John Boynton Priestley, known as J.B. Priestley in the literary world, was a renowned English writer, social commentator, and playwright. He was born on 13the September 1894, in Yorkshire in England. He was a bright son of Jonathan Priestley, a headmaster, while his mother, Emma, was a housewife. Unfortunately, his mother died when he was just two years old, leaving his father to remarry Amy Fletcher in 1898, whom Priestley described as a loving stepmother.
Priestley started his formal education at Lane Primary School. Later, he earned a scholarship and got admission in Belle Vue High School. At sixteen, he left school and started working as a clerk in a wool manufacturing firm in Bradford. During these years, he started giving voice to his ideas by writing articles at night and having them published in the local newspaper, The Bradford Pioneer. Later, on the outbreak of WWI, he joined the army. During his service in the army, he was posted in France to serve on the west front. He took part in the Battle of Loos but was sent back after suffering injuries. After leaving the army, he joined Cambridge University where he polished his writing abilities. After completing his degree, he became a theatre reviewer and contributed articles to the Daily News and Spectator.
Priestley married thrice in life and had several illegitimate affairs. He first tied a knot with Emily Tempest, a librarian, in 1921, having two daughters from the marriage. Unfortunately, his wife, Emily, died of cancer in 1925, leaving the family in great distress. The following year, he remarried Jane Wyndham-Lewis, and the couple was blessed with three children. In 1952, he divorced his second wife and married Jacquetta Hawkes, a writer, who helped her in his literary pursuits.
Some Important Facts about Him
- His best-known work, The Good Companions, was adapted twice for films.
- He died of pneumonia on the 14 of August in 1984 and was buried in Hubberholme Churchyard, Yorkshire.
- He earned the honor of ‘Freedom of the City’ by the city of Bradford in 1973.
- He received the Order of Merit in 1977.
- He received an honorary Doctor of Letters from the University of Bradford in 1970.
Priestley started his writing career when he was little aware that literary pursuits would win him a great name. Later, he started contributing various articles to the Saturday Review, Spectator, The Bookman, and the Times Literary Supplement. However, he published his first book, Brief Diversions in 1920 in which he presented a collection of epigrams, stories, and anecdotes. His next work, Papers from Lilliput, was based on a series of essays on famous personalities. This made him an influential commentator on literature after he published his critical writings such as The English Novel, The English Comic Characters, and English Humour. His other commendable writings include Angel Pavement, Dangerous Corner, I Have Been Here Before, and When we are Married.
J.B. Priestley valued clarity in his works. His storytelling technique and straightforward writing approach in most of his writings won accolades from the readers globally. He repeatedly discussed several subjects in his novels, including the nature of the British character, the theatre, and the nature of time. Moreover, most of his plays dealt with hypothetical situations that reflect unusual perspectives on time. In his works, An Experiment With Time, Nothing Dies, and The Serial Universe he commented upon the complicated nature of time arguing that there is more than one dimension of time in the universe.
Some Important Works of J.B. Priestley
- Best Novels: Some of his best novels include Adam in Moonshine, Albert Goes Through, They Walk in the City, The Thirty-First of June, It’s an Old Country, The Doomsday Men, and Salt Is Leaving.
- Other Works: Besides writing novels, he expressed his ideas in different genres of literature. Some of them include The Good Companions, Johnson Over Jordan, Time and the Conways, An Inspector Calls, “The Town Major of Miraucourt” and The Other Place.
Priestley’s Impacts on Future Literature
J. B. Priestley’s critical literary works have fascinated the world, the reason that they continue to enjoy almost the same popularity that won during his heydays. Further work has been done by the society established in his name. A huge collection of his books was presented at the Senate House Library, making his literary efforts easily accessible to London’s readers in 2005. There have been various telecasts of his works on BBC Radio. He was famous among the English-speaking country. His impacts resonate outside English-speaking regions, thanks to the BBC efforts. After this, many countries have adopted his works for TV and film screens.
- “We don’t live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other. And I tell you that the time will soon come when if men will not learn that lesson, then they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish. Good night.” (An Inspector Calls)
- “But the point is, now, at this moment, or any moment, we’re only cross-sections of our real selves. What we really are is the whole stretch of ourselves, all our time, and when we come to the end of this life, all those selves, all our time, will be us – the real you, the real me. And then perhaps we’ll find ourselves in another time, which is only another kind of dream.” (Time And The Conways)
- “Time’s only a kind of dream, Kay. If it wasn’t, it would have to destroy everything —the whole universe— and then remake it again every tenth of a second. But Time doesn’t destroy anything. It merely moves us on —in this life— from one peephole to the next.” (Time And The Conways)
- “It is no use speaking in soft, gentle tones if everyone else is shouting.” (Thoughts in the Wilderness)