William Golding

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

William Golding

Golding in 1983
Golding in 1983
BornWilliam Gerald Golding
(1911-09-19)19 September 1911
Newquay, Cornwall,
Died19 June 1993(1993-06-19) (aged 81)
Perranarworthal, Cornwall, England
OccupationSchoolteacher • Novelist • Playwright • Poet
Alma materOxford University
GenreSurvivalist fictionRobinsonade • Adventure • Sea story • Science fiction • EssayHistorical fiction • Stageplay • Poetry
Notable worksLord of the Flies, Rites of Passage
Notable awards1983 Nobel Prize in Literature
1980 Booker Prize


Sir William Gerald Golding, CBE FRSL (19 September 1911 – 19 June 1993) was a British novelist, playwright, and poet. Best known for his debut novel Lord of the Flies (1954), he would go on to publish another eleven novels in his lifetime. In 1980, he was awarded the Booker Prize for Rites of Passage, the first novel in what became his sea trilogy, To the Ends of the Earth. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1983.

As a result of his contributions to literature, Golding was knighted in 1988.[1][2] He was a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.[1] In 2008, The Times ranked Golding third on their list of "The 50 greatest British writers since 1945".[3]


Early life[edit]

William Golding was born in his maternal grandmother's house, 47 Mount Wise, Newquay,[4] Cornwall.[5] The house was known as Karenza, the Cornish language word for love, and he spent many childhood holidays there.[6] He grew up in Marlborough, Wiltshire, where his father (Alec Golding) was a science master at Marlborough Grammar School (1905 to retirement), the school the young Golding and his elder brother Joseph attended.[7] His mother, Mildred (Curnoe),[8] kept house at 29, The Green, Marlborough, and was a campaigner for female suffrage. Golding's mother, who was Cornish and whom he considered "a superstitious celt", used to tell him old Cornish fairy tales from her own childhood.[9] In 1930 Golding went to Brasenose College, Oxford, where he read Natural Sciences for two years before transferring to English Literature.[10] His original tutor was the chemist Thomas Taylor.[11] In a private journal and in a memoir for his wife, Golding recounted his attempted rape of a 15-year-old girl when he was 18 and on his first holiday from Oxford.[12]

Golding took his B.A. degree with Second Class Honours in the summer of 1934, and later that year a book of his Poems was published by Macmillan & Co, with the help of his Oxford friend, the anthroposophist Adam Bittleston.

He was a schoolmaster teaching English and music at Maidstone Grammar School 1938 - 1940 and then teaching Philosophy and English in 1939, then just English from 1945 to 1962 at Bishop Wordsworth's School, Salisbury, Wiltshire.

John Carey, the emeritus professor of English literature at Oxford university, was given access to a personal journal kept by Golding in order to write his biography, in which Golding describes trying to set up his students against each other during his teaching years, which gave him inspiration for his first novel.[13]

Marriage and family[edit]

Golding married Ann Brookfield, an analytical chemist,[14](p161) on 30 September 1939. They had two children, David (born 1940) and Judith (born July, 1945).[5]

War service[edit]

During World War II, Golding joined the Royal Navy in 1940.[15] He served in a destroyer which was briefly involved in the pursuit and sinking of the German battleship Bismarck. He also participated in the invasion of Normandy on D-Day, commanding a landing ship that fired salvoes of rockets onto the beaches, and was in action at Walcheren in which 23 out of 24 assault craft were sunk.[16]


In 1985, Golding and his wife moved to Tullimaar House at Perranarworthal, near Truro, Cornwall. He died of heart failure eight years later on 19 June 1993. His body was buried in the parish churchyard of Bowerchalke, Wiltshire (near the Hampshire and Dorset county border).

On his death he left the draft of a novel, The Double Tongue, set in ancient Delphi, which was published posthumously in 1995.[2][17]


Writing success[edit]

Golding, Artur Lundkvist and Jean-Paul Sartre at a writers' congress in Leningrad, USSR, 1963.

Whilst still a teacher at Bishop Wordsworth's School in Salisbury, Golding began writing a manuscript for a novel initially titled Strangers from Within in 1951.[18] In September 1953, after rejections from seven other publishers, Golding sent a manuscript to Faber & Faber and was initially rejected by their reader, Jan Perkins, who labelled it as "Rubbish & dull. Pointless".[19] His book, however, was championed by Charles Monteith, a new editor at the firm. Monteith asked for some changes to the text and the novel was published in September 1954 as Lord of the Flies.

After moving in 1958 from Salisbury to nearby Bowerchalke, he met his fellow villager and walking companion James Lovelock. The two discussed Lovelock's hypothesis, that the living matter of the planet Earth functions like a single organism, and Golding suggested naming this hypothesis after Gaia, the Titan of the earth in Greek mythology.[20] His publishing success made it possible for Golding to resign his teaching post at Bishop Wordsworth's School in 1961, and he spent that academic year in the United States as writer-in-residence at Hollins College, near Roanoke, Virginia.

Golding won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Darkness Visible in 1979, and the Booker Prize for Rites of Passage in 1980. In 1983 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, and was according to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography "an unexpected and even contentious choice".[5]

In 1988 Golding was appointed a Knight Bachelor.[21] In September 1993, only a few months after his sudden death, the First International William Golding Conference was held in France, where Golding's presence had been promised and was eagerly expected.[22]

Despite his success, Golding "was abnormally thin-skinned when it came to criticism of his work. He simply could not read even the mildest reservation and on occasion left the country when his books were published."[23]


His first novel, Lord of the Flies (1954; film, 1963 and 1990; play, adapted by Nigel Williams, 1995), describes a group of boys stranded on a tropical island reverting to savagery. The Inheritors (1955) shows "new people" (generally identified with Homo sapiens sapiens), triumphing over a gentler race (generally identified with Neanderthals) by deceit and violence. His 1956 novel Pincher Martin records the thoughts of a drowning sailor. Free Fall (1959) explores the issue of free choice as a prisoner held in solitary confinement in a German POW camp during World War Two looks back over his life. The Spire (1964) follows the building (and near collapse) of a huge spire onto a medieval cathedral (generally assumed to be Salisbury Cathedral); the spire symbolizing both spiritual aspiration and worldly vanity.

In his 1967 novel The Pyramid three separate stories in a shared setting (a small English town in the 1920s) are linked by a narrator, and The Scorpion God (1971) consists of three novellas, the first set in a prehistoric African hunter-gatherer band ('Clonk, Clonk'), the second in an ancient Egyptian court ('The Scorpion God') and the third in the court of a Roman emperor ('Envoy Extraordinary'). The last of these reworks his 1958 play The Brass Butterfly. His later novels include Darkness Visible (1979), which is about a terrorist group, a paedophile teacher, and a mysterious angel-like figure who survives a fire in the Blitz, The Paper Men (1984) which is about the conflict between a writer and his biographer, and a sea trilogy To the Ends of the Earth, which includes Rites of Passage (1980), Close Quarters (1987), and Fire Down Below (1989), the first book of which (originally intended as a stand-alone novel) won the Booker Prize.

The novel Lord of the Flies is arguably Golding's most famous book, being read by school children around the world today. It is widely seen by many people as a reflection of how William Golding saw the world after his service in the war. He saw the world and the humans within it as inherently evil, regardless of their age or other factors.

List of works[edit]



  • The Brass Butterfly (1958)



Unpublished works[edit]

  • Seahorse was written in 1948. It is a biographical account of sailing on the south coast of England whilst in training for D-Day.[25]
  • Circle Under the Sea is an adventure novel about a writer who sails to discover archaeological treasures off the coast of the Scilly Isles.[26]
  • Short Measure is a novel set in a British boarding school.[27]


  • 2005: Lord of the Flies (read by the author), Listening Library, ISBN 978-0307281708


  1. ^ a b William Golding: Awards. William Golding.co.uk. Retrieved 17 June 2012
  2. ^ a b Bruce Lambert (20 June 1993). "William Golding Is Dead at 81; The Author of 'Lord of the Flies'". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 September 2007.
  3. ^ The 50 greatest British writers since 1945. The Times (5 January 2008). Retrieved on 1 February 2010.
  4. ^ "General Logon Page". Ic.galegroup.com. Retrieved 31 January 2013.
  5. ^ a b c Kevin McCarron, ‘Golding, Sir William Gerald (1911–1993)’, accessed 13 November 2007
  6. ^ Carey, Childhood.
  7. ^ (Which should not be confused with Marlborough College, the nearby "public" boarding school).
  8. ^ Raychel Haugrud Reiff, William Golding: Lord of the Flies, Marshall Cavendish, 2009
  9. ^ Carey, The House.
  10. ^ Carey, pp. 41, 49
  11. ^ Carey, p. 15
  12. ^ Wainwright, Martin (16 August 2009). "Author William Golding tried to rape teenager, private papers show". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 20 December 2019.
  13. ^ Wainwright, Martin (16 August 2009). "Author William Golding tried to rape teenager, private papers show". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 20 December 2019.
  14. ^ Harold Bloom (2008). William Golding's Lord of the Flies; Bloom's modern critical interpretations. Infobase Publishing. pp. 161–165. ISBN 978-0-7910-9826-4.
  15. ^ Raychel Haugrud Reiff, William Golding: Lord of the Flies, page 58 (Marshall Cavendish, 2010). ISBN 978-0-7614-4276-9
  16. ^ Mortimer, John (1986). Character Parts. London: Penguin. ISBN 0-14-008959-4.
  17. ^ Golding, William (1996). The Double Tongue. London: Faber. ISBN 978-0-571-17803-2.
  18. ^ Williams, Phoebe. “New BBC programme sheds light on the story behind the publication of Lord of the Flies.” faber, Faber & Faber, 6/6/19, https://www.faber.co.uk/blog/new-bbc-programme-sheds-light-on-the-story-behind-the-publication-of-lord-of-the-flies/. Accessed 16/4/20.
  19. ^ Sunday Feature, 18:45 02/06/2019, BBC Radio 3, 45 mins. https://learningonscreen.ac.uk/ondemand/index.php/prog/13750939?bcast=129246943 (Accessed 16 Apr 2020)
  20. ^ James Lovelock, ‘What is Gaia?’, accessed 16 May 2013
  21. ^ "No. 51558". The London Gazette. 13 December 1988. p. 13986.
  22. ^ F. Regard (ed.), Fingering Netsukes: Selected Papers from the First International William Golding Conference, Saint-Etienne, PUSE, 1995.
  23. ^ "Man as an Island". The New York Times.
  24. ^ The Double Tongue 1996 Faber reprint ISBN 978-0-571-17720-2
  25. ^ Carey, p. 130
  26. ^ Carey, p. 137
  27. ^ Carey, p. 142


Further reading[edit]

  • L. L. Dickson, The Modern Allegories of William Golding (University of South Florida Press, 1990). ISBN 0-8130-0971-5.
  • R. A. Gekoski and P. A. Grogan, William Golding: A Bibliography, London, André Deutsch, 1994. ISBN 978-0-233-98611-1.
  • "Boys Armed with Sticks: William Golding's Lord of the Flies". Chapter in B. Schoene-Harwood. Writing Men. Edinburgh University Press, 2000.
  • Ladenthin, Volker: Golding, Herr der Fliegen; Verne, 2 Jahre Ferien; Schlüter, Level 4 - Stadt der Kinder. In: engagement (1998) H. 4 S. 271-274.

External links[edit]