Biography

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Last Updated on May 12, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 556

Roy Broadbent Fuller was the elder son of Leopold Charles Fuller of Oldham, England, an industrial town in Lancashire, in the northwest of England, and of Nellie Broadbent. His father was manager of a rubber-proofing mill but died when Roy Fuller was only eight. Two years later, his mother and her two sons moved to Blackpool, a nearby seaside town, where Fuller received his education at Blackpool High School. He left there at age sixteen, the minimum leaving age then being fourteen, and was articled (apprenticed) to a local firm of solicitors (attorneys). He became briefly involved in left-wing politics and always retained left-wing sympathies. His northern upbringing, with its culture of wry, antiestablishment humor, became one of the distinguishing features of his poetic voice.

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He completed his articles in 1934, passing the necessary exams to qualify him as a lawyer. He moved south for his first post, at a law firm in Ashford, Kent, in the southeast of England. There he met Kathleen Smith, whom he married in 1936. Their only child, John, was born January 1, 1937. Later John was to become a well-known poet and academic in his own right. Just before the outbreak of World War II in 1939, the family moved to London, where Roy Fuller joined the Woolwich Building Society, one of the largest mortgage lending societies in the United Kingdom.

In 1941, he enlisted in the Royal Navy, in which he served until 1946. He was one of the first technicians to work with the recently installed systems of radar. In 1942, he was posted to Kenya, an experience that propelled him into writing poetry in a much more systematic way than before, though he had published a largely unnoticed volume of poems in 1939. His two volumes written during the war, The Middle of a War (1942) and A Lost Season (1944), brought him to public attention. In 1944, he was relocated back to London, becoming a lieutenant in the Royal Navy volunteer reserve. He worked at the Admiralty as a technical adviser to the director of naval air radio.

Fuller then resumed his legal career with the Woolwich, remaining with it until his retirement. He wrote several legal volumes on Building Society law and from 1958 to 1969 served as chairman of the legal advice panel of the Building Societies Association. On his retirement in 1969, he was made director of the Woolwich, a post he held until his death, and vice president of the Building Societies Association.

Fuller was thus one of the few modern poets who have systematically and successfully pursued a career outside the academic or artistic world. His commercial role did not prevent him from writing profusely or from becoming a respected poet, novelist, essayist, and reviewer. Between 1945 and 1969, he wrote seven adult and two children’s novels, produced six volumes of poetry, and edited three volumes of other people’s poetry. Shortly before his retirement, he was voted Professor of Poetry at Oxford University, a post he held until 1973.

He continued to be extremely active after his retirement, not only writing poetry and another novel and producing a lengthy series of memoirs, but also serving as a governor of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and as a member of the Arts Council as chairman of its literature panel. He also was chairman of the Poetry Book Society. He continued to live in London until his death in 1991.

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