L. P. Hartley

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L. P. Hartley
Born Leslie Poles Hartley
(1895-12-30)30 December 1895
Whittlesey, Cambridgeshire
Died 13 December 1972(1972-12-13) (aged 76)
Genre Novel, short story
Notable works Eustace and Hilda,
The Go-Between
Notable awards James Tait Black Memorial Prize
Commander of the Order of the British Empire

Leslie Poles Hartley CBE (30 December 1895 – 13 December 1972), known as L. P. Hartley, was a British novelist and short story writer. His best-known novels are the Eustace and Hilda trilogy (1947) and The Go-Between (1953). The latter was made into a 1971 film, directed by Joseph Losey with a star cast, in an adaptation by Harold Pinter. Its opening sentence, "The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there", has become almost proverbial. His 1957 novel The Hireling was made into a critically acclaimed film of the same title in 1973.

He is also a noted writer of short fiction that has been acclaimed for its eerie, strange qualities that have drawn comparison with the macabre wit of Saki and the supernatural fiction of Henry James and Walter de la Mare.


Sir Maurice Bowra, Sylvester Govett Gates and L.P. Hartley, by Lady Ottoline Morrell.

Leslie Poles Hartley was born on 30 December 1895 in Whittlesey, Cambridgeshire, the son of Bessie and Harry Bark Hartley, a solicitor and JP[1] He had two sisters, Enid and Annie Norah. While he was young, the family moved to Fletton Tower,[2] a small country estate near Peterborough. Hartley was educated in Cliftonville, Thanet, then briefly at Clifton College, where he first met Clifford Henry Benn Kitchin, then at Harrow. In 1915, during the First World War, he went up to Balliol College, Oxford, to read modern history, and there he befriended Aldous Huxley. This was a time when most of his contemporaries were volunteering for the armed services instead of pursuing university careers.

In 1916, with the arrival of conscription, Hartley joined the army, and in February 1917 he was commissioned as an officer in the Norfolk Regiment,[3] but for health reasons he was never posted overseas for active duties. Invalided out of the army after the war, he returned to Oxford in 1919, where he gathered a number of literary friends, including Lord David Cecil.

Some of Hartley's early work was published in Oxford Poetry in 1920 and 1922. In 1920 he edited Oxford Outlook, with Gerald Howard and A. B. B. Valentine, and in 1921 with Basil Murray and Christopher Hollis. At this time he was introduced by Huxley to Lady Ottoline Morrell. Kitchin, who was also then at Oxford, introduced him to the family of H. H. Asquith, and Cynthia Asquith became a lifelong friend. Despite being named after Leslie Stephen, Hartley always belonged to the Asquith set and was rebuffed by the Bloomsbury group.

After his years at Oxford, Hartley became a book reviewer. Although he enjoyed rapid social success, his career as a writer failed to take off, and he was unhappy. In 1922 he suffered a nervous breakdown. Soon afterwards he started spending much of his time in Venice, and he continued to do so for many years. Hartley was homosexual but not open about his sexuality until toward the end of his life.[4] Hartley regarded his 1971 novel The Harness Room as his "homosexual novel" and feared the public reaction to it.[5]

Until the success of The Go-Between Hartley had little commercial recognition, although in 1947 he was awarded the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for his novel Eustace and Hilda, and in 1956 he was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

List of works[edit]

  • Night Fears (1924), short stories
  • Simonetta Perkins (1925)
  • The Killing Bottle (1932), short stories
  • The Shrimp and the Anemone (1944), Eustace and Hilda Trilogy I
  • The West Window (1945)
  • The Sixth Heaven (1946), Eustace and Hilda Trilogy II
  • Eustace and Hilda (1947), Eustace and Hilda Trilogy III
  • The Travelling Grave and Other Stories (1948), short stories
  • The Boat (1949)
  • My Fellow Devils (1951)
  • The Go-Between (1953)
  • The White Wand and Other Stories (1954), short stories
  • A Perfect Woman (1955)
  • The Hireling (1957)
  • Facial Justice (1960)
  • Two for the River (1961), short stories
  • The Brickfield (1964)
  • The Betrayal (1966)
  • Essays by Divers Hands, Volume XXXIV (1966), editor
  • The Novelist's Responsibility (1967), essays
  • Poor Clare (1968)
  • The Collected Short Stories of L. P. Hartley (1968)
  • The Love-Adept: A Variation on a Theme (1969)
  • My Sisters' Keeper (1970)
  • Mrs. Carteret Receives (1971), short stories
  • The Harness Room (1971)
  • The Collections: A Novel (1972)
  • The Will and the Way (1973)
  • The Complete Short Stories of L. P. Hartley (1973)
  • The Collected Macabre Stories (2001)

Further reading[edit]

  • Peter Bien, L. P. Hartley (1963)
  • A. Mulkeen, Wild Thyme, Winter Lightning: The Symbolic Novels of L. P. Hartley (1974)
  • E. T. Jones, L. P. Hartley (1978)
  • J. Sullivan, Elegant Nightmares: The English Ghost Story from Le Fanu to Blackwood (1978) [Incl. critique of Hartley's ghost stories]
  • A. Wright, Foreign Country: The Life of L. P. Hartley (1996)
  • S. T. Joshi, "L.P. Hartley: The Refined Ghost" in The Evolution of the Weird Tale NY: Hippocampus Press (2004), 64–74.


  1. ^ The Balliol College Register, 3rd ed., 1900–1950, ed. Sir Ivo Elliott, Oxford University Press, pg 178
  2. ^ The Balliol College Register, 3rd ed., 1900–1950, ed. Sir Ivo Elliott, Oxford University Press, pg 178
  3. ^ London Gazette Issue 29956 published on 20 February 1917. Page 11
  4. ^ Robert Aldrich; Garry Wotherspoon (25 October 2005). Who's Who in Gay and Lesbian History Vol.1: From Antiquity to the Mid-Twentieth Century. Routledge. p. 203. ISBN 978-1-134-72215-0. 
  5. ^ Adrian Wright (20 March 2002). Foreign Country: The Life of L.P. Hartley. Tauris Parke Paperbacks. p. 250. ISBN 978-1-86064-679-9. 

External links[edit]