critical involvement in The French Lieutenant's Woman proved essential. Fowles stopped seeking out her opinion on later books, but the two otherwise lived happily enough in Dorset. Elizabeth's death in 1990 compounded a stroke Fowles suffered earlier and closed one chapter on his creative life. Although the novelist's journals have not yet been published here in America, Warburton's thorough treatment of his multifaceted life will hold its own when they are. Agent, Melanie Jackson. (Mar. 22) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

Warburton's carefully researched, well-written biography reads like a novel. This stylistic phenomenon is particularly apt in light of Warburton's emphasis on Fowles' lifelong habit of reinventing his past experiences, even to the point of dramatically contradicting his own diaries, both in his anecdotal recounting of his life and in his fiction. Warburton points out that in Fowles' seven novels--from The Collector (1963) to A Maggot (1985)--this constant reinvention led to a rich complexity in the relationship between the worlds of life and art. Central to the relationship between the life and work is the 37-year relationship between Fowles and his first wife Elizabeth, who died of cancer in 1990 and who obliquely influenced several characters in his fiction. As a trusted friend of the Fowleses, Warburton was provided access to Elizabeth's papers as well as Fowles'. Warburton concludes her narrative at the end of the 20th century, with brief references to Fowles' Wormholes, ed. by Jan Relf (CH, Nov'98), a book of essays. Although emphasizing biography over criticism, Warburton cites Fowles' association with postmodernism and atheistic existentialism, as have such critics as Thomas Foster (Understanding John Fowles, CH, Apr'95) and James Aubrey (John Fowles: A Reference Companion, CH, May'92). ^BSumming Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. B. H. Leeds Central Connecticut State University



Introduction The truth about any artist, however terrible, is better than the silence. . . . I know many writers fight fanatically to keep their published self separate from their private reality. . . . But I've always thought of that as something out of our social, time-serving side; not our true artistic ones. I don't see how the "lies" we write and the "lies" we live can or should be divided. They are seamless, one canvas, for me. While we live we can keep them apart, but not command the future to do the same. The outrage some Thomas Hardy fans have shown over all the revelations about the private man seems to me hypocritical in the extreme. They hugely enrich our understanding of him. . . . I have had to convince a number of friends and relatives that the kindest act to the [writer] is remembering them- and that all art comes from a human being, not out of mysterious thin air. -john fowles, letter to jo jones, september 15, 1980 (arguing for the preservation of john collier's personal papers) By the early 1970s John Fowles, still in the midst of his active career as a writer, was already the subject of academic scrutiny. He was beginning, at this point, to critique the critics, wondering why they "devoted far too much . . . time to the analysis and exegesis of 'dead' literary product as against the investigation of living literary experience." He himself was fascinated by the interior process of mythmaking, the transmutation into art of his own life, past personal experiences, understanding of nature, and reading. He defined inspiration as the state "of extreme sensitivity to past biographical data." It baffled him that scholars and commentators should focus their attention on finished texts and overlook the obvious, the "dark world of self-experience inherent in myth-making, . . . the subjective living experience."1 I met him around this time, in January 1974. I was probably typical: a twenty-six-year- old American graduate student, very nervous, armed with three carefully crafted scholarly questions about John Fowles's published books, his intentions, and so forth. But the day was miserably wet and squally. My husband and I had walked for hours, fascinated and anxious, around a Lyme Regis we both "knew" from The French Lieutenant's Woman. When we knocked at Belmont House that afternoon, we were soaked and cold and must have looked like two bedraggled children to the woman who opened the door. I was struck speechless. This was Elizabeth Fowles (she insisted on "Elizabeth" immediately) offering her hand. But I "knew" instantly that she was Alison, the character I most loved in The Magus. John Fowles hurried up behind her, kindly, welcoming, pressing our cold hands and hustling us to the fireside. What I overwhelmingly felt at that moment was the conviction that the books and the life I was briefly touching were connected at a profound, organic level. My academic interview questions seemed shallow and beside the point. I stumbled through the questions, of course, although I can't remember either what I asked or what Fowles answered. We tried to hurry off but were urged to stay. Through a long afternoon of cups of tea and concern over wet shoes, we were enfolded in the tender ordinariness of John and Elizabeth's world. We heard of Elizabeth's daughter, marrying that summer; I must someday meet her. They asked of our families, our life as young marrieds. Fowles spoke of a new book of short stories to be published later that year. It was nearly evening, though still daylight, when the rain stopped and John led me down the muddy, sloping pathways deep into his overgrown garden. There were no Latin names that day and little talking. He parted dripping branches to reveal winter blossoms. He crushed leaves and held them to my nose to sniff. He stopped at the deep center of the garden and smiled. The outside world was gone, and there was only wet green, damp earth, silence, and fading light. These were his real answers, I now know. So, many years and many meetings later, I became John Fowles's biographer. As I think he wishes I have tried to focus on what Fowles calls the ethnology of the novelist, the study of living behavior in the artist. For me, this means simply telling the story of how this man's life resulted in the books he made. In large measure, it has also meant writing the biography of a marriage. Elizabeth is at the center of the books, as she was of John Fowles's life. There were no publishable novels before her coming. There were none after her going. It was possible for me to observe this relationship between the books and a private existence over the writer's lifetime because, with staggering generosity, John Fowles made his diaries available to me before they were published or openly archived at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin. I read them while they were still archived (and not open) at Exeter University in Devon. Fowles further supported my research by permitting me to use his own correspondence, that of his first wife, Elizabeth Fowles, and a very personal assortment of private papers, photographs, and other materials. He introduced me and vouched for me to his friends, family, and professional associates, almost all of whom consented to be interviewed and/or to release materials. He himself gave me many hours of interview and research time, occasions I shall always treasure. What Fowles did not do was interfere, censor, or collaborate. He did not read drafts of the manuscript or review the book before publication. Mistakes are entirely mine. John Fowles and I seriously began our discussions about a biography when he was touring the United States in 1996. Sitting on my back porch in Newport, Rhode Island, on May 22, he advised me emphatically: "There's only one way that you could do it. Tell the truth. Tell the truth." Since then he has assured me repeatedly of his trust. I am honored by his trust and have tried to be worthy of it by following his advice, telling the truth, even in places where it was difficult. For all his astonishing support, I acknowledge John Fowles with deepest gratitude. Fowles's diaries, from 1947 to 1998, provided the chronological backbone for the biography. (Chapters 1 and 2, covering 1926 to 1947, are the exception.) These diaries, however, are the record of an interior journey over half a century and are confined to Fowles's powerful personal interpretations of exterior fact, the immediate impressions recorded in a single moment. To balance the diaries with other kinds of witness, I have used other written documents and interviews. I drew on John Fowles's and Elizabeth Fowles's letters and a wide range of interviews with family, friends, and associates of both JF and EF. I was given access to all of Fowles's surviving papers, both published and unpublished. Because of the magnificent, overwhelming richness of these primary documents, I have included very, very little from the vast library of secondary sources about John Fowles, the books and articles about his works. The exception is James R. Aubrey's John Fowles: A Reference Companion. I have only rarely used any of Fowles's published interviews with scholars and journalists. Beyond the interests of brevity, I wanted Fowles to speak for himself from diaries and letters as much as possible. I wanted to include a direct sense of his "voice," along with those of the other major figures in the story. Furthermore, I have learned to be somewhat suspicious of taking the "John Fowles" who speaks in interviews for the "real" John Fowles. I came to this conclusion both from reading what he says about interviews in his diaries and, more important, from interviewing him myself over a lengthy period. Fowles's interviews with me were filled with stories and "memories" in direct conflict with other sources, particularly his own diaries. Although to this day he has phenomenal recall for facts of natural history and geographical place, Fowles would be the first to say what a poor memory he has and has always had for biographical fact. Throughout his life he has forgotten the details of events, safely recording them in his diary, then letting go of them. In fact, the written diary record was in many ways the most "real" part of any experience for Fowles. In addition, most of my interviews were recorded when the man was over seventy and his memories were further blurring. However, if Fowles forgot an incident, he simply invented it or reinterpreted it to suit his purposes. After a lifetime of regarding his own biography as raw material for his fiction, a malleable substance to be shaped and reshaped in his imagination, many of the stories he presented as factual were obviously fictional. Sometimes he presented other people's experience, in perfect sincerity, as if it were his own. Although I suspect that Fowles sometimes does lie to interviewers, particularly when he is bored or the interviewer is especially irritating, I learned to regard his interview narratives as different from deliberate lying. They were the product of what I call fertile forgetting. The personal past is forgotten or suppressed but returns through imagination in the writer's fiction, often in a different shape. Throughout the narrative of Fowles's life there is a marked tendency for him to slip away into hiding of one sort or another, then to reappear in a mask or disguise, refashioning himself as a fiction. I confess that I was annoyed when I first became aware of this tendency in his interviews with me. But when Anna Christy, Fowles's stepdaughter, wrote me that Fowles was "playing the god-game" with me, I had to laugh. I learned to feel rather honored to sit listening to the great novelist actually weaving his fictions in my presence. I use these interviews in the biography only with caution. But I'm very glad we did them. The Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center (HRC) at the University of Texas at Austin, Texas, awarded me an Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship, 1998-1999. This enabled me to spend several months among the papers of the John Fowles Collection at the HRC, the major repository for Fowles's documents. I am very grateful to Director Thomas F. Staley and the Ransom Center for this support and for the time, energy, and interest of the exceptional staff there, particularly of Pat Fox. Likewise, I am grateful to University Librarian Alasdair T. Paterson and to Jill Pyne and other very helpful members of staff at the Exeter University Library and at Reed Hall, Exeter University, for their kindness and interest during my 1997 research stay. My warm appreciation goes to the entire staff of the Lyme Regis Philpot Museum over the past twenty-some years of visits and especially to Liz-Anne Bawden, Jo Draper, and John Howells for their kind assistance with collections and archives in 2000. I also wish to thank Head of Special Collections Lori N. Curtis, Sidney F. Huttner, and the Special Collections staff of the McFarlin Library at the University of Tulsa, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for their help during my visit in 1999. I am grateful to John Fowles for permission to publish from these collections. Except for the Mellon Fellowship, financial support for this project came from my family. Two generous colleagues made it possible for me to continue working with a highly flexible schedule at various stages of the research and writing. I sincerely wish to acknowledge my late friend and teaching partner Patrick J. Keeley, Head of the Humanities Program at Bryant College, and Michael Semenza, Vice-President for Institutional Advancement at Salve Regina University. Many people made my work possible, but I must begin by thanking three special women. Anna Christy, Elizabeth Fowles's daughter, has been (after Fowles himself) the person who gave the greatest support to this project in England. Besides providing memories and documentation, she has smoothed introductions and eased misgivings about me, encouraged me in a thousand ways, rewarded me with her friendship, and occasionally helped me laugh at myself. There would simply be no biography without Anna. Monica Sharrocks (after spending a morning sizing me up) shook me to the core by sharing more than thirty years of letters preserved from Elizabeth Fowles's intimate correspondence with Monica and Denys Sharrocks. Monica saved Elizabeth's "voice" and perceptions, making it possible for her to be present in this biography. Karen Daw transcribed and retyped the early manuscript volumes of Fowles's diaries, working directly with John Fowles to make out his difficult handwriting. Karen's massive labor, carried out with discretion, sensitivity, and accuracy, gave me and future scholars a key for reading the original manuscript diaries. John Fowles, I have believed throughout this project, has been exceptionally fortunate in his friends. His oldest friends have immeasurably enriched my understanding, not only of him but of the times they shared and the places and people they knew together. It has been a delight and privilege for me to know Denys Sharrocks, Ronnie Payne, Freddie Porter, and (at great distance) Angus McCallum. I am also grateful to John's sister, Hazel O'Sullivan, for a sense of the Fowles family at Leigh. Technical support at critical moments was received from Charles Glass, Roger Warburton, Nye Warburton, Richard Benson, and William Mello. I am grateful to Sarah Fowles, John Fowles's wife since 1998, for her hospitality and patience. I acknowledge with thanks my fellow biographers in the Providence Biographers' Group: Jane Lancaster, Joan Richards, Adam Nelson, Hadassah Davis. With my husband, Roger, they have been my most scrupulous, faithful readers through every single draft of every chapter. Beyond their friendship, they have given me the priceless gift of colleagueship, trusting me with their work, while they supported mine. My generous friend Judith Rényi helped me tremendously as the painstaking first reader of the finished draft. Two great mentors inspired my love of biography: the late Kurt Weber, Professor of English at the University of Maryland, and that exceptional biographer Deirdre Bair, my doctoral adviser at the University of Pennsylvania, 1976-1980. I am grateful for the many years of enthusiastic support from John Fowles's American editor, Ray A. Roberts, who became my editor at Viking Penguin and a good friend; for Tory Klose's thoughtful, careful attention to the manuscript; and for all the help of Clifford Corcoran and Nancy Resnick. I record here my heartfelt thanks for the wise counsel, thoroughness, and hard work of my agent, Melanie Jackson. Tom Maschler, Fowles's British editor, warmly encouraged and supported the project from the first, while his successor at Jonathan Cape, Daniel Franklin, has continued that interest. In my travels and through correspondence I have been blessed with cooperation, enthusiasm, extraordinary kindness, and great hospitality from my contacts. I have heard personal tales from the hearts of the tellers and shared adventures and broken bread with people I shall never forget. Some of these people have become my friends. All of them have been exceedingly generous. Simply saying thanks doesn't seem enough. Yet, in alphabetical order, I wish to express my gratitude to: James Aubrey, Sarah Ball and the Essex County Council Archives, Liz-Anne Bawden, Peter Benson, Lilette Botassi, Suzie Botassi, Sally Burwood, Eileen Cacace, Anna Christy and Charles Glass, Tess Christy, Joanne Collins, Nigel Cozens and Lymelight Books, James G. P. Crowden, Karen V. Daw, Nicos Dimou and Marianne Betitoubi, Jo Draper, Ann Dyer, Sam and Maydelle Fason, Helen Faulkner for Ashridge Management College, Sarah Smith Fowles, Pat Fox, James C. Gedney, Fay Godwin, Bob "Magusbob" Goosmann, Anne Greenshield, Stephen Hoar, Will Homoky, Sanchia Humphreys, Charlotte and Tony Jackson, Ann Jellicoe and Roger Mayne, Kirki Kefalea, Lily Kefalea, Jud and Monica Kinberg, Maury Klein, John Kohn, Rodney Legg, Tom Maschler, Andrew McCallum, Angus and Patricia McCallum, Heather McCallum, Anne Mitchell, Christopher Moulin, John and Lillian Munby, Hazel and Daniel O'Sullivan, Kevin Padian, Ronald S. Payne and Celia Haddon, Anna Ruszkowski Peebles, Reverend Peter Pickett, Fred Porter, Neil Reid, Jan Relf, Judith Rényi, Mary Scriven, Denys and Monica Sharrocks, Betty Slowinski, Leonora Smith, Thomas F. Staley, Judith Swift, John Sylvester and the Old Bedfordians, Katherine Tarbox, W. Thomas Taylor, Gareth and Elizabeth Thomas, David and Annette Tringham, Elena van Lieshout, Dianne Vipond, Hazel Warburton, Jean Wellings, John Wilcox, Phyllis Wilcox, William Wilcox, and Tom and Malou Wiseman. Thank you all for your trust. Please forgive me if I have omitted anyone. It is not deliberate, and I apologize. My fondest gratitude goes to my parents, Ed and Ruth Hand, for their love, assistance, and pride and their extraordinary patience and support; to my parents-in-law, Ron and Margaret Warburton, and the extended Warburton family in England for so much kindness, hospitality, and help of many kinds; to my sons, Nye and Rhys, for putting up with this endless project and my absences and doubts, for love, listening, support, and understanding beyond their ages, and for taking JF to their baseball game; and to my friends, old and new, who were patient and wonderfully encouraging. Most of all, with a full heart, I gratefully acknowledge my husband and best friend, Roger Warburton, who got me through it. -Newport, Rhode Island September 2002 chapter one Voices in the Garden Leigh-on-Sea: 1926-1939 Voices in the garden. I half-hide in one of the bamboo-clumps. Down the path beside the Cobb Road march two young gentlemen, age about five each. I challenge them: "What are you doing here?" All such previous encounters have resulted in almost immediate panic-stricken flight. But these two stand smiling. "We're going for a walk." Then one asks, "Is it your garden?" The other, "Are you the famous writer?" Already winded by this engaging frankness, I make them take me to where they got in. . . . "It's to hide from the other boys, we don't want them to know." "It's the best garden in Lyme, this," one of them confided, "a wizard place." -john fowles, diaries, december 7, 1986 It was not a show garden, although its owner loved to show it to visitors. It was the secret place of a solitary, turned in upon itself, not facing the outside world at all. The single acre of the Belmont House garden spread over a steep slope, dense, walled and fenced, with a lone locked gate at the bottom, shut off even from the sea beyond. Entering from the terrace by the house, sixty-year-old John Fowles had passed the greenhouse and well- kept orchard and vegetable patches and descended by winding pathways into a green chaos, where outside sounds quickly diminished and the light was filtered through heavy leaf canopy. He had always needed wild places, and his wild places were always places to hide. His own garden, where on this wintry day he waited unseen amid the green for his childish visitors, had grown wild and secret, a mirror to the mind and spirit of its gardener, much like the books for which Fowles was famous the world over.1,2 This garden on the Dorset coast of England had a peculiar, semitropical miniclimate, catching the sun on its steep south face, so that the unique and unexpected flourished there. It was old, and Fowles delighted in discovering the works of his predecessors, the plants stocked by owners stretching back over 150 years and the odd ruins of buildings from earlier times. He himself had filled it with plants from all over the world, specimens dug up or cuttings stealthily nicked while traveling and smuggled home stuffed into the pockets of his raincoat or trousers. He knew each growing thing with the intimacy of a lover in a long relationship and murmured the words of their names tenderly. Relishing the rare, he always identified his plants by their Latin names to scholars and interviewers, making up the Latin when he had forgotten and delivering this fictional mischief in an avuncular deadpan. Fowles truly shared this domain only with a stone statue of the goddess Ceres and with the other wild creatures that came and went unmolested: owls, hawks, blackbirds, herring gulls, dormice, foxes, hedgehogs, deer. In the garden's hidden interior clock time seemed arrested. Time moved imperceptibly by seasons and each plant's secret ways. Fowles cherished this sense and found that only children, like these little boys, experienced the garden quite the way he did. The realm was created by adult labor, but in it, Fowles was also free to see like a child. When he had drifted for hours, breathing damp earth and blossom, mesmerized by the bending of light and the bending of time, he would hear the sound of a bell, calling him, as Conchis was to call Nicholas Urfe, back to the other world of everyday reality. Climbing up the path, slower for his six decades, John Fowles would reemerge from the garden to see waiting for him the one woman he had loved for more than thirty years. John Fowles's earliest memories were of another garden, his father's garden in the Essex suburban town of Leigh-on-Sea. Unlike the Belmont House sanctuary, however, the garden at 63 Fillebrook Avenue was not a wild thicket for hiding. It was controlled and exposed, two circumstances John Fowles spent the rest of his life escaping. The merest tenth of an acre abutting a tiny semidetached house, Rob Fowles's weekend orchard was an obsessively pruned and espaliered collection of prized apple and pear trees. While John Fowles would walk through his garden, pointing out the exotic species he had surreptitiously acquired on his foreign travels or crushing a pungent leaf to hold to the nose of a visitor, Robert Fowles would proudly tell of the prizes won by his Cox's Orange, the exact yield of his Lady Sudeley, and of how he had bought each as a sapling for only a few shillings. The son's memories of his father's garden, however, were not of prizes and prices but of scent and taste. No fruit ever equaled in flavor his father's James Grieves or matched the succulence of his D'Arcy Spice. In this fragrant, sensuous place, John Fowles in his earliest days was an adored only child, attended by two young, pretty, affectionate women. In the novels he published decades later, the configuration is often similar: A young man is lost in wonder in a green, enclosed natural place, instructed by an authoritarian older male and teased, cherished, and tempted by a pair of lovely young women. In the suburban reality of the late 1920s the women were John's mother, Gladys, and his cousin Peggy, who lived with the Fowleses as the little boy's caregiver until he was ten.3 Gladys May Richards Fowles was nearly twenty-seven when John was born. She was a handsome, full-figured woman, with dark hair, eloquent eyes, and a shy smile. John looked like her, tall, with wistful hazel eyes, a bashful smile, and an unruly shock of dark brown hair that flopped over his forehead. Neither of her children could remember their mother with a book, and she was not an intellectual. She was, however, a great talker, who kept up a constant flow of chat and was keen at crosswords. While her ten-year- older husband revered his meticulously controlled garden and was suspicious of the wild and rural, Gladys was a country walker, with a sharp eye for the first green shoots of spring. She kept birds, dogs, and cats, crooning to them like babies. She was a churchgoer and devoted to her parents, brother, and sister-in-law, all of whom lived within half a mile. As a girl she had studied in an excellent secretarial school but had not been allowed to take a job and so, as her son-in-law thought years later, had poured her considerable energies into the domestic sphere.4 She kept a serene household for her nervous husband, so ordered and quiet one could "hear a pin drop."5 She was, by every account, a truly exceptional cook and an excellent seamstress, who also knitted and worked embroidery and tapestry. Late in life she took up watercolors and handicrafts. Gladys had feared she would not have children, so John as a boy was "the apple of her eye" and mother and son were close companions. In all her memories as an old woman (and her memory was as prodigious as her cooking), she recalled times spent with John, walks in the country, planned outings, projects she helped him with. A few years after his birth she lost a baby either to miscarriage or stillbirth, leaving John the sole object of her deeply reconcentrated love and attention.6 Side by side with Gladys was pretty, freckled Peggy Fowles, the daughter of Robert Fowles's elder brother, Jack, who had been killed in the war. Eighteen when she came to be nursemaid to the infant John, Peggy was the little boy's caregiver, playmate, and close companion until John was ten and she twenty-eight. He always spoke affectionately of Peggy Fowles. But this beloved cousin disappeared from his life in 1936, when she emigrated to South Africa with her two younger brothers. Both the Fowles and the Richards families were Londoners who had moved to the rapidly growing Essex suburbs just after the Great War. Gladys and her younger brother, Stanley, had grown up in material comfort in fashionable Chelsea, the children of John S. Richards, a lace merchant. As newlyweds J. S. Richards and his wife, Elizabeth Pascoe Whear Richards, had come up from Cornwall to London, where, exactly like Sam Farrow in The French Lieutenant's Woman, he had joined one of the new department stores of the modern Victorian age and risen to be chief buyer of lace for John Lewis Ltd. He was a "master draper" in 1899, when his daughter was born. In 1918, as the Spanish flu epidemic decimated Europe, the Richardses moved to Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex, the western residential suburb of Southend-on-Sea. Although connected to the capital city by rail, this seaside town was reputed to have "good air" and a healthy climate. The Fowleses, Robert Fowles's large family, were also well-to-do middle-class London merchants, originally from the West of England. They lived in a spacious house overlooking Clapham Common, attended by servants and sending their many children to good schools. Reginald Allen Fowles, Robert's father, was a partner in Allen & Wright, the family's tobacco-importing firm, founded a generation earlier. Even his children called him "Pard." The company flourished in several London locations, notably Piccadilly Arcade, and Reginald also owned income-producing commercial properties. He provided a comfortable life for his first wife, Lilian Ellen Lawrence Fowles, mother of Robert John Fowles, born the third son and the sixth of seven children in 1889. Robert was only six when his mother died. Reginald eventually remarried to a Gertrude Brown ("Lovey" to the family), who gave him five more boys and girls. Robert John Fowles grew up in a happy crowd of siblings and friends, avidly playing cricket, golf, and tennis and enjoying the urban pleasures of London vaudeville and music halls. He enthusiastically prepared for a career in law, clerking and reading in a barrister's chambers. He heard most of the great Edwardian King's Counsels arguing in court and was ambitious to be one of them. The Great War crushed his dreams and his future. Twenty-six when he enlisted as an officer in the Honourable Artillery Company, Robert saw three years of action in the trenches of Flanders. Memories of comrades dying beside him in battle tormented him throughout his life. Friends of his boyhood were slain. His brother Jack was killed in action at Ypres in 1917, leaving a widow and three small children. Robert himself was not physically wounded, but his nerves were shot. In 1919 he was sent to occupied Cologne, Germany, where he enjoyed being a military prosecutor for a year. When, in 1920, Robert Fowles was demobilized, he was thirty-one years old and, in the medical terminology of the day, "neurasthenic." His daughter sadly reported that he was acknowledged by the family to be "a mess."7 His sleep was poor, his nerves were bad, and his hands shook "so that he could not even hold a teacup."8 If Robert was changed, so were his family and his prospects. In 1920 his father, Reginald, died and (Frank Fowles, the surviving older brother, being skipped over) the legally trained Robert was made executor of his father's estate. Because Robert was responsible for the children of his dead brother, Jack, and for his five young half siblings from Reginald's second marriage, the career in law of which he had dreamed was out of the question. He had to "go into the family firm" of Allen & Wright,9 and he carried the burden of fiscal obligation for his extended family until 1951. Although Robert Fowles seldom spoke of Reginald and his legacy of emotional tensions and financial woe, his son, John, came to think of his Fowles grandfather as "a monster . . . hatching children and the eggs of disaster and hatred all round the clock."10 Reginald's wealthy business partner and cousin J. T. L. Tucker may have helped relocate the entire fatherless family to Essex. Supportive and concerned, Tucker, godfather to Robert Fowles, already lived on Canvey Island on the Essex coast. By 1924 the struggling young Fowles was living nearby in Westcliff-on-Sea, commuting daily to London by train. He continued to be in "an awful state," suffering debilitating anxiety and nervous symptoms, though he stoically suppressed speaking of his wartime experiences until very late in life.11 Robert Fowles spent the rest of his life responding to what must have been a harrowing sense of loss. John Fowles was surprised to learn in the early 1950s that his father had sought help through Freudian psychoanalysis in 1923. This was quite a radical act at that time, both intellectually forward and, perhaps, desperate. Sigmund Freud's theories may have been known to Robert Fowles through his assignment in Germany and his readings in German, but they were only just beginning to be generally known in England. The psychoanalysis completely overlooked the obvious causes of Robert's mental distress- the savage carnage of the war, the experience of helplessly watching friends perish, the deaths of his brother and father, the crushing financial family responsibilities, and the sacrifice of his hopes. Instead, "the Freudian explanation," wrote John Fowles nearly thirty years later, "was that he had lost his mother at the age of six and had never acclimatised himself to his young step-mother."12 Robert Fowles never returned to therapy, but he continued to look for answers. He spent the rest of his life reading, studying, and arguing philosophy and religion, a discipline that his only son also adopted. The real remedy for Robert's illness was of a more romantic variety. Sometime in 1924 Rob Fowles met Gladys Richards at the tennis club in Westcliff-on-Sea. He was thirty- five, and she ten years younger. The lively Gladys was attractive and popular, with many boyfriends. But her other admirers suddenly seemed immature next to this responsible former officer, who had survived so much in the war. She was moved by his experiences and felt needed. Gladys's parents were a bit alarmed at her attraction to a man in fragile health, burdened with such a dependent, complicated family. He had even expressed a reluctance to have children of his own.13 But Gladys, as her son would put it, "nursed him back to health. . . . She was the cure."14 Love prevailed. Robert Fowles and Gladys Richards were married on June 18, 1925, in the Anglican parish church of St. Saviour at Westcliff-on-Sea. Robert brought his bride home to the house they named "Waygate," purchased a few months previously. Only nine months and two weeks later their son was born there on March 31, 1926. The little boy was given the reversed Christian names of his father, John Robert Fowles. There were two Leighs at the time of John Fowles's birth, and he was a child of historical transition. There was Old Leigh, a cockling, shrimping, and seafaring port near the mouth of the River Thames, ancient enough to have been mentioned in the Domesday Book (1085). Old Leigh sent ships to the Spanish Armada, captains to Trafalgar, and mariners to the evacuation of Dunkirk. Old Leigh was bounded on the north by the rural Hadleigh Hills and on the southeast by the vast tidal mudflats that John Fowles was to explore and hunt in and grow to love. Eastward Old Leigh looked out past the garish seaside resort of Southend-on-Sea, toward the mouth of the great estuary and the North Sea. The "other" Leigh, Leigh-on-Sea, was a rapidly growing dormitory town created by the commuter railway to London, thirty-five miles upriver to the west, past oil refineries, docks, and factories. In 1925, when Robert Fowles bought the first little semidetached house built on Fillebrook Avenue, a cul-de-sac cut through from the London Road only the year before, the property was still part of the Chalkwell section of Westcliff-on-Sea. The Fowleses' house and the neighborhood were reassigned to Leigh-on-Sea in 1930.15 The house was conveniently close to the omnibus line and the railway station, and Robert Fowles never owned or drove an automobile. The Fowleses of No. 63 were part of a tremendous postwar real estate development boom as Leigh exploded in population from a village of fewer than four thousand to nearly twenty thousand in less than twenty years. Building plots and houses were sold from marquee tents, and special trains brought buyers to the auctions from London's Fenchurch Street Station. Residents of new streets often endured months of wheel ruts and mud as they waited for paving, sewers, and lights. To the loss of Old Leigh, historic houses dating back to the time of the first Queen Elizabeth were demolished during the early 1920s, as main roads were rapidly widened or extended. Yet for all the frantic construction Fillebrook Avenue retained some of its pastoral character. Prittle Brook ran four houses from the Fowleses' front door. Blooming with wildflowers, thick with "brambles, nettles and rusting detritus," bordered by a concrete runoff ditch, an open field made an irresistible playground for John and the other children, despite being declared off-limits by their parents.16 Just across the street from No. 63 were the Garden Estate Tennis Courts, where Robert played avidly and taught John to play. Spacious Chalkwell Park, with its expansive green lawns, formal gardens, and views of the sea, was a mere quarter mile from the house. Below the seaside cliffs, there were beaches along the Thames, where the Fowles and Richards families hired a tentlike beach hut each summer and spent their weekend afternoons in a sandy, sociable congregation of parents, siblings, grandparents, children, babies, and dogs. Robert and Gladys referred to each other as "Father" and "Mother." In these capacities, they acted parentally toward their extended clan with Robert managing everyone's finances and Gladys welcoming siblings and half siblings, nieces and nephews, neighboring maiden aunts and distant bachelor uncles for meals and cups of tea. As a child John Fowles was enfolded in family, all living in the Leigh area. The Richards grandmother and Gladys's younger brother, Stanley, and his wife, Eileen, lived a few streets over. On the Fowles side, there was Robert's stepmother, Lovey, his sisters Maud, Maggie, Gertie, and Tots, his surviving brother, Frank, and half siblings Alan, Dick, Joan, Pat, and Kate. Besides Peggy Fowles, who lived with them, other young Fowles cousins were around often enough to capture John's imagination as he grew. To No. 63 came a much-envied cousin who lived in Kenya, a tea planter, big-game shot, and fly fisherman. Another eccentric cousin, Lawrence Wetherill, nineteen years John's senior and an international authority on ants, would also turn up from some exotic African adventure, fascinating his small cousin with photographs and stories.17 John was often taken to visit his father's relative and godfather, J. T. L. Tucker, on nearby Canvey Island. An eccentric, lusty fitness enthusiast who had helped to establish the London YMCA while he grew rich in the tobacco business, Tucker would cheerfully greet the little boy by knocking him flat with a medicine ball almost as big as he was. To safeguard the security of this rosy family world, Robert Fowles bore the anxiety of a shaky commercial enterprise. Each morning he joined his commuting neighbors as he walked five minutes up the street to the London Road, then a quarter hour down the steep hill to the Westcliff-on-Sea railway station near the Thames to ride an hour to Fenchurch Street Station, then cross London to Piccadilly Circus. Each evening he retraced his journey after spending his workday as managing director of Allen & Wright, Ltd., maker of briar pipes and purveyor of fine tobaccos. John Fowles recalled growing up "in the scent really of rather nice tobacco," the imported Havana cigars, the "rare, expensive . . . scented" cigarettes from places like Russia and Egypt, "the English cigarettes like Richmond Gems, and the house mixtures rolled by Allen & Wright."18 In truth, however, it was "a luxury trade in an age of slumps and restrictions."19 So many people also depended on the profits that there was never much gain. Some of the finances sustaining the extended Fowles family came from rentals of the other London business properties. Additionally, Robert Fowles owned a small amount of stock, which he monitored carefully. Both his children recalled Robert Fowles as a thin man of very nervous disposition who constantly worried about his business and the people dependent on him. In the mid-1930s he developed a debilitating duodenal ulcer. John Fowles would recall how as a little boy he "decided that London was synonymous with physical exhaustion and nervous anxiety, and that the one thing I would never be was a commuter."20 His father also hoped for better for him. Robert was extremely tight with money for housekeeping, and Gladys Fowles did not have use of a checkbook until she was a widow. There were few luxuries, though she did have household help. The elder Fowles valued the comradeship and shared memories of his fellow officers from the Honourable Artillery Company and kept up connections with these veterans. But the other regimental officers were "well-to-do men . . . with good connections," John Fowles remembered, and Robert Fowles was condemned to watch his own resources shrink while hankering after the ethos and aspirations of this officer class. John Fowles wrote in 1951 that his father "was brought up in a rich home, lived with well-to-do people, still has friends and connections in a richer stratum of life. He regrets all that and has now an obsession about other people's riches."21 Robert was determined that John would not have those regrets. He wrote to John's headmaster in 1944 how he felt qualms about his son's future "not necessarily because of the hazards of war, but more because I have constantly in mind the example of my own career being wrecked in the last war."22 John Fowles grew up in an atmosphere of thwarted ambition, with a father resolved that his son would not be disappointed professionally and a mother who plied him with intense, self-sacrificing attention. A sensitive only child until he was sixteen, the boy must have been aware that he was the object of very high expectations. In all outward ways he complied. He was an attentive son, an outstanding student, a talented athlete. At considerable sacrifice to themselves, the parents directed the family's resources, financial and otherwise, toward the boy's success for many years. John's school was only a slight extension of the closely caring familial world in which he prospered. His uncle Stanley Richards began teaching at Alleyn Court Preparatory School in 1928, and when eight-year-old John was sent there in 1934, he was eligible for reduced tuition. From his front door John's school was an easy half mile by bicycle, mostly through Chalkwell Park. Riding to No. 3, at the end of Imperial Avenue where the neo- Gothic brownstone school building was located, John passed by the houses of his uncle and aunt on one side of Imperial Avenue and of several teachers on the other. His grandmother's home was in the next street. He rode in the company of another lad from Fillebrook Avenue, the two-years-older Trevor Bailey, destined to be the legendary England Test cricketer. The reflected glory of the school's sports hero made Fowles the envy of the other pupils. All six hundred boys, mostly day students, were highly visible in school uniforms of navy blue, and pink-blue blazer with pink braiding, gray shirt with pink tie, pink cap, and short gray trousers. Even for a local preparatory school, Alleyn Court Preparatory School was unusually familylike. It had been founded by Theodore Wilcox in 1904 and has thrived under four direct generations of Wilcox headmasters. The administration was so benignly patriarchal that when Stanley Richards first asked out his future wife, the infants' teacher, he was sternly warned by the headmaster that "Miss Kidgell is a lady" and that his behavior was being watched. Stanley Richards and Eileen Kidgell were married in 1937 and, between them, taught at Alleyn Court for a total of ninety-two years. John Fowles himself could recall the young headmaster of his day bringing home his bride in 1938.23 Gladys and Robert Fowles often took tea with Alleyn Court teachers. They also supported athletic prizes, and Robert annually played cricket for the Paters against his son and his fellow pupils. The teaching staff was small, but upper school pupils like John Fowles received close attention. By the time he left the school at thirteen and a half, Fowles was studying Scripture, English, Latin, French, mathematics, history, geography, drawing, and natural science. His teacher for English, Latin, French, and mathematics was the Senior Master, a gentle, elderly man named E. P. Noble, who considered Fowles hardworking and "very promising." Under his guidance, the boy began his lifelong love of French language and literature. In English class, where he was one of Noble's two best students, John's essays showed "power of imagery." He was first in his class in natural science, taught to a high standard by his uncle Stanley, who also instructed in geography and drawing.24 History was taught by the headmaster, Denys Wilcox. But the handsome young D. R. Wilcox was more locally famous as joint-captain of Essex County Cricket Club and the coach of Alleyn Court's cricket side. Fowles, who had inherited both ability and a passion for cricket from his father, shone in the Saturday afternoon matches played on school fields just across the Crowstone Road. Playing for Rankine's, his athletic house, John was one of the team's best, noted as both bowler and batsman. He regularly took prizes in cricket events competitions. He was a strong competitor who excelled at most sports, training in swimming and diving in 1938, for example, until he could edge out the reigning swimming champion and capture the School Challenge Cup. Sport was central to the school and to John's boyhood. He remembered with pleasure how D. R. Wilcox coaxed distinguished cricketers to the school's nets for demonstrations and to give "cherished autographs." By the time Fowles left Alleyn Court he "had been given a batting point or two by Hendren and even 'faced' the formidable Essex fast bowler, Kenneth Farnes." Farnes would "deliver very gently against [the] small boys" and then would terrify them with "demonstrations of reality" as he bowled "a few at full run-up and speed to the empty net."25 Robert Fowles taught his son to play golf and tennis well, but cricket was a shared passion and lifelong bond between them. Before the war Robert had been quite a good amateur, playing at club level against many of the greats of the age. His son heard personal accounts of W. G. Grace, Ranji, and Trumper. In John's boyhood, father and son attended all the local Essex matches, played in Chalkwell Park, just around the corner, or at Victoria Park in nearby Southend. John Fowles recalled seeing "almost all the great players of the 1930s on those two grounds" and soon had eyewitness tales of his own of "Patsy" Hendren, Verity, Larwood, Hammond, and Frank Woolley, his father's hero. John played cricket as a talented amateur until he left Oxford University at the age of twenty-four, and badminton and occasional tennis until well into his fifties. Even after learning to disdain what he regarded as the class-conscious trappings of cricket, golf, and tennis, he remained an avid fan.26 This love of athletics and the fierce thrill of competition were among Robert Fowles's permanent legacies to his only son. Not until he himself was past fifty and his father had been dead for some years was John prepared to acknowledge Robert's other legacies, and then, characteristically, emotional acknowledgment came in written form. In his most moving essay The Tree (1979), John Fowles came to see Robert's "cunningly stunted trees" as emblematic of a life "severely pruned by history and family circumstance." He was "one of the generation whose lives were determined once and for all by the 1914-18 War," which had savagely narrowed his professional options, burdened him with responsibilities, and impaired his health, while at the same time strengthening some of his tastes and skills. The suburban orchard was Robert Fowles's "answer, his reconciliation to his fate-his platonic ideal of the strictly controlled and safe, his Garden of Eden."27 Despite his passion for his fruit trees and gardening, Robert Fowles had no feeling for nature in the wild. Indeed, John Fowles believed, he showed toward it "a distinct hostility." His was an urban soul, tempered by the unthinkable experience of trench warfare. Robert regarded even short walks away from houses and roads as "incipiently dangerous" and would claim "he had seen enough open country and breathed enough open air in his three years in Flanders to last him his lifetime."28 John Fowles came to regard his father as an example of "ghetto mentality," as having a kind of "Jewishness." While he had a "total blindness to nature," Robert demonstrated, more positively, "a keen admiration of intellectual achievement and of financial acumen . . . a love of the emotional . . . in things like poetry and classical music, of brilliant virtuoso performances . . . of quintessentially city arts." Using examples like Einstein or Spinoza, Robert Fowles was also apt to defend the contributions of Jewish intellectuals to European history against the casual, prevalent anti-Semitism of the day. He was a formidable opponent in an argument, by training as a prosecutor as well as by temperament.29 His daughter recalled that he "could be quite hard," with his "sharp tongue" and strong opinions.30 Just as the father and son competed fiercely in sport, so John Fowles grew up competing in argument with Robert Fowles. Perhaps without realizing it, he defined many of his beliefs by choosing to hold the opposite opinion from his father. Robert Fowles had returned from Germany in 1920 with good German, in reading, if not in speaking, and a great fondness for German culture. A quarter of his reading, John Fowles estimated, was in German Romantic poetry. "He must have known many poems of Mörike, Droste-Hülshoff, the early Goethe," the son recalled, "almost by heart."31 Both Hazel and Daniel O'Sullivan also remembered her father, surrounded by volumes of German literature, reading Heine.32 His love of poetry, like his garden, was intense and private. The other three-quarters of Robert Fowles's intellectual reading was in philosophy, with which he was fascinated.33 He favored the seventeenth-century Continental Rationalists, like Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibnitz (1646-1716). Both philosophers adhered to a mechanical picture of the workings of the universe and held that comprehension was possible through mathematical methods and a rational understanding of principles. Both redefined the divine and its relationship to the human search for wisdom so that it accorded with this mathematically logical universe. Spinoza viewed the universe pantheistically as a single infinite substance, which he called God. This "God" differentiates itself into particular things or "modes," even while it all remains logically and timelessly interconnected. Leibnitz, an inventor of the calculus, was also a proponent of a system called monadism. For Leibnitz, physical reality was constituted of indivisible, impenetrable units of substance called monads. Unlike the atom, the monad lacks spatial substance, thus is immaterial. Each monad is unique and a spiritual, soullike entity, while collectively also making up the appearance of the physical world. Each is dynamic and a perceptor of the whole of the universe. All monads exist in a perfect, preestablished harmony, synchronized by God. In these ordered, rational philosophical universes there is little room for human free will. Robert Fowles was drawn to these philosophies strongly enough to have come up with his own "particular brand of monadism."34 John Fowles once wrote that in religion his father held "strange views, Victorian views, Huxleyan, a kind of out-dated Protestant free-thinker. Reform the creed, modernize the church, and so on."35 Robert Fowles called himself a Christian, but his son thought him the next thing to an atheist. Beyond studying these European rationalists, Robert Fowles was particularly interested in the American pragmatists, especially the nineteenth-century thinkers Charles Sanders Peirce and William James. Pragmatism was the dominant approach to philosophy in the United States during the first quarter of the twentieth century. It is a material, anti-ideal philosophy, according to which the test of the truth of a proposition is its practical utility, the purpose of thought is to guide action, and the effect of an idea is more important than its origin. It is based in experience. "Truth" is relative to the time, place, and purpose of investigation and is as inherent in means as in ends. In other words, the test of a theory is empirical: "Does it work? Is it useful?" Although not inherently an individualistic philosophy, like the postwar French existentialist philosophy that John Fowles was to embrace, American pragmatism recognizes that truth is measured by relevance to each individual situation, therefore must be defined by each individual. As he read these pragmatists and the other philosophers, Robert Fowles faithfully kept a notebook, a small dark-covered stationer's journal, in which he recorded short critiques and evaluations of each philosopher. His son grew up aware of this philosophic journal, with these pithy summations written in his father's neat hand.36 As John Fowles grew older, Robert Fowles argued philosophy with his son in his characteristically forceful, challenging way. The young man felt these occasions were less discussions in which his opinion was respected than painful cross-examinations, "far more forensic than Socratic."37 In his twenties, John Fowles sighed in frustration: "He has read so much, and knows so many -isms and long words which he brandishes in conversation, mystifying, confounding or embarrassing as the case may be. With me usually the latter, as he uses long words to dazzle simple people, and it seems to me like an aggressive superiority complex."38 He remembered arguments in which Robert was "arguing, hectoring, talking above everyone else," and never listening.39 Other thinkers were mustered into Robert Fowles's arguments. He admired Bertrand Russell's philosophy, not his politics. He thought highly of Charles Darwin and of Thomas Hardy, both great nineteenth-century materialists who emphasized determinism and a fateful lack of free will. Both influenced John's later work. However important some of Robert Fowles's philosophical heroes may have become to his son, the greatest influence on the boy was simply that his father made the philosophical quest. John Fowles grew up in a home where someone asked the great questions: What is the good? What is the moral human life? What is being and what is not being? Is free will possible? He accepted that a central activity of his much-admired father was asking those questions, reading the great thinkers, and then evaluating those readings in writing in his carefully kept journal. John Fowles was the child of a diary- keeping philosopher. He was also the son of a secret writer of stories. Although aware of his father's reading in poetry and philosophy and of his journal keeping, John Fowles was a young adult before he learned to his surprise that his father wrote fiction. Robert had produced an entire novel on his experiences in the Great War that included eyewitness descriptions of "going over the top" in Flanders and of battles like Ypres in which he had lost his brother. Although technically naïve, "stiff and old- fashioned," and "dated in language," Robert's novel was a somewhat poignant love story in which an Englishman and his German friend who loved the same girl before the war met "face to face in no-man's land," where "death and reconciliation" took place.40 In 1950-1951 Robert also wrote some short tales of village life in the manner of late- Victorian magazines. Seen on the commuter train to London in his bowler hat and black coat, or in his cricket whites on the club pitch, the reserved Robert Fowles would have impressed as a dry, unromantic character. John could not recall his father ever embracing him. But in his garden, in his stories, in his memorized poetry, in his love of the emotional and virtuoso in music, Robert Fowles was a secret, suppressed romantic. His intellectual life, the philosophy, the writing, his intense horticultural pursuits, and his keen sports life were an accommodation to a life of diminished expectations. The daughter born to him late in life observed how he never seemed content. She wondered if perhaps he might have even "had a bit of resentment that he didn't have the opportunities that John had."41 As a boy John Fowles, the brilliant student, the competitive athlete, the son that embodied the family's ambitions, also had a secret life. When alone, the shy boy could put off his public face and allow a dreamy, solitary self to emerge as he slipped away into nature or into a book of romantic fantasy and adventure. The key figure who unlocked the door to the world of nature was his mother's younger brother, Stanley Richards. Years after his death in July 1983, Stanley Richards was vividly remembered by former students and colleagues at Alleyn Court with sincere affection and admiration. Ultimately he succeeded E. P. Noble as Senior Master, a position like Deputy Head. John Wilcox, who was both Richards's student and later his colleague, described him as "an imposing figure, tall, slim, very dark, very physically fit, a watercolorist, a naturalist, a handy cricketer, a talented all-rounder, and, above all, a gentleman." He recalled that Richards had a rich sense of humor and loved to tell jokes to the boys, although he could "look severe" when required. He was an exceptional teacher who loved the out-of-doors and was a fine athlete. Both he and his wife, Eileen Kidgell Richards, were ardent naturalists who spent their weekends on bicycle trips into the surrounding countryside. Richards could identify all the wildlife and often sketched the plants and birds they saw. He was especially talented in watercolor landscape and pen-and-ink drawing and found a ready market for his pictures.42 He taught John, who was to paint and draw regularly, if very privately, for the next thirty years. This magical uncle took his sister's son under his wing at a very early age, long before his own children were born. He was more than a dozen years younger than John's father and was merry and enthusiastic where Robert Fowles was reserved and dry. John Fowles later wrote of Uncle Stan, "I associate him with almost all my early red-letter days."43 Together with his friend Mackie, another master from the school, Stanley made regular entomological expeditions into the unspoiled Essex countryside. Mackie had a little Jowett, a popular car in the thirties. With Stan's nephew John bouncing in the dickey, the open-air backseat, they motored off to spend the day searching for caterpillars and netting butterflies.44 To Uncle Stanley John "owed the thrill of hunting for lappet caterpillars among the sloe thickets of the Essex seawalls near where we lived." Expeditions for moths, especially the beautiful hawk moth, were nocturnal, and on these trips Stanley taught John the art of sugaring, "the practice of creeping round Leigh-on-Sea and Westcliff, torch in hand, patrolling at his side various wooden fences and tree trunks anointed with the sweet gunge he concocted for attracting moths."45 In his first published piece of writing, "Entomology for the Schoolboy" (1938), "J. R. Fowles" revealed that the recipe for this entrapping bait was to "mix honey and beer together to form a paste and then smear it on a fence or tree. The moths, attracted by the honey, will sip it up and the beer will intoxicate them so that they will be unable to fly." The same essay describes how John was taught to kill his specimens using "a bottle containing a small quantity of cyanide" or crushed laurel leaves.46 Uncle Stan also showed the boy how to set his collection, patiently and with an artist's flair. As a child John longed to escape alone into the natural green world introduced to him by his uncle and probably by his mother. Reading by this time had become an escape as well. He was an early and avid reader-a "greedy" reader, he said-with a distinct taste for heroic adventure. Two of his favorite authors were Talbot Baines Reed and George Alfred Henty, the creators of popular late-Victorian "boys' books." Reed wrote tales of bold youths off upon exotic, fantastic adventures. "Huge, menacing anacondas, gorillas as big as Kong, man-eating tigers and enormous squids and tarantulas," Fowles recalled. "I largely swallowed them whole."47 The endless supply of stories and books by G. A. Henty (more than ninety of them) was likewise delicious escapist fiction. Henty's just- out-of-school Kiplingesque heroes were deliberately fashioned to inculcate patriotism and model a code of behavior as they set out to fight injustice and establish order throughout the far-flung reaches of the British Empire. Because it was a tale of adventure, full of hair-raising escapes, kidnapping, rescues, and true love triumphant, John also read and reread R. D. Blackmore's Lorna Doone (1869), a novel universally assigned to British schoolboys. Except for Robin Hood, he missed reading other classics of children's and youthful literature, however, until he was an Oxford undergraduate or older, when he documented each discovery in his diary. As a celebrated writer in his forties and fifties he would "remember" reading as a schoolboy such books as Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows and Alain-Fournier's Le Grand Meaulnes.48 But Fowles's factual memory was poor as an adult, while his associative memory was abundantly fertile and plastic. He so constantly fictionalized his past that he often convinced himself. Read in adulthood, the classic stories of youth with their adolescent idealism and their tender appreciation of the rural world seeped into his soul like a potent green dye, permeating his earlier memories and perceptions until his recalled youth (if not his factual youth) was completely colored by them. In reading, John created an alternative world in his mind. He once wrote that when confronted with a situation that made him uncomfortable or afraid, he treated himself "as a character in a novel. This must all be happening to someone else, it can't be me . . . or not quite me."49 When he was ten years old he discovered the literary boy that he really wanted to be and in whom he recognized his own deepest self. The book was Richard Jeffries's evocation of a country boyhood, Bevis: The Story of a Boy.50 This mythic adventure resonated through Fowles's life and work. It may be coincidental, of course, that John entered Bevis's fictional world at the very time when he was experiencing the sorrow of being abandoned by his cousin and lifelong caregiver, Peggy Fowles, who left for faraway South Africa. Retreat into a private, imaginary domain through printed words and romantic fantasy became a coping pattern for Fowles when faced with loss, guilt, or sadness. Bevis is a deeply escapist book, and it would not be surprising if the boy, feeling the loss of this beloved woman, had first slipped away into its pages to ease his confusion. Richard Jeffries (1848-1887) was one of the most intensely poetic naturalist writers of the nineteenth century, possessed by a kind of Wordsworthian vision into nature's transcendent and poignant immediacy. He drew on his own childhood in Wiltshire to create Bevis, a bright, sensitive, imperious boy vaguely between ten and fourteen, who has adventures on his father's farm during a long, sunlit summer. Bevis and his friend, Mark, explore, learn to swim, and build a sailing boat. They organize a full-scale Roman battle with other boys. They build a raft, make their own guns, and secretly camp out on an island in a lake for several weeks. The natural world is sharply observed and poetically rendered. The pace of the book is lazy, as the reader is a participant in the detailed, even laborious, thought processes of this young boy. Competent and knowledgeable, Bevis has an easy familiarity with each plant, insect, bird, tree, or bend of the brook. His youthful adventures in his private rural domain are charming. What is key, however, is that Bevis is not content merely to know the prosaic landscape that actually exists. He mentally reshapes it. His imagination controls this kingdom, his perception and his will transform it, and his will and superior imagination ensure that his more practical friend, Mark, and all the other boys will accept as "reality" Bevis's imaginative projections on the landscape. When Bevis decides that the lake is the New Sea, the island New Formosa, the entering stream the Nile, and the pasture the Battlefield of Pharsalia, no one ever contradicts him. Bevis's romantic and geographic reading, his hand-drawn maps, and, most of all, his boyish powers of narrative description compel the others not only to agree but to enter into his projected vision of the natural landscape. The boy is in fact a powerful creator of fiction. In Jeffries's rural world, boys John's age had absolute freedom to explore, to know with complete authority every tree, every bird, every insect that they encountered. It was a world where a boy might reimagine a familiar landscape in heroic patterns and master himself as swimmer, builder, sailor, warrior, and even romantic lover, shyly falling for distant beautiful maidens. It was a world that words could reshape according to a child's will. Bevis is also a tale of escape. In the woodlands and fields, on the lake, and especially on his small secret island, Bevis slips away from parents, from supervising adults, tempting girls, and, sometimes, even his closest friend. Bevis is the story of a child-man who craves solitude and the freedom of a private natural world in which his imagination may work unencumbered by the presence of other people. Ten-year-old John, in his small suburban house in a predictable 1930s English town, loyally living up to his parents' expectations for conventional excellence, yearned with his whole hidden self to be that boy. Only in his imagination could he be. So as a child John Fowles "lived" Bevis, he would remember, reading and rereading it, sometimes turning back immediately from the final page to the first and starting over. In July 1939, John Fowles's childhood in the bosom of his family drew to a close. In the greater world, war with Germany began to seem inevitable as Fowles prepared for the next stage of his education. Encouraged by his Alleyn Court teachers, he took the examination for a House Exhibition for Bedford School and was successful. The award gave partial tuition relief, making it possible, again with sacrifice, for Robert and Gladys Fowles to meet the annual costs of a Bedford boarding school education. Their contribution for the five years of John's residence would be a hundred pounds a year, plus books, uniforms, and personal expenses. The school, in the town of Bedford in Bedfordshire, was only fifty miles north of London, two hours' rail journey. Still, Gladys Fowles was reluctant to let John go. Added to the normal anxiety of separation from an adored only child who was close to her were the deep dread and uncertainty of sending that son away to an unknown environment just as hostilities seemed about to erupt. However, Gladys submitted to the male authorities around her. Robert Fowles wanted to seize the opportunity for his son's education. The staff at Alleyn Court encouraged the move. Finally, the Headmaster of Bedford School made direct contact with the hesitant parents, and his interest resolved the matter. The decision was made for John Fowles to begin boarding school at the Christmas term, late September 1939. Excerpted from John Fowles: A Life in Two Worlds by Eileen Warburton All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Introductionp. ix
Chapter 1 Voices in the Garden: Leigh-on-Sea: 1926-1939p. 1
Chapter 2 The Greenness at the Heart of our Growth: Bedford, Devon: 1939-1944; Royal Marines: 1944-1946p. 21
Chapter 3 A Larger World: Oxford and Early Travels: 1947-1950p. 46
Chapter 4 In the Land of Illusions Infantiles: Poitiers: 1950-1951p. 71
Chapter 5 An Island and Greece: Spetsai and Spain: 1952p. 89
Chapter 6 Elizabeth and Roy: Greece: 1952-1953p. 109
Chapter 7 Anna: London, Oxford, Birmingham, Ashridge: 1953-1954p. 133
Chapter 8 The Lily and the Rose: Ashridge and London: 1953-1954p. 156
Chapter 9 The Waiting Room: Apprenticeship in Hampstead: 1954-1957p. 178
Chapter 10 A Writer Unpublished: Hampstead: 1957-1962p. 199
Chapter 11 Straight to the Top of Parnassus: London, Greece, New York: 1962-1963p. 223
Chapter 12 The Savage Eye: London, Hollywood: 1963-1965p. 244
Chapter 13 The Fox at Bay: Highgate: 1964-1965p. 262
Chapter 14 The Domaine: Underhill Farm: 1965-1968p. 279
Chapter 15 Cast Out: Belmont House: 1969-1971p. 306
Chapter 16 The Hedgehog: Belmont House: 1970-1974p. 331
Chapter 17 On the Island of Daniel Martin: Belmont and Other Islands: 1973-1977p. 356
Chapter 18 The Consolations of the Past: Lyme Regis: 1977-1981p. 381
Chapter 19 Here be Dragons: 1982-1990p. 407
Chapter 20 Tendresse: Domaine perdu and Afterward: 1990-2000p. 438
Notesp. 463
Indexp. 495