T. H. White Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Although Terence Hanbury White was born in India, he spent most of his adult life in the British Isles. His parents’ bitter divorce colored his childhood and contributed to lifelong emotional problems. Educated at Cheltenham College and Queen’s College, Cambridge, he taught school at Stowe Ridings, Buckinghamshire. There he began his writing career in 1930, at first publishing novels under the pseudonym James Aston. A suppressed homosexual (for which he blamed his mother), White began psychotherapy in 1935 and tried unsuccessfully to have a “normal” love life. In 1937 he resigned his teaching job to devote himself full-time to writing. His first major success was The Sword in the Stone, published in 1938. From 1938 to 1945 White, a pacifist, lived in Ireland. He returned to England after World War II to live on the tiny island of Aldernay in the English Channel.{$S[A]Aston, James;White, T. H.}

White’s greatest success was his retelling of Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur (1485), which gave him financial security in 1960 after it became the basis for Lerner and Loewe’s musical Camelot. The four novels—The Sword in the Stone, The Witch in the Wood, The Ill-Made Knight, and The Candle in the Wind—with some revisions were collected under the title The Once and Future King in 1958. The Book of Merlyn, the original conclusion of White’s Arthuriad, was written during World War II and sent to White’s London publisher in...

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(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

T. H. White, whose full name was Terence Hanbury White, was born in Bombay, India, the son of a district supervisor of police and the grandson of a judge. He spent his first five years on the Indian subcontinent before moving to England with his mother, Constance. His childhood was difficult because Constance—who eventually obtained a judicial separation from her husband but not the divorce that would have allowed her to marry her live-in lover—was mentally disturbed, and White was frightened of her. Removal to Cheltenham College in 1920 provided no relief; mistreatment from classmates maintained his misery, but he still won admission to Queen’s College in Cambridge. He might have been happier there were it not for certain anxieties, in which homosexual feelings and alcoholism were joined by the total loss of his early religious faith and irrepressible sadomasochistic fantasies. Also, he contracted tuberculosis while in his second year at Cambridge, and his teachers had to donate money to send him to Italy to convalesce; it was there that he wrote his first novel.

White returned from Italy in much better condition. His determination to stay fit and healthy cemented his interest in field sports, but his triumph over physical frailty was shadowed by an exaggerated awareness of his mortality, which added furious fuel to all his activities. After obtaining a first-class degree with distinction in 1929, he became a schoolmaster—concluding with a...

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(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Terence Hanbury White was born on May 29, 1906, in Bombay, India. His father, Garrick Hanbury White, a district superintendent of police, and...

(The entire section is 596 words.)