James Hanley (1901-85)


Life
b. Sept., Dublin; brother of Gerald; brought up among Catholic Irish in Liverpool; went to sea at thirteen and served for nine years; joined Canadian Expeditionary Force’s Black Watch Battalion and saw action; employed in several jobs before taking up journalism; wrote “The German Prisoner” (ltd. edn 1930), a story concerning the torture and killing of a German soldier by two British tommies;
 
settled in Wales; corresponded with John Cowper Powys, then in New York, 1929-34; issued The Boy (1931), a novel about a boy who goes to sea, contracts syphilis in port and is suffocated by the captain (composed in ten days), which caused him to be prosecuted for obscenity; his story “A Passion before Death”, concerning a condemned man whose sexual desire for his wife is satisfied by a compassionate officer, was also seized and destroyed;
 
issued Ebb and Flood (1932); embarked on a history of a Liverpool-Irish family in The Fureys (1935), followed by The Furys (1935), The Secret Journey (1936), Our Time is Gone (1940), Winter Journey (1950), and An End and a Beginning (1958), and other novels in Dublin series; issued Broken Water (1937), autobiography; No Directions (1943), set in London during the Blitz; Hollow Sea (1950), one of his own favourites; dramatic pieces include Say Nothing (1962) and and The Inner Journey (1965); John Cowper Powys acted godfather to his son Liam. NCBE IF2 DIW KUN OCIL
 
 

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Works
Selected fiction
  • The Last Voyage, with a foreword by Richard Aldington (London: Jackson 1931), 73pp., ill. [front. port. by Alan Odle; ltd. edn. of 550 copies];
  • A Kingdom (London 1978);
  • A Woman in the Sky (London; Deutsch 1973), 223pp.;
  • Don Quixote Drowned [q.d.];
  • Against the Stream (1982);
  • No Directions (1946);
  • What Farrar Saw [q.d.];
  • Say Nothing ([q.d.]);
  • An End and A Beginning (London: 1958; rep. André Deutsch 1990);
  • The Furys (London 1935) large octavo, and Do. [rep.] (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1983);
  • Hollow Sea (London: Nicolson & Watson 1950), [iv], 356pp.;
  • Sailor’s Song (London: Nicolson & Watson 1943) [ii], vi, 204pp.;
  • A Walk in the Wilderness (London: Phoenix House [1950]), 192pp. [“A Walk in the Wilderness”; “Afterwards”; “The Road; “Another World”; “It Has Never Ended”].
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Miscellaneous
“The German Prisoner”, in London Magazine (Feb.-March 1996), pp.6-26 [infra].
 
Reprints
  • Boy [rep.], intro. by Anthony Burgess (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1992);
  • The Last Voyage and Other Stories, intro. by Alan Ross (London: Harvill 1997), 271pp.;
  • The Ocean (Harvill 2000).
 
His lengthy correspondence with John Cowper Powys was edited by by Chris Gostick (2001).

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Criticism
Sheri Pickett Midkiff, ‘James Hanley’s Tragic Vision: the Postwar Novels’ (DPhil; Mississippi 1994).

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Commentary
Elizabeth Bowen, ‘The Short Story in England, in Britain Today, 109 (May 1945), pp.11-16: ‘Who were writers who showed this [sparseness, energy, a respect for fighting spirit (rather than for the luxuriousness sensibilities) of man] immediately pre-war trend? Arthur Calder-Marshall, Leslie Halward, James Hanley, G. F. Green are names that came most immediately to mind. Hanley’s sea stories have, it is true, a horrific, fantasmagoric quality that entitles them to a place apart. [...].’ (Rep. in Phyllis Lassner, Elizabeth Bowen: A Study of the Short Fiction, NY: Twayne 1991, pp.141.)

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Walter Allen, ‘Henry Green’, in The Penguin New Writing, ed. John Lehmann (London 1945), pp.144-55: ‘[...] In his Bordesley foundry he [Green] worked on the floor for some months, writing Living in his spare time.,The difference between Blindness and Living is as startling as the difference, between Oxford and the Coventry Road must have been to the author. The title of the book is itself defiant, as though Green had discovered life for the first time. No working-class writer could have written the book; the author’s delighted sense of novelty is carried over to the reader, and it is significant that it has had no apparent influence on, other writers apart from James Hanley, who owes something to its style in his Stoker Bush.’ (p.147; for full text, see RICORSO Library, “Criticism > Reviews”, via index, or direct.)

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Paul Binding, ‘Man against fate’, reviewing of TheLast Voyage and Other Stories, 1997; TLS, 5 Dec. 1997); biog. Notes[as supra]; ‘[His] encounters with Mrs. Grundy hampered James Hanley, a diffident man who hated publicity; they confirmed him in his instinctivepessimism about cultural institutions and his distaste for media attention.His work had many distinguished admirers … includ[ing] John CowperPowys, William Faulkner, Henry Green, E. M. Foster, Pamel Hansford Johnson,and Anthony Burgess; Walter Allen praised his work in his critical survey Tradition and Dream (1964), describing him as having “moregenius than talent”; notes also many references in Valentine Cunningham, Writers of the Thirties (1988); comments that Hanley like Faulknerand Green can make enormous demands on his readers; cites his ‘earlymasterpiece’ Stoker Bush [q.d.]; ‘each of the storiesin this volume is rich in internal echoes, in musical build-ups from meregerms of ideas to major soliloquys or scenes.; reviewer rates him in companyof the great modernists, Joyce, Lawrence, Faulkner.

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Quotations
‘Maugham was crying, though he might well have been alone in that boat, for his sobs stirred nobody. The sounds wafted away into the eternity of space. He wrung his hands. He shivered. Suddenly he leaned sideways, put his hand in the water, let it be dragged and washed by the force whose very touch was the spirit of infinity … “We are lost. No bastard cares about us”.’ (“Narrative”; quoted by Paul Binding reviewing The Last Voyage and Other Stories, 1997; Times Literary Supplement (5 Dec.1997).

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References
Stephen Brown, Ireland in Fiction [Pt. I] (Dublin: Maunsel 1919), cites num. novels dealing with Liverpool-Irish, e.g., Ebb andFlow, Ships. Desmond Clarke, Ireland in Fiction [Pt. 2] (Cork: Royal Carbery 1985), adds An End and a Beginning.Peter Furey emerges after fifteen years in prison ... and returns to Ireland.A novel of great authority, according to The Tablet.

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Cathach Books (Cat. 12) listsA Kingdom (London 1978); A Woman in the Sky (London 1973); Don QuixoteDrowned [n.d.]; Against the Stream (1982); No Directions (1946); WhatFarrar Saw [n.d.]; Say Nothing [n.d.]; An End and a Beginning [n.d.];The Furys (London 1935), large octavo; An End and a Beginning [n.d.];The Furys (London 1935), large octavo; Hollow Sea (London: Nicolson &Watson 1950); rpt. (iv), 356pp.; Sailor’s Song (London: Nicolson& Watson 1943) (ii), vi, 204pp.

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Notes
The German Prisoner”, in LondonMagazine (Feb.-March 1996), pp.6-26; orig. publ. in ltd. ed. 1930;copies seized by police with Hanley’s [The] Boy (1935)[recte 1931]; the story concerns Peter O’Garra, b. Belfast, and livingin Tara St., Dublin, before enlistment in the First World War; with anothersoldier he mutilates a young German soldier caught in the same shell-hole,killing him with a bayonet in the rectum in a confused episode when reconciliation between the soldiers on opposing sides is momentarily possible.

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