Christopher William Bradshaw-Isherwood Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Christopher Isherwood is considered by some critics to be one of the most important English writers of the 1930’s. He was born Christopher William Bradshaw-Isherwood on August 26, 1904, to Kathleen Machell-Smith and Frank Bradshaw-Isherwood, English gentry. His father was killed in France in May, 1915, while serving as a lieutenant-colonel in the British army during World War I. The loss of his father when he was only ten years old had a lasting impact on Isherwood.{$S[A]Bradshaw-Isherwood, Christopher William[Bradshaw Isherwood, Christopher William];Isherwood, Christopher}

Isherwood was educated in the English public school system. In 1923, he enrolled in Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, but left in 1925 without completing his degree. He then worked at various jobs in London, including that of a private tutor. In 1928, he published his first novel, All the Conspirators. As with all of his novels, it was to some extent autobiographical.

In March, 1929, Isherwood visited Berlin with W. H. Auden, whom he had met while they were both students at St. Edmund’s School (Isherwood was there from 1914 to 1918). Isherwood and Auden remained lifelong friends, and during the 1930’s, they collaborated on a travel book and three plays. From 1930 to 1933, Isherwood taught English in Berlin, where he met Heinz Neddermayer, a working-class youth. The two traveled together between 1934 and 1937, while Heinz tried to avoid being drafted into the German army.

Isherwood’s experiences in Berlin during the 1930’s provided material for his three most successful works: The Last of Mr. Norris, Sally Bowles, and Goodbye to Berlin, known collectively as the “Berlin stories.” Literary critics and historians alike consider these works, especially Goodbye to Berlin, to be among the most significant political fiction of the twentieth century. The Berlin stories became the basis for John Van Druten’s play I Am a Camera...

(The entire section is 815 words.)


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Christopher William Bradshaw-Isherwood was born in High Lane, Cheshire, England, on August 26, 1904. His family, owners of a large Elizabethan mansion, was well established in the upper-middle class of England, and his father, Francis Bradshaw-Isherwood, rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel in the military before his death in action during World War I. His mother’s name was Kathleen Machell-Smith. Isherwood’s early education, first at St. Edmund’s School and then at Repton School, was significant largely for the friendships that he formed with W. H. Auden and Edward Upward—both of whom would become, like Isherwood, important literary figures in the 1930’s. They remained friends for life, most intensely during their Cambridge years. Isherwood wrote poetry and an unpublished novel while at Cambridge; eventually deciding on literature as a career, he purposely failed examinations and subsequently left the university without a degree. While writing All the Conspirators (1928), he tutored students and served as secretary to the Mangeot family. After a brief stint as a medical student, he left England to join Auden in Berlin.

The move to Berlin was the most significant of Isherwood’s early life. From 1929 to 1933, Isherwood taught English and lived a marginal existence in a city that was bordering on moral and political chaos. In Berlin, he met many people, English and German, who were to serve as models for the characters in his major works. The Memorial: Portrait of a Family (1932), his second novel, was published while he was a resident in Berlin. His “Berlin stories” were published several years after he had left the German capital because of the Nazi takeover: The Last of Mr. Norris appeared in 1935; Goodbye to Berlin, in 1939. In between the two Berlin novels, Isherwood collaborated with Auden on two plays, The Dog Beneath the Skin: Or, Where Is Francis? (pb. 1935, pr. 1936) and The Ascent of F6 (pb. 1936, pr. 1937), both influenced by German expressionist theater. In...

(The entire section is 840 words.)