Alan Gabriel Barnsley Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Gabriel Fielding was the fifth child of George Barnsley, a parson of the Church of England; his mother, a descendant of the eighteenth century British novelist Henry Fielding, was an unpublished writer and a successful dog breeder. He later remembered that she had a “strong sense of righteousness.” At the age of eight he was sent away to school in the south of England; from there he went on to public school at St. Edward’s School, Oxford, and then to medical school at Trinity College in Dublin, where he graduated in 1939. He completed his medical studies at St. George’s Hospital, London.{$S[A]Barnsley, Alan Gabriel;Fielding, Gabriel}

After World War II he set up practice in Maidstone, Kent, where he included in his medical duties attending to the inmates at Maidstone Prison. When his literary career began in the 1950’s he slowly cut back on his medical practice and took up his pen name, for which he combined his own middle name with his mother’s maiden name.

In 1954, at the age of thirty-seven and after twenty years of religious indifference during which he had espoused a vague socialistic philosophy tinged with Buddhism, Fielding became a convert to Roman Catholicism. His interest in Catholicism was stimulated by his reading of Graham Greene and Evelyn Waugh. After his conversion his favorite writers were, besides Greene and Waugh, the philosophers Gabriel Marcel, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Martin Buber, and the medieval mystic Juliana of Norwich.

Although he had wanted to be a writer from the time of his public school days, a bout with a duodenal ulcer first gave him the time to write. He had The Frog Prince, and Other Poems published by a small press and later sent a copy to Graham Greene, who...

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(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Alan Gabriel Barnsley was born in Hexham, Northumberland, England, on March 25, 1916, the fifth of six children of an Anglican vicar. After going to school at St. Edward’s, Oxford, he took a B.A. at Trinity College, Dublin, and from there went to St. George’s Hospital, London, from which he graduated with a medical degree in 1941. He immediately started his war service in the Royal Army Medical Corps, continuing his service until demobilization in 1946. After the war, he was in general medical practice in Maidstone, Kent, until 1966, part of his duties being those of medical officer for Maidstone Prison, the experience of which contributed significantly to several of his novels. Fielding did not start writing seriously until his middle thirties, and in 1966, when he considered his literary career to be established, he left the medical profession to become author-in-residence and later professor of English at Washington State University, Pullman, a position that he held until retirement. Fielding died in Bellevue, Washington, on November 27, 1986.