Leonard Alfred George Strong, of Irish descent, spent part of his childhood in the vicinity of Dublin and retained staunch ties with his Irish Protestant heritage, upon which he drew for much of his fiction. He was educated on scholarships at Brighton College and at Wadham College, Oxford. After being exempted from military service on account of disability, he began to teach at Summer Fields, a preparatory school near Oxford, in 1917. There he remained twelve years before moving to London in 1930 to devote himself to writing. Interested in speech and its development, he also taught oral interpretation of drama and broadcast for the British Broadcasting Corporation. His interest in regional dialects is reflected in his poems of rustic life.
Strong became known first for his poems, some of which show affinities with the work of Thomas Hardy. His succinct lyric portrayals of provincial life express satire, pathos, and laughter. Outstanding among his poems are “An Old Woman, Outside the Abbey Theatre,” which is epigrammatically ironic in a manner worthy of William Butler Yeats, and “The Mad Woman of Punnet’s Town,” which depicts vitality and joy. After deciding to live by his writing, he concentrated on works of prose; most of his novels, short stories, and essays were published in rapid succession. As a novelist he is at his best in treatments of rural domestic scenes and in his realistic handling of conversation. In his late years he wrote several crime stories featuring the character of Ellis McKay, a Scotland Yard detective indifferently successful at solving cases by induction. In these short novels Strong, like his friend C. Day Lewis, who wrote under the pseudonym Nicholas Blake, holds to the British tradition of “playing fair” with the mystery-reading public.
With English readers he achieved great celebrity as the author of short stories. For the 1945 collection titled Travellers Strong was awarded the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. His other works include works for young readers and several penetrating critical studies, notably his study of James Joyce in The Sacred River.
Berger, Laura Standley, ed. Twentieth-Century Children’s Writers. 4th ed. Detroit: St. James Press, 1995.
Kirkpatrick, D. L., ed. Twentieth-Century Children’s Writers. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1978.
Seymour-Smith, Martin, ed. Novels and Novelists: A Guide to the World of Fiction. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1980.