Robert Nye

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Robert Nye FRSL (15 March 1939 – 2 July 2016) was an English poet and author. [1] His bestselling novel Falstaff, published in 1976, was described by Michael Ratcliffe (writing in The Times ) as "one of the most ambitious and seductive novels of the decade", and went on to win both The Hawthornden Prize and Guardian Fiction Prize. The novel was also included in Anthony Burgess's 99 Novels: The Best in English Since 1939 (1984). [2]

<i>The Times</i> British daily compact newspaper owned by News UK

The Times is a British daily national newspaper based in London. It began in 1785 under the title The Daily Universal Register, adopting its current name on 1 January 1788. The Times and its sister paper The Sunday Times are published by Times Newspapers, since 1981 a subsidiary of News UK, in turn wholly owned by News Corp. The Times and The Sunday Times do not share editorial staff, were founded independently, and have only had common ownership since 1967.

The Guardian Fiction Prize was a literary award sponsored by The Guardian newspaper. Founded in 1965, it recognized one fiction book per year written by a British or Commonwealth writer and published in the United Kingdom. The award ran for 33 years before being terminated.

Anthony Burgess 20th-century English writer and composer

John Anthony Burgess Wilson,, who published under the name Anthony Burgess, was an English writer and composer.


Early life

Robert Nye was born in London in 1939. [3] His father was a civil servant, his mother a farmer's daughter. He attended Southend High School for Boys and had published his first poem, "Kingfisher", in the London Magazine (September 1955; Volume 2, Number 9) by the age of sixteen. [3] He left school in 1955 and did not pursue additional formal study. Nye's poetry has appeared in a number of important literary magazines, including The Atlantic Monthly , Encounter and The Listener . The 1964 Fall and Winter issues of the Canadian publication The Fiddlehead contained respectively fifteen and eighteen of his poems.[ citation needed ]

London Capital of the United Kingdom

London is the capital of and largest city in England and the United Kingdom, with the largest municipal population in the European Union. Standing on the River Thames in the south-east of England, at the head of its 50-mile (80 km) estuary leading to the North Sea, London has been a major settlement for two millennia. Londinium was founded by the Romans. The City of London, London's ancient core − an area of just 1.12 square miles (2.9 km2) and colloquially known as the Square Mile − retains boundaries that follow closely its medieval limits. The City of Westminster is also an Inner London borough holding city status. Greater London is governed by the Mayor of London and the London Assembly.

Southend High School for Boys school in Southend-on-sea, Essex, England

Southend High School for Boys, also known by its initialism SHSB, is a selective secondary Grammar school situated along Prittlewell Chase in Prittlewell, in the north-west of Southend-on-Sea, England, south-west of the roundabout of the A127 and A1159. It teaches students from the age of 11 through to 18 years old, and admission to the school is dependent upon their performance in selective 11+ tests set by the Consortium of Selective Schools in Essex (CSSE). It converted to Academy status on 1 February 2011, and has autonomous control over itself. Student numbers have been increasing over recent years. As of academic year 2008–2009, there are just over 1,150 students on roll, with over 230 of them in the Sixth Form, 20 to 30 of which come from other schools, including girls.

Encounter was a literary magazine founded in 1953 by poet Stephen Spender and journalist Irving Kristol. The magazine ceased publication in 1991. Published in the United Kingdom, it was a largely Anglo-American intellectual and cultural journal, originally associated with the anti-Stalinist left. The magazine received covert funding from the Central Intelligence Agency, after the CIA and MI6 discussed the founding of an "Anglo-American left-of-centre publication" intended to counter the idea of cold war neutralism. The magazine was rarely critical of American foreign policy and generally shaped its content to support the geopolitical interests of the United States government.

He was a conscientious objector during National Service, c 1957-59, and was given exemption from military service conditional upon joining the Friends' Ambulance Unit and serving as a medical orderly at St Wulstan's Sanatorium, near Malvern, and then at Rochford General Hospital in Essex.[ citation needed ]

A conscientious objector is an "individual who has claimed the right to refuse to perform military service" on the grounds of freedom of thought, conscience, or religion.

Friends Ambulance Unit

The Friends' Ambulance Unit (FAU) was a volunteer ambulance service, founded by individual members of the British Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), in line with their Peace Testimony. The FAU operated from 1914–1919, 1939–1946 and 1946–1959 in 25 different countries around the world. It was independent of the Quakers' organisation and chiefly staffed by registered conscientious objectors.

Malvern, Worcestershire spa town and civil parish in Worcestershire, England

Malvern is a spa town and civil parish in Worcestershire, England. It lies at the foot of the Malvern Hills, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The centre of Malvern, Great Malvern, is a historic conservation area, which grew dramatically in Victorian times due to the natural mineral water springs in the vicinity, including Malvern Water.

At other times between 1955 and 1961 he worked at a variety of jobs: newspaper reporter, milkman, postman and labourer in a market garden. [3]

Nye married his first wife, Judith Pratt, in 1959. [3] In 1961 they moved to a remote cottage in north Wales, where Nye devoted himself full-time to writing. [3] There he developed an interest in Welsh and Celtic legends, reflected later in his fiction for both adults and children. [3]

Welsh mythology

Welsh mythology consists of both folk traditions developed in Wales, and traditions developed by the Celtic Britons elsewhere before the end of the first millennium. Like most predominately oral societies found in the prehistoric Britain, Welsh mythology and history was recorded orally by specialists such as druids. This oral record has been lost or altered as result of outside contact and invasion over the years. Much of this altered mythology and history are preserved in medieval Welsh manuscripts which include the Red Book of Hergest, the White Book of Rhydderch, the Book of Aneirin and the Book of Taliesin. Other works connected to Welsh mythology include the ninth century Latin historical compilation Historia Brittonum and Geoffrey of Monmouth's twelfth-century Latin chronicle, Historia Regum Britanniae as well as later folklore such as the 1908 The Welsh Fairy Book by William Jenkyn Thomas.

Writing career

His first book, Juvenilia 1 (1961), was a collection of poems. A second volume, Juvenilia 2 (1963), won the Eric Gregory Award. [3] Both volumes were enthusiastically received and Martin Seymour-Smith described Nye as showing a "precocity unique in this century". This view was supported by G. S. Fraser, who in an article in The Times Literary Supplement convincingly established an affinity between Nye's early poetry and that of Robert Graves. To support his continuance as a poet, Nye began to contribute reviews to British literary journals and newspapers. He became the poetry editor for The Scotsman in 1967, and served as poetry critic of The Times from 1971 to 1996, while also contributing regular reviews of new fiction to The Guardian . [3]

The Eric Gregory Award is a literary award given by the Society of Authors to British poets under 30. The awards are up to a sum value of £24,000 annually.

Martin Roger Seymour-Smith was a British poet, literary critic, biographer and astrologer.

Robert Graves English poet and novelist

Robert von Ranke Graves was a British poet, historical novelist, critic, and classicist. His father was Alfred Perceval Graves, a celebrated Irish poet and figure in the Gaelic revival; they were both Celticists and students of Irish mythology. Graves produced more than 140 works. Graves's poems—together with his translations and innovative analysis and interpretations of the Greek myths; his memoir of his early life, including his role in World War I, Good-Bye to All That; and his speculative study of poetic inspiration, The White Goddess—have never been out of print.

Nye started writing stories for children to entertain his three young sons. His children's novel Taliesin and a collection of stories called March Has Horse's Ears were published by Faber and Faber in 1966. When Nye published his first adult novel, Doubtfire (1967), it was described by P. J. Kavanagh as "breathless" and "brilliant"; Kavanagh also referred to the author's "love affair with rhythms and language". That same year Nye divorced his first wife. A year later he married Aileen Campbell, [3] an artist, graduate of Glasgow School of Art, subsequently an analytical psychologist (diploma C. G. Jung Institute in Zürich). She provided the illustrations for Bee Hunter: Adventures of Beowulf and was an inspiration for some of Nye's most personal poetry of the time (notably "In More's Hotel"). Campbell also designed the masks used in the 1973 performance of one of the author's more unusual projects, The Seven Deadly Sins (1974). The two moved to Edinburgh, where they lived until 1977. She has also had poetry published in Arts Council anthologies and other journals, also in Antonia Fraser's Scottish Love Poems.[ citation needed ]

Nye's next publication after Doubtfire was a return to children's literature, a freewheeling version of Beowulf that has remained in print in many editions since 1968. In 1970, Nye published another children's book, Wishing Gold, and received the James Kennaway Memorial Award for his collection of short stories, Tales I Told My Mother (1969). [3]

During the early 1970s Nye wrote several plays for BBC radio, including A Bloody Stupid Hole (1970), Reynolds, Reynolds (1971), and a version of Penthesilea by Heinrich von Kleist (1971). [3] He was also commissioned by Covent Garden Opera House to write an unpublished libretto for Harrison Birtwistle's opera, Kronia (1970). [3] Nye held the position of writer in residence at the University of Edinburgh, 1976–1977, during which time he received the Guardian Fiction Prize, followed by the 1976 Hawthornden Prize for his novel Falstaff. [3]

1978 saw the publication of Nye's Merlin excursion into the Matter of Britain. In 1990 Nye's novel The Life and Death of My Lord Gilles de Rais was published by Hamish Hamilton and is considered by many to be the author's masterpiece. The novel reportedly took only sixty days to write but represented the author's final release from a 35-year obsession with the story of Joan of Arc and her first Marshal of France. The seeds of the book can be found in the poem The Mystery of the Siege of Orleans first published in 1961 and in Nye's first novel Doubtfire. Allan Massie reviewing the novel for The Scotsman concluded that "The Life and Death of My Lord Gilles de Rais is a work of learning, wit and humanity....its understanding of depravity is extraordinary, the judgement impeccable...It is I think, the book he has worked all his life to write, and it is perfectly done; yes indeed a masterpiece."[ citation needed ]

Robert Nye continued to write poetry, publishing Darker Ends (1969), which launched Calder and Boyars' "Signature Series", later to include such authors as Samuel Beckett and Edward Dahlberg, and Divisions on a Ground (1976), and to prepare editions of other poets with whose work he felt an affinity: Sir Walter Ralegh, William Barnes, and Laura Riding. Nye's own Collected Poems appeared in 1995, and remains in print. His selected poems, entitled The Rain and The Glass, published in 2005, won the Cholmondeley Award. His final collection, An Almost Dancer, appeared in 2012. He lived from 1977 in County Cork. Although his novels have won prizes and been translated into many languages, it is as a poet that he would probably prefer to be remembered. The critic Gabriel Josipovici described Nye as "one of the most interesting poets writing today, with a voice unlike that of any of his contemporaries."[ citation needed ]

Selected works



Story collections

Stories for children



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  1. "Weekend Birthdays", The Guardian , p. 51, 15 March 2014
  2. "Poet and award-winning Falstaff novelist Robert Nye dies aged 77".
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 "Nye, Robert (1939-), in Ray, Mohit K (ed.) (2007) The Atlantic Companion To Literature In English, Atlantic, New Delhi, ISBN   978-81-269-0832-5, p. 402
  4. "Summary Bibliography: Robert Nye".