James Hanley

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Biography

(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

James Hanley was born on September 3, 1901, in Dublin, Ireland. Early in life, he moved with his family to Liverpool, England, where he grew up. Hanley’s father, Edward Hanley, gave up a promising career in law for a life at sea, thereby grievously disappointing his mother; James Hanley was strongly counseled by his grandmother not to go to sea. The advice fell on deaf ears, however, and he left school at age fourteen and went to sea as a shipboy. Some of this experience undoubtedly provided him with the raw material for his novel Boy.{$S[A]Shone, Patric;Hanley, James}

During Hanley’s first transatlantic voyage, World War I broke out, and for two years he worked on troopships transporting soldiers across the Mediterranean. Hollow Sea draws upon this phase of his life and portrays the intensity of life on troopships during hazardous missions. At age sixteen, Hanley deserted his ship on a stopover in St. John’s, New Brunswick, Canada. He lied about his age, took on a name randomly selected from a telephone directory, and joined the Canadian army. After training in Canada and in England, he served in France. When he was discharged from the army and returned to England, he settled down with his parents in Liverpool.

Hanley was deeply affected by a Liverpool encounter with an old sailor friend to whom he had entrusted a letter to his mother. The letter had contained some money, and the friend had taken the money and thrown the letter away. Hanley made no more friends and for the next decade kept almost entirely to himself. He took a job as a storeman on the railway and obsessively started on his self-education. He read voraciously during his spare time, studied French and Russian in evening classes, and indulged in his great passion for music as he struggled to play the music of Johann Sebastian Bach and Ludwig van Beethoven with his small, rough, workingman’s hands.

He also wrote short stories and plays with dogged determination and collected a number of rejection slips. He completed his first novel, Drift; after being rejected by eighteen publishers, it was finally published in 1930.

Hanley’s next project was to write “the odyssey of a ship” with no human characters. He abandoned it, however, and wrote instead the controversial novel Boy, which proved to be a major success. Hanley then commenced work on his major achievement, a five-volume saga of the Furys, a Liverpool family. The first volume was published in 1935 and the final volume in 1958. After publishing Say Nothing in 1962, Hanley abandoned the novel and wrote plays, some under the pseudonym Patric Shone, for the next ten years. In 1972, Hanley returned to the novel form with the publication of Another World.

When Hanley wrote, he preferred to be in total isolation. He neither read nor talked with people while creating. Character in a novel was the most important feature to him. If, after the third chapter, the characters took over the telling of the story, Hanley knew that his novel was going well.

Hanley settled in London but always regretted leaving Wales. His loneliness increased after his wife of more than forty years died in 1980; they had one son, Liam, an artist. Hanley died in London in 1985.

Biography

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

James Hanley was born on September 3, 1901, in Dublin, Ireland. Early in life, he moved with his family to Liverpool, England, where he grew up. Hanley’s father, Edward Hanley, gave up a promising career in law for a life at sea, thereby grievously disappointing his mother; James Hanley was strongly counseled by his grandmother not to go to sea. The advice fell on deaf ears, however, and he left school at age fourteen and went to sea as a ship boy. Some of this experience undoubtedly provided him with the raw material for his novel Boy.

During Hanley’s first transatlantic voyage, war broke out, and for two years he worked on troopships transporting soldiers across the Mediterranean to Salonika, Greece, and Gallipoli, Turkey. Hollow Sea draws upon this phase of his life and...

(The entire section is 1,336 words.)