Nigel Forbes Dennis (16 January 1912–19 July 1989) was an English
writer, critic, playwright and magazine editor.
3.1 Books by Richard Vaughan
3.2 Novels by Nigel Dennis
3.3 Plays by Nigel Dennis
5 External links
Born at his grandfather's house in Surrey, England, Dennis was the son
of Lt.-Col. Michael Frederic Beauchamp Dennis, DSO, of the King's Own
Scottish Borderers, who came of an old Devonshire family, and Louise,
née Bosanquet, whose ancestors were bankers of Huguenot origin.
(Louise's cousin, the bowler B.J.T. Bosanquet, invented the "googly",
or "Bosie", as it is sometimes known. (Letters to
The Times May 1963).
The family moved to
Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and after his
father's death in action in 1918, his mother married Fitzroy Griffin.
Dennis attended school in Rhodesia. At fifteen, he joined his uncle,
Ernan Forbes Dennis, a British diplomat working in Vienna as Passport
Control Officer (a cover for his real role as MI6 Head of Station with
responsibility for Austria, Hungary and Yugoslavia), and his wife,
Phyllis Bottome, the novelist. Dennis's further education was
completed at the
Odenwaldschule in Germany, a progressive
co-educational establishment, after which he returned to England. He
remained there for four years before settling in the United States in
1934 where he worked as a journalist.
Dennis was married twice, firstly to Marie-Madeleine Massias, from
Charente-Maritime, France. They had two daughters, Frederica Freer and
Michie Herbert, a sculptor. His second marriage was to the actress,
Beatrice Ann Hewart Matthew. He spent his last years in Malta and died
in Gloucestershire in July 1989.
Dennis held jobs at the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures, a
censorship body; The New Republic, a progressive political journal;
and Time (magazine). His job at Time returned him to Britain in 1950
(or 1949). Easing into novel writing, in 1949 he published his first
acknowledged novel, Boys and Girls Come out to Play (A Sea Change in
the USA), which won the Anglo-American novel award for that year
(shared with Anthony West). It starts semi-autobiographically, with a
depiction of a young man having an epileptic fit, a condition Dennis
suffered from all his life. Later in 1955, Dennis published his most
notable work, Cards of Identity, a witty psychological satire that
gained cult acclaim. The novel was converted into a play the following
year. Members of the Identity Club gather at an English country house
to listen to papers discussing interesting case histories of various
identity problems. The novel details many of the problems England
experienced in the late forties and early fifties. His third novel, A
House in Order also deals with the question of identity but it is more
personal rather than social as it portrays how a prisoner keeps his
mind in order during his imprisonment. Dennis's career involved a
mixture of non-fiction, novel, criticism, and play-writing. His book
reviews appeared in the Sunday Telegraph for twenty years, starting
(with the newspaper itself) in 1961. He became a contributor to
Encounter in 1963 and was eventually appointed its co-editor before
terminating his relationship with the magazine in 1970.
Dennis's books were few but distinguished. His other works include Two
Plays and a Preface (1958), Dramatic Essays (1962) and the novel A
House in Order (1966). A short study of
Jonathan Swift won the Royal
Society of Literature Award under the W. H. Heinemann bequest in 1966;
this was followed by Exotics: Poems of the Mediterranean and Middle
East (1970) and his last book, An Essay on Malta (1972), with
illustrations by Osbert Lancaster.
Three of his plays were put on at the Royal Court theatre: Cards of
The Making of Moo (1957) and August for the People
(1961). The first London revival of
The Making of Moo was staged at
the Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond, London, in November 2009.
According to a letter published in The Guardian in May 2008: "In the
1930s, Dennis wrote Chalk and Cheese; a co-educational school novel
under the pseudonym Richard Vaughan. Legend has it that, before
publication, every copy was destroyed in an air raid on a warehouse."
In fact the novel, which was largely autobiographical, was published
in 1934 and reviewed by the Times Literary Supplement, among
Books by Richard Vaughan
Chalk and Cheese; a co-educational school novel (1934)
Novels by Nigel Dennis
Boys and Girls Come Out to Play (1949)
Cards of Identity (1955)
A House in Order (1966)
Plays by Nigel Dennis
Cards of Identity (1956)
The Making of Moo (1957)
August for the People (1961)
Jonathan Swift: A Short Character (1964)
Exotics: Poems of the Mediterranean and Middle East (1970)
An Essay on Malta (1970)
Dramatic Essays (1962)
Exotics: Poems (1971)
^ a b c Vinson, James (1972). Contemporary Novelists. London: St.
James Press. pp. 341–342. ISBN 0900997125.
Rivers Scott, 'Dennis, Nigel Forbes (1912-1989)', rev., Oxford
Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004;
online edn, May 2005
Nigel Dennis; Obituary. (1989, 21 July). The Times. Retrieved 28 May
The Guardian Letters, Saturday 10 May 2008
The New York Review of Books
Nigel Dennis collection - View the first
100 words of his pieces
ISNI: 0000 0001 1058 2233