Hugh Walpole Biography

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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

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Hugh Seymour Walpole (WAWL-pohl) was born in Auckland, New Zealand, March 13, 1884, the son of an English minister serving as incumbent of St. Mary’s Pro-Cathedral in Auckland. As a boy, Walpole was sent to school in Cornwall, England. His family returned to England and lived in Durham, a cathedral city; Walpole’s father served as bishop of Edinburgh from 1910 until his death in 1929.

Hugh Walpole was educated at King’s College, Canterbury, and Emanuel College, Cambridge. He began writing novels while still an undergraduate, but without success in his early ventures. His first successful novel was Fortitude, published in 1913, and his popularity as a writer of fiction on both sides of the Atlantic began with that work.

During World War I Walpole worked in Russia with the Red Cross, and two novels grew out of his experiences there: The Dark Forest and The Secret City, awarded the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. Most of Walpole’s books have a romantic tinge, and many of them enjoyed large sales. His most successful novels are parts of a tetralogy covering two hundred years of English social history: Rogue Herries, Judith Paris, The Fortress, and Vanessa.

At the time of King George VI’s coronation, Walpole was knighted and proudly bore his title. Prolific in his novel writing, Walpole also wrote short stories, critical studies, and plays; wrote scenarios for films in both Hollywood and Britain; and enjoyed great success on numerous lecture tours to the United States and in Britain. W. Somerset Maugham caricatured him as the character Alroy Kear in Cakes and Ale. Walpole died at Brackenburn, his home in the Lake District, on June 1, 1941.