web site hit counter T.H. White: A Biography - Ebooks PDF Online
Hot Best Seller

T.H. White: A Biography

Availability: Ready to download

During a lecture given in the last year of his life, T.H. White explained how, throughout his life, he had armed himself against disaster by exploring new fields of knowledge. Sylvia Townsend Warner has written a biography which reveals White's humour and vivid imagination, and also his passionate enthusiasm - the manner in which he would see a skill, pursue it with passio During a lecture given in the last year of his life, T.H. White explained how, throughout his life, he had armed himself against disaster by exploring new fields of knowledge. Sylvia Townsend Warner has written a biography which reveals White's humour and vivid imagination, and also his passionate enthusiasm - the manner in which he would see a skill, pursue it with passionate curiosity and having mastered it, move on to something else, whether this was falconry or flying, painting or ploughing a field. The book traces White's brilliant career at Cambridge and his employment as a teacher at Stowe until a publishing contract allowed him to devote himself entirely to his novels. It explains how the journal he kept of his ill-fated attempts to train a falcon provided the basis for his book "The Goshawk", and how his continuing preoccupation with the Arthurian legends led eventually to the four books of "The Once and Future King". The biography also describes his periodic dependence on alcohol, brought on by bouts of recurrent melancholy.


Compare

During a lecture given in the last year of his life, T.H. White explained how, throughout his life, he had armed himself against disaster by exploring new fields of knowledge. Sylvia Townsend Warner has written a biography which reveals White's humour and vivid imagination, and also his passionate enthusiasm - the manner in which he would see a skill, pursue it with passio During a lecture given in the last year of his life, T.H. White explained how, throughout his life, he had armed himself against disaster by exploring new fields of knowledge. Sylvia Townsend Warner has written a biography which reveals White's humour and vivid imagination, and also his passionate enthusiasm - the manner in which he would see a skill, pursue it with passionate curiosity and having mastered it, move on to something else, whether this was falconry or flying, painting or ploughing a field. The book traces White's brilliant career at Cambridge and his employment as a teacher at Stowe until a publishing contract allowed him to devote himself entirely to his novels. It explains how the journal he kept of his ill-fated attempts to train a falcon provided the basis for his book "The Goshawk", and how his continuing preoccupation with the Arthurian legends led eventually to the four books of "The Once and Future King". The biography also describes his periodic dependence on alcohol, brought on by bouts of recurrent melancholy.

30 review for T.H. White: A Biography

  1. 5 out of 5

    Shannon

    I'd been wanting to read this biography for several years, ever since buying a copy of The Book of Merlyn that has an introduction by Sylvia Townsend Warner, in which she describes the beginning of T. H. White's "Arthur book": White was thirty when he rented the gamekeeper's cottage. He had done with his past, he was on good terms with himself, he was free. His solitude was peopled by a succession of hawks, a rescued owl, a setter bitch on whom he unloosed his frustrated capacity to love. Now in I'd been wanting to read this biography for several years, ever since buying a copy of The Book of Merlyn that has an introduction by Sylvia Townsend Warner, in which she describes the beginning of T. H. White's "Arthur book": White was thirty when he rented the gamekeeper's cottage. He had done with his past, he was on good terms with himself, he was free. His solitude was peopled by a succession of hawks, a rescued owl, a setter bitch on whom he unloosed his frustrated capacity to love. Now in the Morte d'Arthur, he had a subject into which he could unloose his frustrated capacity for hero worship, his accumulated miscellany of scholarship, his love of living, his admiration of Malory. From the few pages of that introduction it's obvious how literary a writer she is (she was a novelist herself) and how well she understands White. The full biography is written with the same level of insight and rich language. She strikes the right balance between her own reading of White, others' readings of him, and his readings of himself. She devotes plenty of space to excerpts from his letters and journals, and one of my favorite things about her book is the long quotations she provides from White's former students, from the era in the early 1930s when he taught English at a boys' school in Stowe. In some ways those were probably his best days, and it's good to see him as a young man, through the eyes of his pupils. They saw him as wild, romantic and trustworthy, all of the things I think he wanted to be: "When he read out Hopkins's Pied Beauty or Nothing is so beautiful as Spring I got both poems by heart within the day and would recite them in exactly his manner." "I know that he read and explained to me [the Edward Thomas poem] Fifty Faggots so that many years later when a prisoner-of-war I could remember it without seeing it and got from it something I could not have got without it." "He had a number of crazes – horses, aeroplanes, snakes, and so on. I remember the snake craze well, as we used to wander around the neighbouring countryside looking for them. I think this fitfulness of feeling gave an impression of reassuring amorality in him, and as he liked diffident and worried boys several of them (including me) went to him with their adolescent emotional troubles." "I remember at the age of 16 driving his Bentley at 85 miles per hour on the way to the airfield near Northampton where he was learning to fly. I was a very small 16 and I can remember that my feet would hardly reach the pedals and allow my eyes to see over the bonnet." You can see aspects of Merlyn in those descriptions—the eccentric teacher who counteracts sadness with learning, who can produce snakes and rabbits and other small animals for inspection, who can see the shape of the future better than most. White was not Merlyn though. The biography makes clear that Merlyn and similar characters were an invention that White more than anyone needed to believe in—a fantasy of help that always comes when you need it most. After Stowe came the period when he lived in his gamekeeper's cottage, wrote The Goshawk and began work on The Sword in the Stone. From that point forward, the story of his life gets sadder with each new chapter. Although he had seen it coming, and had thought it all through in the books of The Once and Future King, he was baffled by the war, and probably even more baffled after it was over. What does one do when the world was going to end, but then didn't after all? He wasn't the type to be overwhelmed with relief and move forward with gladness simply for his own survival. What follows is a series of books that don't fully live up to the standards set by his Arthur success, declining health and loneliness. Townsend Warner is direct in dealing with White's sexual problems: he struggled with "a latent sadism", was most attracted to teenage boys, which was something he never acted upon. Instead he had only a few brief attempts at relationships with women, which quickly ended in failure, and towards the end of his life a series of infatuations with young men whom he never slept with and who seemed to be most interested in his money. One of the most devastating sections of the biography deals with an exchange of letters between White and David Garnett, a fellow author who was one of his lifelong friends. White is insulting on the subject of Garnett's latest novel, Aspects of Love, objecting in particular to the sexual promiscuity portrayed in the novel. Garnett is angry, as anyone in his position would be, but responds out of all proportion, suggesting that White's views on sexual morality are based in perversion. The exchange ends with White writing to another of his friends, "I managed to write to Bunny Garnett about his novel the day I wrote to you – only to get, this morning, a furious letter denouncing me for being a medieval moralist, etc. It has made me feel quite ill. How restful it would be if there were no human beings on the world at all. If there was only a religious order which not only took a vow of perpetual silence but also decided to go to bed for ever, how gladly I would join it." Rather than Merlyn, in the end White most resembles his version of Lancelot, the Ill-made Knight. Like Lancelot, he was at heart the boy who "thought that there was something wrong with him. All through his life – even when he was a great man with the world at his feet – he was to feel this gap: something at the bottom of his heart of which he was aware, and ashamed, but which he did not understand." Like Lancelot, he "felt in his heart cruelty and cowardice, the things which made him brave and kind." White was kind. Any acts of meanness seem to have been blunders or poor attempts to cover uncertainty, never deliberate attempts to cause pain. He was full of gratitude for the people who were kind to him (especially Julie Andrews, "plainly a darling person"). He hated violence and feared it, which made him suspect he was a coward, while at the same time his reasoning told him it's the act of resorting to violence that is cowardly—a troubling problem on all sides for a young man with pacifist instincts living through World War II. In The Book of Merlyn, finally, he allows Arthur to resolve the problem in his mind, or at least to understand it fully, only at the moment when he is knowingly heading towards his death. For anyone still among the living the problem remains, and I don't think White ever felt comfortable in his own reasoning about violence, its use and morality. It took me a long time to read the very end of the book. For weeks I had only twenty pages left and couldn't read them. His death is exactly as sad as I knew all along it was going to be. Also, for me, troublingly little is known about it. He died at age 57 from a heart problem of some kind, traveling on a ship, alone except for one of his young men, who was along as his secretary and staying in a separate cabin. He's buried in Athens because he had no family close enough to want his body brought home. I badly want to know who wrote his epitaph—"Author who from a troubled heart delighted others". Sylvia Townsend Warner would probably know, but she doesn't say in the book and she's dead also. She ends by quoting White on the subject of his death: "I expect to make rather a good death. The essence of death is loneliness, and I have had plenty of practice at this." I hope, though, in the end, he remembered the breadth of history that often comes as a comfort to the characters in his novels, and felt less lonely. I hope he died with the words he gave T. natrix in mind: "A good man's example always does instruct the ignorant and lessens their rage, little by little through the ages, until the spirit of the waters is content: and so, strong courage to Your Majesty, and a tranquil heart."

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jim Coughenour

    My trouble is that my intelligence is materialistic, agnostic, pessimistic and solitary, while my heart is incurably tender, romantic, loving and gregarious. Last weekend I had dinner with a friend who was reading Helen Macdonald's H is for Hawk, and she mentioned T. H. White and his love for goshawks. Afterwards I hunted down my battered, banged-up copy of Sylvia Townsend Warner's biography – which I'd bought only because I loved her Lolly Willowes and Mr. Fortune's Maggot – a biography Sadie St My trouble is that my intelligence is materialistic, agnostic, pessimistic and solitary, while my heart is incurably tender, romantic, loving and gregarious. Last weekend I had dinner with a friend who was reading Helen Macdonald's H is for Hawk, and she mentioned T. H. White and his love for goshawks. Afterwards I hunted down my battered, banged-up copy of Sylvia Townsend Warner's biography – which I'd bought only because I loved her Lolly Willowes and Mr. Fortune's Maggot – a biography Sadie Stein called "a small masterpiece of humanity." It is indeed all that, and a little less. My response to White's life is divided. Somewhere in my teens I got a copy of The Once and Future King and despite (or because of) my love for all things Arthurian, I hated it. White's characters were jokey and anachronistic, and after Malory (the absolute opinion of youth) it was an abomination. I never gave the guy another chance. Warner didn't reverse my judgment of White's most famous book, but she did warm my feelings for the man himself, a man apparently conceived in unhappiness. T. H. White is a study in loneliness – a loneliness however richly qualified by imagination, love of nature, animals and other solitary souls. A consummate bachelor, his greatest love was his Irish Setter Brownie. The saddest passages in the book are his letters about her death. "She was the central fact of my life." His other great love was a 12-year-old boy. White is straightforward in his own account.It would be unthinkable to make Zed unhappy with the weight of this impractical, unsuitable love. Besides, I love him for being happy and innocent, so it would be destroying what I love. He could not stand the weight of the world against such feelings – not that they are bad in themselves. It is the public opinion that makes them so.... The whole of my brain tells me the situation is impossible, while the whole of my heart nags on.Warner describes the result.He could not still his heart. During the next four years he was to live at the mercy of a love which could only be expressed in falsities, which he dared not let out of his sight, which he could not trust, could not renounce, could not forego without sinning against his own nature, could not secure.While most of the book tracks White's failures and impressive success at writing and friendship, quoting perhaps too liberally from his letters, it is his essential sadness that finally impresses itself on the reader. "He had been unlucky with his happiness," Warner concludes. White himself wrote in his diary shortly before his death at 57: "I expect to make rather a good death. The essence of death is loneliness, and I have had plenty of practice at this."

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    Guys, this sounds really good!: http://www.theparisreview.org/blog/20... Guys, this sounds really good!: http://www.theparisreview.org/blog/20...

  4. 5 out of 5

    Arthurian Tapestry

    It is very difficult to rate this, and I ought to preface my review that White's "The Once and Future King" is one of my favorite retellings of the Arthurian legend, faults and all. Being familiar with a few of his works and short stories I decided to give Warner's biography a whirl once more (I had attempted it in the past only to be bogged down by Warner's meandering writing style, which while delightful in parts becomes convoluted in others. [White's life may not have been eventful in terms o It is very difficult to rate this, and I ought to preface my review that White's "The Once and Future King" is one of my favorite retellings of the Arthurian legend, faults and all. Being familiar with a few of his works and short stories I decided to give Warner's biography a whirl once more (I had attempted it in the past only to be bogged down by Warner's meandering writing style, which while delightful in parts becomes convoluted in others. [White's life may not have been eventful in terms of the War, and university experience as say C.S. Lewis or Tolkien, but he does feel like their kindred spirit, and would have loved to have been a fly on the wall if he had ever become an Inkling. White's solitude, bachelorhood, and love of the past to the point of being accused of medieval morality (despite his own inner deviancies) would have given him much to talk about with C.S. Lewis who also was a bachelor for most of his life and also struggled in his solitude with matters of the heart, but let me return to the biography.] So, what could a biographer bring out in T.H. White? Warner does bring out quite a bit with journals, letters, and first hand accounts of those who knew him; except nothing really happens except for White's communion with animals and every sport that one can practice in the wild and in the water imaginable. The guy seems to be filling some void of the heart with everything conceivable from hawking to the Arthurian legend in living what seems otherwise to be an isolated life from Ireland to Alderney. Could have Warner made this biography better? Perhaps the biography could have kept up a more interesting flow with excerpts from his letters and journals running parallel to relevant passages from his novels and stories. As it is, the only things that really drew my attention were his struggles with fairer sex, his strange affections for Zed, and his visit to America, whereupon taking to see the printing of the American dollar he said, "The good part is seeing America, the bad part is being seen." There is only so much we can get out of this man, who does not want to be seen and /i don't blame for feeling this way; but there you have it: T.H. White a lonely writer, who may flourished further in academic circles, eccentricities and all, but perhaps he was right to choose this life of loneliness from which came one if the most unforgettable Arthurian retellings I've read.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    T H White's "Once and Future King" was a gift on my 16th birthday (1964) and I have respected and loved it ever since. Later, I came upon "Mistress Masham's Repose"-- a book for a younger audience-- and found its fantasy setting and its very real, spunky heroine delightful. My sense of the author of these books would include the adjectives "scholarly," "wise," "compassionate." Warner's bio contains a fair amount of first-hand documentation: journal and correspondence, student recollections, etc. T H White's "Once and Future King" was a gift on my 16th birthday (1964) and I have respected and loved it ever since. Later, I came upon "Mistress Masham's Repose"-- a book for a younger audience-- and found its fantasy setting and its very real, spunky heroine delightful. My sense of the author of these books would include the adjectives "scholarly," "wise," "compassionate." Warner's bio contains a fair amount of first-hand documentation: journal and correspondence, student recollections, etc. This should add up to the best kind of biography, the kind the takes readers into the subject's world, lets them share his joys and his troubles and feel something for his human failings. But Warner shows us only a sad, lonely, somewhat misogynistic man; a great lover of animals, but not very good at taking care of them. White had to have had something more in his life to enable him to write some of the imagination-pleasing, deeply human passages of his books! To have written books with both boys and girls as their central characters. But somehow, Warner was able to collect his troubles and his weaknesses without fully communicating his enthusiasms or his largeness of spirit. Don't read the bio. Read the glorious novels. (Really: READ THEM.)

  6. 5 out of 5

    Intoxicatedcake

    This man's life is a series of unexpected events for the reader. A young man, aspiring writer, begins working as a school teacher (great, I'm with you so far), but then it's off like a shot to new places and new interests. I enjoyed following along behind the descriptions of White's fixations, and having instances of his own written words gives the reader a greater immersion in the events. While the course of events do bog down from time to time, I found myself compelled to continue reading in o This man's life is a series of unexpected events for the reader. A young man, aspiring writer, begins working as a school teacher (great, I'm with you so far), but then it's off like a shot to new places and new interests. I enjoyed following along behind the descriptions of White's fixations, and having instances of his own written words gives the reader a greater immersion in the events. While the course of events do bog down from time to time, I found myself compelled to continue reading in order to find out where White jumps to next.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Dearbhla

    Fascinating biography of a man I knew nothing about - http://www.susanhatedliterature.net/2... Fascinating biography of a man I knew nothing about - http://www.susanhatedliterature.net/2...

  8. 4 out of 5

    John

    This bio was very interesting and well written from the very first page to the very last. I have not read any of T. H. White's works but will now even though I do not expect to like any of them. What surprised me was the memory that 51 years ago when I was in the ninth grade, my English teacher talked of his seeing White speak at a local private school and how awed he was by him. It was one of his last public appearances. I guess it suck in my memory because of his death so soon after. I will to This bio was very interesting and well written from the very first page to the very last. I have not read any of T. H. White's works but will now even though I do not expect to like any of them. What surprised me was the memory that 51 years ago when I was in the ninth grade, my English teacher talked of his seeing White speak at a local private school and how awed he was by him. It was one of his last public appearances. I guess it suck in my memory because of his death so soon after. I will tonight order some more of SYLVIA WARNER'S books.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lylah

    This biography could have been handled much better. It is essentially just a list of events with diary entries and letters, which was often boring or didn't highlight what I was looking for in a biography. Learning about White was a journey and a lot of fun as the author of some of my favorite books, though. This biography could have been handled much better. It is essentially just a list of events with diary entries and letters, which was often boring or didn't highlight what I was looking for in a biography. Learning about White was a journey and a lot of fun as the author of some of my favorite books, though.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

    If you really like White's books, read this too. Maybe you'll even be grateful to Walt Disney for buying the rights to make a movie from TOAFK. The income really helped White. I've never seen the movie, never will. If you really like White's books, read this too. Maybe you'll even be grateful to Walt Disney for buying the rights to make a movie from TOAFK. The income really helped White. I've never seen the movie, never will.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Katherine Sas

    Read this back in 2008 and thought it was a wonderfully well done biography. I'll need to get my hands on a copy of my own for future reference. Read this back in 2008 and thought it was a wonderfully well done biography. I'll need to get my hands on a copy of my own for future reference.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Claus Skaaning

    Hard to read. Written in old-fashioned language. She fails to describe White as an interesting character but rather as a pathetic lonely man.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Tecla

  14. 4 out of 5

    Erica Anne

  15. 5 out of 5

    Imogen Lyons

  16. 4 out of 5

    John L

  17. 4 out of 5

    Gianna Ward-Vetrano

  18. 5 out of 5

    Desmond Burke

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy Marshall

  20. 4 out of 5

    Birgit

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sara

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

  23. 5 out of 5

    Avis Black

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

  25. 4 out of 5

    David Kirkpatrick

  26. 4 out of 5

    Skye

  27. 5 out of 5

    Steph Post

  28. 5 out of 5

    Leslie Golden

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jason Taylor

  30. 5 out of 5

    Nancy Olive

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.