Leslie Poles Hartley is one of the most critically acclaimed English novelists of the twentieth century. He was born to Mary Elizabeth (Thompson) Hartley and H. B. Hartley, a solicitor who eventually directed the family’s brick business in addition to being a Wesleyan Methodist who passed his morality and emphasis on individual moral responsibility on to his son. Hartley was educated at Harrow School and entered Balliol College, Oxford, in 1915. He interrupted his education to serve as a second lieutenant in World War I but was discharged because of a weak heart and returned to Oxford, where he received a degree with second-class honors.
Soon after leaving Oxford, he published Night Fears, a book of short stories, and Simonetta Perkins, a novella. He became known primarily as a book reviewer and literary critic until 1944. In that year, The Shrimp and the Anemone was published, the first volume of the Eustace and Hilda trilogy. The second and third volumes followed in rapid succession, and the third, Eustace and Hilda, won for him the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. In the 1950’s, he published the best of his work: The Go-Between, which was awarded the W. H. Heinemann Foundation Prize and subsequently translated into a successful film; The Hireling; and Facial Justice. Although he continued to publish regularly until his death of heart failure in 1972, his later novels and short stories were not as successful, financially or critically, as his earlier work.
Facial Justice, which concerns the aftermath of a third world war, is atypical of Hartley’s fiction in its futuristic, science-fiction setting. It is vintage Hartley, however, in its focus: the plight of the character who attempts to maintain individuality in a society bent on conformity and...
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