Biography (Critical Survey of Drama, Second Revised Edition)
Although born in London, Patrick Victor Martindale White was the son of wealthy, third-generation Australian landowners, who were visiting England in 1912 but sailed for home six months after their son’s birth. He spent his first thirteen years in and around Sydney, then left for Great Britain to attend school in Cheltenham. Returning to Australia in 1929, he worked for three years at a sheep station in the New England area northwest of Sydney before entering King’s College, Cambridge. After he took his degree in modern languages, he remained in London to pursue his theatrical and writing ambitions. Travel through Europe and the United States followed, and in 1939 his first novel, Happy Valley, appeared. With the outbreak of World War II, he joined the Royal Air Force, serving in North Africa, Alexandria, the Middle East, and Greece. He returned to London after the war and there saw his first play, Return to Abyssinia, produced; the manuscript, lost (or destroyed), was never published. At this time, he wrote another play, The Ham Funeral, which did not receive a production until 1961. He returned to Australia in 1947 and except for brief trips abroad remained there.
For the next twenty-five years, he wrote novel after novel, all of which gained for him more recognition in Great Britain and the United States than in Australia. Following the award of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1973 for his impressive achievement as a...
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Biography (Magill's Literary Annual 1991-2005)
In the course of writing the authorized biography of Patrick White (1991), David Marr gained access to approximately two thousand of Patrick White’s letters, many of which appear in his edition of Patrick White: Letters. After finishing the biography Marr located three other major collections containing approximately one thousand additional letters, a few of which he included in his book. The number of letters is a bit surprising because although White was a prolific correspondent, he frequently implored his correspondents to destroy his letters, which he described as “the devil,” and even sought to emulate Ernest Hemingway, who he believed had successfully blocked the publication of his own letters.
Although Marr includes about six hundred letters to some eighty correspondents, he does not have any of the letters White wrote to Manoly Lascaris, his companion and lover for most of White’s life. (White’s letters to his other lovers, such as Pepe Mamblas and Spud Johnson, are included.) Marr does comment on their relationship, and White often refers to Lescaris in his letters to other people, but White’s letters to Lescaris have apparently been destroyed. In his letters, however, White comments on the nature of their relationship, which he describes as a “homosexual marriage” involving a great deal of give- and-take; and he writes, “Living together means endless arguments and patching up,” adding that only vegetables live...
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Biography (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
Patrick Victor Martindale White was born in Wellington Court, London, on May 28, 1912, of parents whose affluence allowed them the opportunity to travel and enjoy the social pretensions available to prosperous Australians able to play the role of landed gentry. White’s father, Victor (Dick) White, was one of several brothers who enjoyed prosperity in the family grazier business. Although the Whites could trace their lineage to respectable yeoman stock in Somerset, it was only in Australia that they achieved such success. Ironically, their social aspirations so far as the mother country was concerned were forever tainted by their status as “colonials” and Australians, the former penal colony being one of the least prestigious of the British dominions. White’s mother was a Withycombe, and it is to the maternal connection that White attributed most of his imaginative and poetic gifts. At the same time, White disliked his strong-willed and socially ambitious mother, Ruth. Toward his father White was more ambivalent; he pitied Victor White for his weakness but found him impossible because he hid his emotions behind his social role as a landed gentleman. Resenting and distrusting his parents as he did, and contemptuous of their social ambitions and their inclination to conceal their humanity behind public personae, White felt as much an outsider and rebel against the class to which he was born as is his painter hero, Hurtle Duffield, in The Vivisector, a...
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Biography (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Patrick White was born in London in 1912. He was the son of Victor White, a wealthy Australian farmer, and Ruth Withycombe, whose family had arrived in Australia from England some years before their marriage. White enjoyed a privileged childhood in rural Australia and then spent his adolescent years in boarding school in England. At seventeen, he returned to Australia and worked for some time in his family’s sheep-farming business. During the 1930’s, he traveled widely in Europe as his literary career began. It was during these years that his distinct personal and artistic identity took shape.
White served in World War II as a member of the Royal Air Force’s intelligence division. He was stationed in Egypt and Greece as part of the Near Eastern campaign, in which Australians were extensively involved. During his time in Greece, he made the acquaintance of Manoly Lascaris, who was to become his companion for life. White and Lascaris returned to Australia after the war’s conclusion, where they took up residence in the suburbs of Sydney.
As White’s fiction became more acclaimed, he reaped the rewards and the burdens of celebrity, becoming the lightning rod of both praise and criticism from an Australian public hungry for a countryman to find a prominent place on the literary map. White attempted to live a sedate life, surrounded by a...
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Biography (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Patrick White’s massive and complex novels stand as monuments to the artistic ambitions of the modern age. With a strangeness and an expansiveness as outsized as the Australian continent from which they emanated, they enact fundamental oppositions of the human spirit. It is hard to decide which is the most impressive facet of White’s talent—his artistry or his daring. White’s works will be read as long as the craft of fiction is cherished.
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Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Patrick Victor Martindale White was not only a major Australian novelist but also one of the outstanding English-language writers of the twentieth century. A second-generation Australian, he was born in London in 1912 while his parents were on a visit there. Both his parents belonged to landholding families in the Hunter Valley of New South Wales. After his early education in Australia, he was sent to England for four years at Cheltenham, a preparatory school. He returned to Australia to train for life as a grazier but persuaded his family to let him return to England, where he took a degree in modern languages at Cambridge University. He would later stay in England, beginning his literary career. His first novel, Happy Valley, was published in England in 1939. The Living and the Dead was hurriedly completed as White shuttled between America and England awaiting service in World War II; it is, accordingly, the least satisfactory of his novels. The Aunt’s Story, begun in England but completed en route to Australia after the war, represents a major advance and is one of his two best novels. (The Eye of the Storm, written twenty-five years later, is the other.)
After settling in Australia, White entered his major creative period. Believing that Australia lacked a spiritual dimension, he tried to provide that in his next...
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