Edward Upward

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Edward Upward
Edward Upward.jpg
Upward c. 1972
Born (1903-09-09)9 September 1903
Romford, England
Died 13 February 2009(2009-02-13) (aged 105)
Pontefract, West Yorkshire, England
Occupation Writer, schoolteacher
Alma mater Corpus Christi College, Cambridge
Years active 1923–2003
Spouse Hilda Percival (m. 1936–1995; her death)

Edward Falaise Upward (9 September 1903 – 13 February 2009) was a British novelist and short story writer who, at the time of his death, was believed to have been the UK's oldest living author. His literary career spanned eighty years.


Upward was born on 9 September 1903 in Romford, Essex, the first child of Harold Arthur Upward (1874–1958) and Louisa "Isa" Upward (née Jones, 1869–1951). His siblings were John Mervyn Upward (1905–1999); Laurence Vaughan Upward (1909–1970), who suffered from schizophrenia;[1] and Yolande Isa Upward (1911–2004).

In 1917, Upward was sent to Repton School, where he became a friend of Christopher Isherwood in the sixth form, and from 1922 to 1925, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, where, after the arrival of Isherwood in 1923, they created the surreal world of Mortmere, an obscene parody of the middle and upper class characters they encountered in Cambridge. Upward was awarded Cambridge's Chancellor's Medal for English Verse in 1924, for his poem "Buddha". Through Isherwood, Upward met and befriended W. H. Auden and Stephen Spender.

After graduation Upward worked in various teaching jobs, and in 1932 he took up a post at Alleyn's School, Dulwich, where he remained for nearly thirty years. He also joined the Communist Party that year. In 1936 he married Hilda Percival (1909–1995), a fellow teacher and CPGB member. Their son Christopher Upward went on to become a notable orthographer. Upward remained committed to internationalism and socialism for the rest of his life, although he and his wife, Hilda, left the Communist Party in 1948, believing that it was no longer revolutionary.

Upward's first novel, Journey to the Border, was published by the Hogarth Press in 1938. It describes in poetic prose the rebellion of a private tutor against his employer and the menacing world of the 1930s, moving from a nightmarish state to one where he recognises that he must join the workers' movement.

A semi-autobiographical trilogy, The Spiral Ascent, was published in the 1960s and 1970s after Upward had retired from teaching and moved into the house where his parents used to live in Sandown on the Isle of Wight. The trilogy deals with a poet's struggle to combine artistic creativity with political commitment, including in its historical sweep the fight against the British Union of Fascists in the 1930s, opposition to the leadership of the Communist Party in the 1940s and later involvement in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

In the last decades of the twentieth century Upward returned to writing short stories, which were published, along with earlier works, by Enitharmon Press. In 2003 they celebrated his centenary by publishing selected short stories, edited by Alan Walker, as A Renegade in Springtime. In an interview with Nicholas Wroe, which appeared in The Guardian in the month before his hundredth birthday, Upward explained that the title A Renegade in Springtime "came from an idea for a story about Auden. I never wrote the story but the phrase stayed. The renegade is the one with a sense of reality and everyone else is too happy-go-lucky."[2] His last story, Crommelin-Brown, was written in 2003, shortly before he turned 100.

In 2005 Upward was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and awarded its Benson Medal.[3]

On 13 February 2009, Upward died of a chest infection in Pontefract, Yorkshire, where he had relocated in 2004 to be close to his daughter. He was 105 years old.[4]

In May 2016, the first major biography of Upward, Edward Upward: Art and Life by Peter Stansky, was published.

There is a large collection of literary papers and correspondence by Edward Upward in the British Library (Add MS 89002).



  • Journey to the Border (1938; revised ed., 1994)
  • In the Thirties (Vol. 1 of The Spiral Ascent, 1962)
  • The Rotten Elements (Vol. 2 of The Spiral Ascent, 1969)
  • No Home But the Struggle (Vol. 3 of The Spiral Ascent, 1977)

Collections of short stories[edit]

  • The Railway Accident and Other Stories (1969)
  • The Night Walk and Other Stories (1987)
  • The Mortmere Stories by Christopher Isherwood and Edward Upward (1994)
  • An Unmentionable Man (1994)
  • The Scenic Railway (1997)
  • The Coming Day and Other Stories (2000)
  • A Renegade in Springtime (2003)

See also Edward Upward: A Bibliography, 1920–2000 by Alan Walker (Enitharmon Press, 2000).

Biography and Criticism[edit]

  • Mario Faraone, L’isola e il treno: L’opera di Edward Upward tra impegno politico e creatività artistica, Rome: La Sapienza Università Editrice, 2013: in Italian, but with extensive passages quoted in English, a previously unpublished interview with the author, and a bibliography updated to 2012; further details available at http://www.editricesapienza.it/node/7261
  • Peter Stansky, Edward Upward: Art and Life, London: Enitharmon Books, 2016.


  1. ^ Edward Upward and Left-Wing Literary Culture in Britain, Benjamin Kohlmann et al, 2013
  2. ^ Wroe, Nicholas (23 August 2003). "A Lifetime Renegade". The Guardian. 
  3. ^ Parker, Peter (17 February 2009). "Edward Upward: Writer of Politically Charged Novels and Short Stories who Was a Contemporary of W.H. Auden". London: The Independent. Retrieved 11 August 2010. 
  4. ^ "Edward Upward, Writer who Illuminated the Social Turmoil of the 1930s". The Times. London. 16 February 2009. 

External links[edit]