In addition to the many novels he published, A. J. Cronin wrote one play, Jupiter Laughs, which was produced in Glasgow and New York City in 1940. His autobiography, Adventures in Two Worlds (1952), remains the best account of his formative years as well as an engaging vehicle for many of his opinions. In 1926, he also wrote two medical studies, Report on First-Aid Conditions in British Coal Mines and Report on Dust Inhalation in Haematite Mines. His journeys to investigate the conditions on which he reported became the basis of the fictional accounts of mining communities found in The Stars Look Down and The Citadel.
In the spring of 1930, a tall, sandy-haired, genial physician sold his London practice and home, moved with his family to an isolated farmhouse near Inverary, Scotland, and at the age of thirty-four wrote a novel for the first time in his life. Hatter’s Castle, published the following year by Victor Gollancz, became an immediate success. It was the first novel to be chosen by the English Book Society for the Book-of-the-Month Club. It was later translated into many languages, dramatized, and made into a motion picture starring James Mason and Deborah Kerr (released in the United Kingdom in 1942). Before long, critics hailed A. J. Cronin as a new and important author whose writing was comparable in content and style to that of Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, and Honoré de Balzac.
Cronin and his wife moved to a small apartment in London and then on to a modest cottage in Sussex, where he went to work on another novel, Three Loves. His popularity continued to increase following The Grand Canary and The Stars Look Down, and the former physician became something of a literary lion, in demand at dinners, bazaars, and book fairs. His writing launched him on a literary career with such impetus that, once and for all, he “hung up [his] stethoscope and put away that little black bag—[his] medical days were over.”
The physician-novelist is of course by no means an unfamiliar literary figure. Arthur Conan Doyle,...
Bartlett, Arthur. “A. J. Cronin: The Writing Doctor.” Coronet 35 (March, 1954): 165-169. This readable, entertaining piece provides biographical details concerning Cronin’s transition from life as a doctor to life as a writer.
Bromley, Roger. “The Boundaries of Hegemony.” In The Politics of Theory: Proceedings of the Essex Conference on the Sociology of Literature, July, 1982, edited by Francis Barker et al. Colchester, England: University of Essex, 1983. Examines class structure in The Citadel.
Cronin, Vincent. “Recollection of a Writer.” Tablet 235 (February 21, 1981): 175-176. One of Cronin’s surviving sons writes a moving appreciation of his father, with biographical details and a discussion of Hatter’s Castle through The Spanish Gardener. His novels were both “indictments of social injustice” and expressions of “a deep religious faith.” From the latter stemmed “the warm humanity which gave his novels a worldwide appeal.” Quotes from two messages of sympathy sent to the family.
Davies, Daniel Horton. A Mirror of the Ministry in Modern Novels. New York: Oxford University Press, 1959. This perceptive piece compares and contrasts the portrayal of a Protestant missionary in W. Somerset Maugham’s “Rain” and Cronin’s The Grand...