Richard Hughes (writer)
He was born in Weybridge, Surrey. His father was a civil servant Arthur Hughes, and his mother Louisa Grace Warren who had been brought up in Jamaica. He was educated at Charterhouse and graduated from Oriel College, Oxford in 1922.
A Charterhouse schoolmaster had sent Hughes's first published work to The Spectator in 1917. The article, written as a school essay, was an attack on The Loom of Youth, by Alec Waugh, a recently published novel which caused a furore for its frank account of homosexual passions between British schoolboys in a public school. At Oxford he met Robert Graves, also an Old Carthusian, and they co-edited a poetry publication, Oxford Poetry, in 1921. Hughes's short play The Sisters' Tragedy was in the West End at the Royal Court Theatre by 1922. He was the author of the world's first radio play, Danger, commissioned from him for the BBC by Nigel Playfair and broadcast on 15 January 1924.
Hughes was employed as a journalist and travelled widely before he married, in 1932, the painter Frances Bazley. They settled for a period in Norfolk and then in 1934 at Castle House, Laugharne in south Wales. Dylan Thomas stayed with Hughes and wrote his book Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog whilst living at Castle House. Hughes was instrumental in Thomas permanently relocating to the area.
He wrote only four novels, the most famous of which is The Innocent Voyage (1929), or A High Wind in Jamaica, as Hughes renamed it shortly after its initial publication. Set in the 19th century, it explores the events which follow the accidental capture of a group of English children by pirates: the children are revealed as considerably more amoral than the pirates (it was in this novel that Hughes first described the cocktail Hangman's Blood). In 1938, he wrote an allegorical novel In Hazard based on the true story of the S.S. Phemius that was caught in the Category 5 1932 Cuba hurricane for 4 days during its peak intensity. He wrote volumes of children's stories, including The Spider's Palace.
During the Second World War, Hughes had a desk job in the Admiralty. He met the architects Jane Drew and Maxwell Fry, and Jane's and Max's children stayed with the Hughes family for much of that time. After the end of the War, he spent ten years writing scripts for Ealing Studios, and published no more novels until 1961. Of the trilogy The Human Predicament, only the first two volumes, The Fox in the Attic (1961) and The Wooden Shepherdess (1973), were complete when he died; twelve chapters, under 50 pages, of the final volume are now published. In these he follows the course of European history from the 1920s through the Second World War, including real characters and events—such as Hitler's escape following the abortive Munich putsch—as well as fictional.
Hughes was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and, in the United States, an honorary member of both the National Institute of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He was awarded the OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) in 1946.
Richard and Frances Hughes had five children: Robert Elyston-Glodrydd (born 1932), Penelope (1934), Lleky Susannah (1936), Catherine Phyllida (1940) and Owain Gardner Collingwood (1943). Catherine married the historian Colin Wells in 1960.
- Richard Perceval Graves: Richard Hughes. A biography. London: A. Deutsch, 1994.
- E-Notes: Richard Hughes Biography. Accessed 25 March 2013
- BBC Wales - Arts - Dylan Thomas' Laugharne. Accessed 25 March 2013
- Frank Swinnerton: "Books: Novel Changes Its Name for British Readers; 'Innocent Voyage' Soon to Be Reprinted," The Chicago Tribune (August 10, 1929), p. 6. "The novel by Richard Hughes, published with so much and such welcome success in the United States under the title of "The Innocent Voyage," is to be issued in England in the autumn. Its title will be 'High Wind in Jamaica.'"
- Hughes manuscripts collected at Indiana University
- Works by Richard Hughes at Project Gutenberg
- Works by or about Richard Hughes at Internet Archive