Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Richard Adams emerged suddenly and memorably as a writer of imaginative fiction and children’s books in the early 1970’s. He was born to Evelyn George Beadon Adams, a surgeon, and his wife, Lilian Rosa (Button) Adams. The youngest of three children, Richard Adams spent his time reading and roaming the family’s spacious gardens or the nearby rolling hills of Berkshire, and he filled his solitary hours with fanciful games about ruling an imaginary country. After attending boarding and preparatory schools in Berkshire, Adams entered Oxford University.
His education was interrupted by service with the British Airborne Forces during World War II. In 1946, he returned to Oxford and took his master’s degree in modern history at Worcester College two years later. In 1949, he married Barbara Elizabeth Acland; they had two daughters, Juliet and Rosamond, in 1957 and 1958. Immediately after leaving Oxford, Adams went into public service. He was employed by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government for twenty years in a variety of posts. When the ministry was incorporated into the Ministry of the Environment, Adams was appointed assistant secretary. For twenty-five years, he lived and worked in London. He read voraciously in the classic works of English and Continental literature but had no literary ambitions.
Adams’s daughters Juliet and Rosamond precipitated his literary career. Seeking to amuse them on long drives, Adams invented a story...
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Biography (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
The youngest of three children, Richard George Adams spent an idyllic childhood (“the happiest [days] of my life”) growing up on the outskirts of Newbury, England. His father, a local doctor, transmitted his knowledge of and love for the flora and fauna of the region to his son, whose later devotion to animal welfare was additionally inspired by Hugh Lofting’s Dr. Dolittle books. Adams’s father also instilled in his son a lifelong interest in storytelling, which Adams later honed in bedtime tales told to roommates at prep school. Other important influences included the Uncle Remus stories of Joel Chandler Harris, Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852) by Harriet Beecher Stowe, The Three Mulla-Mulgars (1910) by Walter de la Mare, and the silent Rin-Tin-Tin films. All would later echo in his fiction.
Although his time at prep school was often unpleasant, Adams thoroughly enjoyed his public school experience at Bradfield. The school put on a yearly play in its open-air theater, often a classical Greek drama, and Adams called the theater the place where he was “more consistently happy than anywhere else.” Bradfield also encouraged his love of literature, the Greek and Roman classics, and history, the subject in which Adams won a scholarship to Worcester College, Oxford, in 1938. Adams was grateful to Oxford for its acceptance of what he calls one’s “fantasy potential.”
Adams’s Oxford years were interrupted, as were those...
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Richard Adams was born May 9, 1920, in Newbury, Berkshire, England. After earning a degree from Worcester College, Oxford, he married Barbara Elizabeth Acland on September 20, 1949; the couple subsequently had two children. At the age of fifty, Adams, who worked as a British civil servant and had never published anything, produced a bulky typewriter manuscript. His story about rabbits had delighted his daughters and he was anxious to have it published. Unfortunately, his animal fantasy was turned down by four publishers and four literary agents. Finally a small publishing house, Rex Collings, accepted the manuscript. The 2,000 copies printed by Collings sold surprisingly well. When Penguin reprinted the book in paperback and promoted it as a novel for children, it sold over a million copies. In the United States Macmillan then printed a hard cover edition which became a best seller, selling over 700,000 copies. Adams's unwanted manuscript turned out to be the best-selling Watership Down.
Watership Down is that paradox of commercial publishing, an instant classic. Adams's subsequent novels have been eagerly awaited by editors and readers alike. In addition, he has compiled, introduced, or written several non-fiction works. By the age of sixty Adams had his name on the title pages of ten works and an established reputation as a writer of distinctive fantasy.
In its triumphant passage to classic status, Watership Down won the...
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Richard George Adams originally began telling the story of Watership Down to his two young daughters, Juliet and Rosamund, during long car trips. A civil servant in Britain's Department of Environment, Adams was interested in nature and concerned about the environment, and these interests are strongly apparent in the book, which tells the story of a group of rabbits who are forced from their home by real estate development.
Adams's daughters insisted that he publish the book, which took two years to write, but it was rejected by thirteen major publishers. Discouraged, Adams considered paying a publisher to print the book, but then heard of Rex Collings, a small publisher who had just produced a book about animal characters. Rex Collings accepted Watership Down and agreed to print 2,000 copies. From this modest beginning, the novel's merits spread by word of mouth among avid readers, and it was later reprinted by Penguin and Macmillan, with huge success. The book won the Guardian Award and the Carnegie Medal, and it is regarded by many as a classic of fantasy.
Richard George Adams was born May 9, 1920, in Newbury, Berkshire, England, where the book is set, and attended Bradfield College in Worcester. He received a B.A. in modern history there and earned an M.A. at Worcester College, Oxford. He served in the British Army from 1940 to 1945, and then obtained a post as a civil servant in the Ministry of Housing and Local Government...
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