Terence Hanbury "Tim" White (29 May 1906 – 17 January 1964) was an
English author best known for his Arthurian novels, The Once and
Future King, first published together in 1958. One of his most
memorable is the first of the series, The Sword in the Stone,
published as a stand-alone book in 1938.
1 Early life
1.1 Education and teaching
1.3 Alderney, later work, and death
1.4 Personal life
3 Selected writings
6 External links
Terence White was born in Bombay in
British India to English parents
Garrick Hanbury White, a superintendent in the Indian police, and
Constance Edith Southcote Aston. White had a troubled childhood,
with an alcoholic father and an emotionally cold mother, and his
parents separated when Terence was fourteen.
Education and teaching
White went to
Cheltenham College in Gloucestershire, a public school,
and Queens' College, Cambridge, where he was tutored by the scholar
and occasional author L. J. Potts. Potts became a lifelong friend and
correspondent, and White later referred to him as "the great literary
influence in my life." While at Queens' College, White wrote a
thesis on Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, and graduated in 1928
with a first-class degree in English.
White then taught at
Stowe School in Buckinghamshire for four years.
In 1936 he published England Have My Bones, a well-received memoir
about a year spent in England. The same year, he left
Stowe School and
lived in a workman's cottage nearby, where he wrote and "revert[ed] to
a feral state", engaging in falconry, hunting, and fishing.
White also became interested in aviation, partly to conquer his fear
White's novel Earth Stopped (1934) and its sequel Gone to Ground
(1935) are science fiction novels about a disaster which devastates
the world. Gone to Ground contains several fantasy stories told by the
survivors; these stories were later reprinted in The Maharajah and
White wrote to a friend that in autumn 1937, "I got desperate among my
books and picked [Malory] up in lack of anything else. Then I was
thrilled and astonished to find that (a) The thing was a perfect
tragedy, with a beginning, a middle and an end implicit in the
beginning and (b) the characters were real people with recognizable
reactions which could be forecast[...] Anyway, I somehow started
writing a book."
The novel, which White described as "a preface to Malory", was
titled The Sword in the Stone. Published in 1938 it told the story of
the boyhood of King Arthur. White was also influenced by Freudian
psychology and his lifelong involvement in natural history. The Sword
in the Stone was critically well-received and a Book of the Month Club
selection in 1939.
In February 1939, White moved to Doolistown in County Meath, Ireland,
where he lived out the
Second World War
Second World War as a de facto conscientious
objector. In Ireland he wrote most of what would later become The
Once and Future King; two sequels to The Sword in the Stone were
published during this time: The Witch in the Wood (later cut and
rewritten as The Queen of Air and Darkness) in 1939, and The Ill-Made
Knight in 1940. The version of The Sword in the Stone included in The
Once and Future King differs in several respects from the earlier
version. It is darker, and some critics prefer the earlier
version. The war had a profound effect on these tales of King
Arthur, which include commentaries on war and human nature in the form
of a heroic narrative.
Alderney, later work, and death
In 1946, White settled in Alderney, the third largest of the Channel
Islands, where he lived for the rest of his life. The same year,
White published Mistress Masham's Repose, a children's book in which a
young girl discovers a group of Lilliputians (the tiny people in
Swift's Gulliver's Travels) living near her house. Mistress Masham's
Repose was influenced by John Masefield's book The Midnight Folk.
In 1947, he published The Elephant and the Kangaroo, in which a
Noah's Flood occurs in Ireland. In the early 1950s
White published two non-fiction books: The Age of Scandal (1950), a
collection of essays about 18th-century England, and The Goshawk
(1951), an account of White's attempt to train a northern goshawk
using traditional rather than modern falconry techniques. Written
at his cottage in the mid-1930s, it was only published after its
chance discovery by, and at the insistence of, White's agent, David
Garnett. In 1954 White translated and edited The Book of Beasts,
an English translation of a medieval bestiary originally written in
In 1958 White completed the fourth book of The Once and Future King
sequence, The Candle in the Wind, though it was first published with
the other three parts and has never been published separately. White
lived to see his work adapted as the
Broadway musical Camelot (1960)
and the animated film The Sword in the Stone (1963), both based on The
Once and Future King.
White died of heart failure on 17 January 1964 aboard ship in Piraeus,
Athens, Greece, en route to
Alderney from a lecture tour in the United
States. He is buried in First Cemetery of Athens. In 1977 The Book
of Merlyn, a conclusion to The Once and Future King, was published
posthumously. His papers are held by the University of Texas at
According to Sylvia Townsend Warner's 1967 biography, White was "a
homosexual and a sado-masochist." He came close to marrying several
times but had no enduring romantic relationships. In his diaries of
Zed, a young boy, he wrote: "I have fallen in love with Zed [...] the
whole situation is an impossible one. All I can do is behave like a
gentleman. It has been my hideous fate to be born with an infinite
capacity for love and joy with no hope of using them."
Broadcaster Robert Robinson published an account of a conversation
with White, in which he claimed to be attracted to small girls.
Robinson concluded that this was really a cover for homosexuality.
Julie Andrews wrote in her autobiography, "I believe Tim may have been
an unfulfilled homosexual, and he suffered a lot because of it."
However, White's long-time friend and literary agent, David Higham,
wrote, "Tim was no homosexual, though I think at one time he had
feared he was (and in his ethos fear would have been the word)."
Higham gave Warner the address of one of White's lovers "so that she
could get in touch with someone so important in Tim's story. But she
never, the girl told me, took that step. So she was able to present
Tim in such a light that a reviewer could call him a raging
homosexual. Perhaps a heterosexual affair would have made her
Lin Carter in his book Imaginary Worlds portrayed White as a man who
felt deeply but was unable to form close human relationships due to
his unfortunate childhood: "He was a man with an enormous capacity for
loving. It shows in his prodigious correspondence and in his affection
for dogs and in the bewildered and inarticulate loves his characters
experience in his books; but he had few close friends, and no genuine
relationship with a woman."
White was agnostic, and towards the end of his life a heavy
drinker. Warner wrote of him, "Notably free from fearing God,
he was basically afraid of the human race."
Michael Moorcock enjoyed White's The Once and Future
King, and was especially influenced by the underpinnings of realism in
his work. Moorcock eventually engaged in a "wonderful
correspondence" with White, and later recalled that "White [gave] me
some very good advice on how to write".
J. K. Rowling
J. K. Rowling has said that White's writing strongly influenced the
Harry Potter books; several critics have compared Rowling's character
Albus Dumbledore to White's absent-minded Merlyn, and Rowling
herself has described White's Wart as "Harry's spiritual
Neil Gaiman was asked about the similarities
Harry Potter and Gaiman's character Timothy Hunter, and he
stated that he did not think Rowling had based her character on
Hunter. "I said to [the reporter] that I thought we were both just
stealing from T. H. White: very straightforward."
Gregory Maguire was influenced by "White's ability to be
intellectually broadminded, to be comic, to be poetic, and to be
fantastic" in the writing of his 1995 novel Wicked, and crime
Ed McBain also cited White as an influence.
White features extensively in Helen Macdonald's H is for Hawk, winner
of the 2014
Samuel Johnson Prize
Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction. One of the
components of the book is a biographical account of White and also The
Goshawk, an account of his own failed attempt to train a hawk.
Loved Helen (1929)
The Green Bay Tree (1929)
Dead Mr. Nixon (1931) (with R. McNair Scott)
First Lesson (1932) (as James Aston)
They Winter Abroad (1932) (as James Aston)
Darkness at Pemberley (1932)
Farewell Victoria (1933)
Earth Stopped (1934)
Gone to Ground (1935)
England Have My Bones (1936)
Burke's Steerage (1938)
The Once and Future King
The Sword in the Stone (1938)
The Queen of Air and Darkness (original version 1939, as The Witch in
The Ill-Made Knight
The Ill-Made Knight (1940)
The Candle in the Wind (1958)
Mistress Masham's Repose
Mistress Masham's Repose (1946)
The Elephant and the Kangaroo (1947)
The Age of Scandal (1950)
The Goshawk (1951)
The Scandalmonger (1952)
The Book of Beasts (translator, 1954)
The Master (1957)
The Godstone and the Blackymor (1959)
America at Last (1965)
The Book of Merlyn
The Book of Merlyn (1977)
A Joy Proposed (1980)
The Maharajah and Other Stories (edited by Kurth Sprague) (1981)
Letters to a Friend (1984)
^ Attebery, Brian (1980). The Fantasy Tradition in American
Literature: From Irving to Le Guin. Bloomington: Indiana University.
^ a b c d e "
T. H. White
T. H. White Dead; Novelist was 57" (fee required), The
New York Times, 18 January 1964. Retrieved on 2008-02-10.
^ a b c Craig, Patricia. "Lives and letters," The Times Literary
Supplement, 7 April 1989. p. 362.
^ Annan, Noel. "Character: The White-Garnett Letters and T. H. White"
The New York Review of Books
The New York Review of Books 11.8, 7 November 1968.
Retrieved on 2008-02-13.
^ a b c Gallix, Francois, ed (1982). Letters to a Friend: The
T. H. White
T. H. White and L. J. Potts. New York: G. P.
Putnam's Sons. ISBN 0-399-12693-7. CS1 maint: Extra text:
authors list (link) p. 93-95. (Reprinted here.)
^ a b c d Allen, Walter. "Lucky In Art Unlucky In Life" (fee
required), The New York Times, 21 April 1968. Retrieved on 2008-02-10.
^ a b Townsend Warner, Sylvia (1978). "The Story of the Book". In
White T.H. The Book of Merlyn. London: Fontana/Collins.
^ a b Stableford, Brian The A to Z of Fantasy Literature, (p 429),
Scarecrow Press,Plymouth. 2005. ISBN 0-8108-6829-6
^ a b Robert Irwin, "White, T(erence) H(anbury)" in the St. James
Guide To Fantasy Writers, ed. David Pringle, St. James Press, 1996,
ISBN 1-55862-205-5, p. 607-8
^ "The Importance of The
Second World War
Second World War to T. H. White's "Once and
Future King"". Archived from the original on 29 May 2008. Retrieved 30
^ Keenan, Hugh T. “T(erence) H(anbury) White” in British
Children's Writers, 1914-1960, ed. Donald R. Hettinga and Gary D.
Schmidt, Gale Research, 1996.
^ a b c Jameson, Conor (January 2014). "A place for the misfit".
British Birds. 107 (1): 2–3. ISSN 0007-0335.
^ Higham, David. "Literary Gent", Coward, McCann & Geoghegan,
Inc., New York, 1979, page 213
^ Wilson, A. N. "World of books: The knights with right on their
side", The Telegraph, 3 June 2006. Retrieved on 2008-02-10.
^ Cantwell, Mary. "Books of the Times: Letters to a Friend" (book
review), The New York Times, 10 September 1982. Retrieved on
^ a b Hudson, Patrick. "Fifty Percent Fiction: Michael Moorcock"
(interview), The Zone, 2001–2002. Retrieved on 10 February 2008.
^ Klaw, Rick. "
Michael Moorcock serves up sword and sorcery with a new
Elric adventure", Sci Fi Weekly, 2 April 2001. Retrieved on
2008-02-10. – Link gone 22 May 2010
^ "Real Wizards: The Search for Harry's Ancestors". Channel4.com.
2001. Retrieved 1 June 2007.
^ Evelyn M Perry. "
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone Novel".
Farmingham State College. Archived from the original on 24 October
2006. Retrieved 1 June 2007.
^ "JK (JOANNE KATHLEEN) ROWLING (1966–)". The Guardian. Retrieved 8
^ Richards, Linda (August 2001). "January Interview: Neil
^ Nolan, Tom. "
Gregory Maguire Brews Another
Wicked Mix of Historical
Fiction & Timeless Myth", Bookselling This Week, 16 September
2003. Retrieved on 2008-02-10.
^ "What Authors Influenced You?" Archived 27 September 2007 at the
Wayback Machine., Authorsontheweb.com. Retrieved on 10 July 2007.
^ Helen Macdonald’s ‘extraordinary’ memoir wins Samuel Johnson
prize The Guardian, 4 November 2014
Warner, Sylvia Townsend (1967). T. H. White: A Biography. New York:
Wikiquote has quotations related to: T. H. White
Wikimedia Commons has media related to T. H. White.
Works by T. H. (Terence Hanbury) White at Faded Page (Canada)
White's 1954 translation of a 12th-century bestiary
T. H. White
T. H. White at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
ISNI: 0000 0003 6862 7267
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