No. 13: J K Rowling at 40

Britain Books Harry Potter



Born 31 July 1965, for J K Rowling her 40th birthday in 2005 was very much a time when she was at the peak of her powers, with the sixth of the seven books just published two weeks earlier to a frenzy of media attention and Potter-mania in full flow. By now the fairy tale rags-to-riches narrative of Rowling as an author seemed to be very much in the happy ever after phase as her work dominated the book chart. Continue reading “No. 13: J K Rowling at 40”

No 12: Anton Chekhov at 40

ChekhovSo far in this series we have seen some writers who are winding down at 40, others who were already dead at 40, or others yet who were still developing their craft at 40. But in the case of Anton Chekov, born 29 January 1860 and therefore turned 40 in 1900, 40 is in many ways the moment: the time for which he is remembered, for it is around this age that he wrote his most successful plays that were to secure his legacy. Continue reading “No 12: Anton Chekhov at 40”

No. 11: Leigh Hunt at 40

james-henry-leigh-hunt‘It is often necessary for a good journalist to write bad literature. It is sometimes the first duty of a good man to write it’ G.K. Chesterton once wrote, in a brief introduction to a collection of Charles Dickens’s journalism. He expresses in characteristically pithy fashion a central problem with literary journalism and its interactions both with the outside world, and with the world of art. Few writers grappled with this problem more resolutely than James Henry Leigh Hunt (1784-1859), who is an important and unjustly neglected figure both in nineteenth-century press history and in our literary history. Continue reading “No. 11: Leigh Hunt at 40”

No. 10: Thomas Middleton at 40


Thomas Middleton was a Renaissance playwright successful enough in his own lifetime, then cast like so many of his contemporaries under the critical shadow of Shakespeare, but now enjoying increasingly greater prominence in academic discussion; admittedly this is in part thanks to what we now recognise as his revision of a number of Shakespeare plays, but moreover due to recent work by OUP in collecting his complete works for the first time that has allowed us to truly grasp the full range of his dramatic power. Thanks to this, we can now get a better sense of his professional progress, and assess his position at the age of 40. Continue reading “No. 10: Thomas Middleton at 40”

No. 9: John Milton at 40

John Milton

John Milton (1608-1674) will forever be remembered first and foremost for Paradise Lost, and as such is frequently packaged as the romantic, blind poet bequeathing us with his epic poetry. Step back to his 40s though and we are faced with a far more troubling Milton – posterboy for the Roundheads and lapdog to Oliver Cromwell. In the words of 1066 and all that, he was less ‘wrong but wromantic’ at this age, and more ‘right but repulsive’. Continue reading “No. 9: John Milton at 40”

No. 8: Mary Elizabeth Braddon at 40

Mary-Elizabeth-BraddonMary Elizabeth Braddon, born 4 October 1835, would lie to many of her peers in later years about her age (telling some she had been born later, in 1837), but the unavoidable truth is that the Queen of Sensation Fiction turned 40 in 1875, a time in which she was both subjected to and released from scandal, where she waved goodbye to editorial pressures, and continued a prolific production of novels, though not to everyone’s taste. Continue reading “No. 8: Mary Elizabeth Braddon at 40”

No. 7: Daphne du Maurier at 40

The novelist, playwright, biographer and short story writer Daphne du Maurier (1907-1989) turned 40 years of age in 1947. By that time she was married to Lt-Gen Frederick ‘Boy’ Browning (1896-1965), the mother of three children, and a well-known novelist following the immense popularity of her fifth book, Rebecca (1938). None of her work was published in 1947 but The King’s General (1946), and The Parasites (1949), are novels composed around that time, as were the stories in The Apple Tree (1952). Continue reading “No. 7: Daphne du Maurier at 40”