Kingsley Amis Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

A novelist, poet, critic, essayist, and short-story writer, Kingsley Amis (AY-mihs) was best known as one of England’s foremost comic moralists, in the tradition of Henry Fielding, Charles Dickens, and Evelyn Waugh. The only child of William Robert Amis, an office clerk, and Rosa Annie (Lucas) Amis, Amis learned the Protestant virtues of thrift, hard work, and patience from his conservative, lower-middle-class Baptist parents. He considered himself a timid and lonely boy and did not gain confidence in himself until he began attending school, first at St. Hilda’s College, then at Norbury College, where at the age of eleven he saw his first story, “The Sacred Rhino of Uganda,” published in the school magazine. William Amis, to help cultivate his son’s abilities, sent Kingsley to a top private preparatory school, the City of London School. In 1941, Kingsley Amis went to the University of Oxford, where he flirted briefly with communism, but after one year he was drafted and commissioned as an officer in the Royal Corps of Signals. After three and a half years in Belgium, France, and Germany, during which time he became a lieutenant, Amis returned to St. John’s College. In 1947, he earned his B.A. with first-class honors in English. He had two sons (one the distinguished author Martin Amis) and a daughter from his marriage to Hilary Ann Bardwell, which ended in divorce in 1965. His second marriage, to Elizabeth Jane Howard, a writer, also ended in divorce, in 1983. Amis was named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1981 and knighted in 1990.{$S[A]Markham, Robert;Amis, Kingsley}

Amis’s first novel, Lucky Jim, not only attracted favorable attention but also identified Amis with the “Angry Young Men” movement of British working-class writers of the 1950’s. The novel’s satire and sardonic style impressed reviewers, and the protagonist, Jim Dixon, became a symbol of rebellion against the establishment and one of the most popular antiheroes of modern literature. Though appearing to be a young man’s novel, Lucky Jim is an extremely humorous and socially significant book that caught the general mood of unrest in England after World War II. Amis denied any affiliation with the emergent group of angry novelists and playwrights; indeed, as his career evolved he began to shock his liberal admirers with his increasing conservatism in politics and social affairs.

The three comic novels that followed Lucky JimThat Uncertain Feeling, I Like...

(The entire section is 1032 words.)