The Fox in the Attic

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The Fox in the Attic
First UK edition
AuthorRichard Hughes
SeriesHuman Predicament trilogy
GenreHistorical fiction
PublisherChatto & Windus (UK)
Harper & Brothers (US)
Publication date
Followed byThe Wooden Shepherdess 

The Fox in the Attic is a 1961 novel by Richard Hughes, who is best known for A High Wind in Jamaica. It was the first novel in his unfinished The Human Predicament trilogy.[1]

Plot summary[edit]

The novel opens in 1923. The protagonist, a young Welsh aristocrat named Augustine Penry-Herbert, discovers the body of a young girl and is incorrectly suspected of having something to do with her accidental death. Augustine decides to leave England and visit distant relations in Germany. He falls in love with his cousin Mitzi amidst the rise of Nazism, including the Munich Putsch. At the end of the novel, Mitzi, who has lost her sight, enters a convent and Augustine returns to England.


Richard Hughes was cadet in training when the 1918 armistice was signed and spent World War II as an Admiralty bureaucrat; it was this experience that caused him to write The Human Predicament.[2] In order to adequately mix his fictional characters with historical figures, Hughes relied on firsthand accounts and family papers from German relatives and friends, including distant relation Baroness Pia von Aretin (whom he acknowledges in the 1961 US edition of the novel) and Helene Hanfstaengl, who had been a friend of Hitler’s in the early 1920s.[2][3][4] Hughes also gives an explanation for his unconventional description of the Munich Putsch saying that his narrative "is based on a vivid contemporary account by an actual Nazi participant, a Major Goetz. This account was contained in a letter to a friend dated 26th November, 1923, which some weeks later found its way into the German press."[3]

Publication History[edit]

The Fox in the Attic was originally published in 1961 by Chatto & Windus: London as v. 1 of The Human Predicament trilogy, and then in the United States by Harper & Brothers: New York.[1][3] This was 23 years after Hughes's previous novel, In Hazard: A Sea Story, and 33 years after A High Wind in Jamaica, which was a best seller in the United Kingdom and America.[5] It was published the following year in Sweden (Stockholm: Norstedt) as Räven på vinden.

The second novel in The Human Predicament trilogy, The Wooden Shepherdess, was published in 1973 by Chatto & Windus: London; it carries on the story to 1934 and the Night of the Long Knives.[6] The third and final novel was left unfinished, but the completed twelve chapters were included in the 2000 New York Review of Books edition of The Wooden Shepherdess.[2]


The Fox in the Attic was featured in the 2 February 1962 Life Guide section of Life Magazine.[7] In this short blurb, Life introduced Hughes's attempt to write The Human Predicament trilogy, calling it a "vast, Tolstoyan novel sequence" while also saying of the first volume, "Hughes effectively interweaves the life of his hero...with the fortunes of top Nazidom."[7]


  1. ^ a b Hughes, Richard (2000). The Fox in the Attic. New York, NY: New York Review of Books. ISBN 0940322293.
  2. ^ a b c Mantel, Hilary (2000). Introduction to The Wooden Shepherdess. New York, NY: New York Review of Books. ISBN 0-940322-30-7.
  3. ^ a b c Hughes, Richard (1961). The Fox in the Attic. New York, NY: Harper and Brothers. p. 353.
  4. ^ Holmqvist, Ivo (2000). From Putsch to Purge. A Study of the German Episodes in Richard Hughes's The Human Predicament and their Sources. Lund, Sweden: Department of English, Lund University.
  5. ^ "A High Wind in Jamaica". New York Review Books. Retrieved 15 November 2012.
  6. ^ Hughes, Richard (2000). The Wooden Shepherdess. New York, NY: New York Review of Books. ISBN 0-940322-30-7.
  7. ^ a b "Life Guide". Life. 2 February 1962. Retrieved 15 November 2012.