J. L. Carr
Joseph Lloyd Carr (20 May 1912 – 26 February 1994), who called himself "Jim" or even "James", was an English novelist, publisher, teacher, and eccentric.
Carr was born in Thirsk Junction, Carlton Miniott, Yorkshire, into a Wesleyan Methodist family. His father Joseph, the eleventh son of a farmer, went to work for the railways, eventually becoming a station master for the North Eastern Railway. Carr was given the same Christian name as his father and the middle name Lloyd, after David Lloyd George, the Liberal Chancellor of the Exchequer. He adopted the names Jim and James in adulthood. His brother Raymond, who was also a station master, called him Lloyd.
Carr's early life was shaped by failure. He attended the village school at Carlton Miniott. He failed the scholarship exam, which denied him a grammar school education, and on finishing his school career he also failed to gain admission to teacher training college. Interviewed at Goldsmiths' College, London, he was asked why he wanted to be a teacher. Carr answered: "Because it leaves so much time for other pursuits." He was not accepted. Over forty years later, after his novel The Harpole Report was a critical and popular success, he was invited to give a talk at Goldsmiths'. He replied that the college once had its chance of being addressed by him.
He worked for a year as an unqualified teacher — one of the lowest of the low in English education — at South Milford Primary School, where he became involved in a local amateur football team which was startlingly successful that year. This experience he developed into the novel How Steeple Sinderby Wanderers Won the F.A. Cup. He then successfully applied to a teacher training college in Dudley. In 1938 he took a year out from his teaching career to work as an exchange teacher in Huron, South Dakota in the Great Plains. Much of the year was a struggle to survive in what was a strangely different culture to him; his British salary converted into dollars was pitifully inadequate to meet American costs of living. This experience gave rise to his novel The Battle of Pollocks Crossing.
At the end of his year in the USA Carr continued his journey westward and found himself travelling through the Middle East and the Mediterranean as the Second World War loomed. He arrived in France in September 1939 and reached England, where he volunteered for service in the Royal Air Force. He was trained as an RAF photographer and stationed in West Africa, later serving in Britain as an intelligence officer, an experience he translated into fiction with A Season in Sinji.
At the end of the War he married Sally (Hilda Gladys Sexton) and returned to teaching. He was appointed headmaster of Highfields Primary School in Kettering, Northamptonshire, a post he filled from 1952 to 1967 in a typically idiosyncratic way which earned the devotion of staff and pupils alike. He returned to Huron, South Dakota, in 1957 to teach again on an exchange visit, when he wrote and published himself a social history of The Old Timers of Beadle County.
In 1967, having written two novels, he retired from teaching to devote himself to writing. He produced and published from his own Quince Tree Press a series of 'small books' designed to fit into a pocket: some of them selections from English poets, others brief monographs about historical events, or works of reference. In order to encourage children to read, each of the "small books" was given two prices, the lower of which applied only to children. As a result, Carr received several letters from adults in deliberately childish writing in an attempt to secure the discount.
He also carried on a single-handed campaign to preserve and restore the parish church of Saint Faith at Newton in the Willows, which had been vandalised and was threatened with redundancy. Carr, who appointed himself its guardian, came into conflict with the vicar of the benefice, and higher church authorities, in his attempts to save the church. The building was saved, but his crusade was also a failure in that redundancy was not averted and the building is now a scientific study centre.
In 1986 Carr was interviewed by Vogue magazine and, as a writer of dictionaries, was asked for a dictionary definition of himself. He answered: "James Lloyd Carr, a back-bedroom publisher of large maps and small books who, in old age, unexpectedly wrote six novels which, although highly thought of by a small band of literary supporters and by himself, were properly disregarded by the Literary World".
When Carr gave up teaching in 1967 his aim was to try to make his living by publishing small books of poetry and by designing a series of maps of English counties which were to be read and discussed, rather than to provide navigational information. These he published himself under the imprint The Quince Tree Press, The original printing plates from several of these maps were mounted on sheets of plywood and used by Carr as "stepping stones" in his garden. The garden also contained statues he had carved himself, many of which had mirrors set into the stone, set at such an angle that the sun would shine through the windows on his birthday.
Carr wrote eight short novels which contain elements of comedy and fantasy, as well as darker passages, based on his varied experiences of life as teacher, traveller, cricketer, footballer, publisher and restorer of English heritage. Six of the eight were published by different publishers; the last two he published under his own imprint, the Quince Tree Press. Though many of the characters and incidents, and even much of the dialogue, are drawn from life, he always takes them just a little further into the comic. He is widely regarded as a master of the novella form, and his masterpiece A Month in the Country was nominated for the Booker Prize in 1980, when it won the Guardian Fiction Prize. In 1985 he was short-listed again for the Booker Prize for The Battle of Pollocks Crossing.
Carr wrote several non-fiction works which he published at his Quince Tree Press, including a dictionary of cricketers, a dictionary of parsons, and dictionaries of English kings and queens. He also provided the text for several school textbooks published by Macmillan Publishers and Longman which were designed to develop children's English language skills.
- A Day in Summer (1963). London: Barrie and Rockliff.
- A Season in Sinji (1967). London: Alan Ross.
- The Harpole Report (1972). London: Secker & Warburg. ISBN 0-436-08610-7
- How Steeple Sinderby Wanderers Won the F.A. Cup (1975). London: London Magazine Editions. ISBN 0-904388-02-6
- A Month in the Country (1980). Brighton, Sussex: The Harvester Press. ISBN 0-85527-328-3
- The Battle of Pollocks Crossing (1985). London: Viking. ISBN 0-670-80559-9
- What Hetty Did (1988). Kettering: The Quince Tree Press. ISBN 0-900847-91-3
- Harpole & Foxberrow General Publishers (1992). Kettering: The Quince Tree Press. ISBN 0-900847-93-X
- The Old Timers: A social history of the home-steading pioneers in the prairie states during the first few years of settlement, as shown by a typical community, the "Old-Timers" of Beadle County in South Dakota (1957). Huron, South Dakota: Privately Printed.
Children's language books
- J.L. Carr (1970). The Red Windcheater, Nippers series, pp 32. Illustrated by George Adamson. London: Macmillan. ISBN 0-333-01789-7
- J.L. Carr (1972). The Garage Mechanic, What do they do? series, pp 32. Illustrated by Chris Mayger. London: Macmillan. ISBN 0-333-12064-7
- J.L. Carr (1972). The Dustman, What do they do? series, pp 31. Illustrated by Michael Shoebridge. London: Macmillan. ISBN 0-333-12276-3
- J.L. Carr (1974). The Old Farm Cart, Language in Action series, level 3, pp 24. Illustrated by Richard Butler. London: Macmillan. ISBN 0-333-16601-9
- J.L. Carr (1974). Red Foal's Coat, Language in Action series, level 2, pp 24. Illustrated by Susan Richards. London: Macmillan. ISBN 0-333-16595-0
- Jim Carr (1976). An Ear-ring for Anna Beer, Language in Action series, level 3, pp 24. Illustrated by Trevor Ridley. London: Macmillan. ISBN 0-333-19954-5
- J.L. Carr (1976). The Green Children of the Woods, Whizz bang series, pp 32. Illustrated by Bill Sanderson. London: Longman. ISBN 0-582-19326-5
- Jim Carr (1980). Gone with the Whirlwind, Language in Action series, level 4, pp 48. Illustrated by Ken Evans. London: Macmillan. ISBN 0-333-28389-9
- J.L. Carr (1977). Carr's Dictionary of Extra-ordinary English cricketers. Kettering: The Quince Tree Press. (126 entries)
- J.L. Carr (1977). Carr's Dictionary of English Queens, Kings' Wives, Celebrated Paramours, Handfast Spouses and Royal Changelings. Kettering: The Quince Tree Press. (91 entries)
- J.L. Carr (1979?). Carr's Dictionary of English Kings, Consorts, Pretenders, Usurpers, Unnatural Claimants and Royal Athelings. Kettering: The Quince Tree Press. (107 entries)
- J.L. Carr (198?). Welbourn's Dictionary of Prelates, Parsons, Vergers, Wardens, Sidesmen and Preachers, Sunday-school teachers, Hermits, Ecclesiastical Flower-arrangers, Fifth Monarchy Men and False Prophets. Kettering: The Quince Tree Press. No. 84. (129 entries).
- J.L. Carr (1983). Carr's Illustrated Dictionary of Extra-ordinary Cricketers. London: Quartet Books.
- J.L. Carr (1985?). A Dictionary of Extraordinary English Cricketers Volume Two. Kettering: The Quince Tree Press. No. 95. (80 entries)
- J.L. Carr (1985). Gidner's Brief Lives of the Frontier. Kettering: The Quince Tree Press. (88 entries). Published to coincide with the issue of The Battle of Pollocks Crossing.
- J.L. Carr (1981). The Poor Man's Guide to the Revolution of 1381. Kettering: The Quince Tree Press.
- J.L. Carr (1981?) Forefathers. Kettering: The Quince Tree Press.
- J.L. Carr (1982). Justice Silence, now blind, wits wandering a little and very old, is visited by Sir John Falstaff's page, now a man, and asked for news of Francis Feeble, the woman's tailor, once unfairly conscripted for the army during rebellion. In: Shakespeare Stories, ed. Giles Gordon. London: Hamish Hamilton, pages 82–90. ISBN 0-241-10879-9.
- J.L. Carr (1987). An inventory and history of The Quince Tree Press to mark its 21st year and the sale of its 500,000th small book. August, 1987. Kettering: The Quince Tree Press.
- J.L. Carr (1990). The first Saturday in May. In: Fine Glances. A Connoisseur's Cricket Anthology, eds Tom Graveney, Mike Seabrook. London: Simon and Schuster, pages 21–25. ISBN 0-671-71025-7
- J.L. Carr (1990). Looking for Lord. In: My Lord's. A Celebration of the World's Greatest Cricket Ground, ed. Tim Heald. London: Willow Books, Haper Collins, pages 15–19. ISBN 0-00-218363-3.
- J.L. Carr (1990). Redundant Churches Fund. Churches in retirement. A gazetteer. London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, Foreword, pages ix-x. ISBN 0-11-701452-4
- J.L. Carr (1993). Cricket books, 1992. In: Wisden Cricketers' Almanack 1993, ed Matthew Engel. Guildford, Surrey: John Wisden, pages 1295 - 1306. ISBN 0-947766-20-0.
- J.L. Carr (1994). Some early poems and recent drawings by J.L. Carr 1912 - 1994. Bury St Edmunds: The Quince Tree Press.
- Byron Rogers (2003). The Last Englishman: a biography of J. L. Carr. London: Aurum Press. ISBN 1-85410-838-7
- Rogers, Byron (2003) The Last Englishman. The Life of J.L. Carr. London: Aurum Press
- Simpson, Helen (1986) The Mysterious J.L. Carr. A twenty-first anniversary portrait. Vogue May 1986, Vol. 143, No. 2268, pp 84- 88
- R.W. Carr (2007). Visions Afar. The Journal of RW Carr 1905 - 2005. Compiled by J.D. Bramley and A.R. Gamble. Sherburn-in-Elmet, Leeds: Home Farm Productions.
- J.D. Bramley (2003). In them days. A scrapbook of friends and happenings and . . an alternative enterprise. Home Farm, Sherburn-in-Elmet, Leeds.
- Carr, J.L. (1987) An inventory and a history of the Quince Tree Press to mark its 21st year and the sale of its 500,000th small book. Kettering: The Quince Tree Press
- Quince Tree Press
- J.L. Carr's paintings of Northamptonshire and its churches at the Visual Arts Data Service
- J.L Carr Collection at Heritage East Midlands
- Sound recording of part of a BBC Radio 4 programme Front Row in 2003 of a review of Byron Roger's biography with parts of a 1988 interview with Carr
- Portrait of J.L. Carr held at the National Portrait Gallery in London.
- Article on Carr's dictionaries republished in The Dabbler from the quarterly magazine Slightly Foxed