William Trevor

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

William Trevor

BornWilliam Trevor Cox
(1928-05-24)24 May 1928
Mitchelstown, County Cork, Ireland
Died20 November 2016(2016-11-20) (aged 88)
Crediton, Devon, England
Pen nameWilliam Trevor
OccupationNovelist, short story writer
Notable worksThe Old Boys
The Boarding House
Mrs. Eckdorf in O'Neill's Hotel
The Children of Dynmouth
Fools of Fortune
Two Lives
Felicia's Journey
The Story of Lucy Gault
Love and Summer
The Dressmaker's Child
Notable awardsHawthornden Prize for Literature

Whitbread Prize
1976, 1983, 1994
Jacob's Award
Companion of Literature
David Cohen Prize
Irish PEN Award
Kerry Group Irish Fiction Award

Bob Hughes Lifetime Achievement Award in Irish Literature
Autograph of William Trevor
Autograph of William Trevor

William Trevor Cox KBE (24 May 1928 – 20 November 2016), known by his pen name William Trevor, was an Irish novelist, playwright, and short story writer. One of the elder statesmen of the Irish literary world,[5] he is widely regarded as one of the greatest contemporary writers of short stories in the English language.[6]

Trevor won the Whitbread Prize three times and was nominated five times for the Booker Prize, the last for his novel Love and Summer (2009), which was also shortlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award in 2011. His name was also mentioned in relation to the Nobel Prize in Literature.[7] He won the 2008 International Nonino Prize in Italy. In 2014, Trevor was bestowed Saoi by the Aosdána.[8]

Trevor resided in England from 1954 until his death at the age of 88.[9]


He was born as William Trevor Cox in Mitchelstown, County Cork, Ireland, to a middle-class, Anglo-Irish Protestant (Church of Ireland) family. He moved several times to other provincial towns, including Skibbereen, Tipperary, Youghal and Enniscorthy, as a result of his father's work as a bank official.

He was educated at a succession of schools including St Columba's College, Dublin (where he was taught by Oisín Kelly) and at Trinity College Dublin, from which he received a degree in history. Trevor worked as a sculptor[10] under the name Trevor Cox[11] after he graduated from Trinity College, supplementing his income by teaching. He married Jane Ryan in 1952 and emigrated to England, working as a teacher, a sculptor and then as a copywriter for an advertising agency. During this time he and his wife had their first son.[12] In 1952 he became an art teacher at Bilton Grange, a prep school near Rugby. Trevor was commissioned to carve reliefs for several churches, including All Saints, Braunston, Northamptonshire. In 1956 he moved to Somerset to work as a sculptor[13] and carried out commissions for churches. He stopped wood carving in 1960.

His first novel, A Standard of Behaviour, was published in 1958 (by Hutchinson of London), but received little critical success. He later disowned this work, and, according to his obituary in the Irish Times, "refused to have it republished".[12] It was, in fact, republished in 1982 and in 1989.

In 1964, at the age of 36, Trevor was awarded the Hawthornden Prize for Literature for The Old Boys. This success encouraged Trevor to become a full-time writer.

In 1971, he and his family moved from London to Devon in South West England, first to Dunkeswell, then in 1980 to Shobrooke, where he lived until his death. Despite having spent most of his life in England, he considered himself to be "Irish in every vein".[14]

William Trevor died peacefully in his sleep on 20 November 2016. He was 88 years old.[15][16]

Works and themes[edit]

He wrote several collections of short stories that were well-received. His short stories often follow a Chekhovian pattern. The characters in Trevor's work are typically marginalized members of society: children, the elderly, single middle-aged men and women, or the unhappily married. Those who cannot accept the reality of their lives create their own alternative worlds into which they retreat. A number of the stories use Gothic elements to explore the nature of evil and its connection to madness. Trevor acknowledged the influence of James Joyce on his short-story writing, and "the odour of ashpits and old weeds and offal" can be detected in his work,[citation needed] but the overall impression is not of gloominess, since, particularly in his early work, the author's wry humour offers the reader a tragicomic version of the world. He adapted much of his work for stage, television and radio. In 1990, Fools of Fortune was made into a film directed by Pat O'Connor, followed by a 1999 film adaptation of Felicia's Journey, which was directed by Atom Egoyan.

Trevor set his stories in both England and Ireland; they range from black comedies to tales based on Irish history and politics. A common theme is the tension between Protestant (usually Church of Ireland) landowners and Catholic tenants. His early books are peopled by eccentrics who speak in a pedantically formal manner and engage in hilariously comic activities that are recounted by a detached narrative voice. Instead of one central figure, the novels feature several protagonists of equal importance, drawn together by an institutional setting, which acts as a convergence point for their individual stories. The later novels are thematically and technically more complex. The operation of grace in the world is explored, and several narrative voices are used to view the same events from different angles. Unreliable narrators and different perspectives reflect the fragmentation and uncertainty of modern life. Trevor also explored the decaying institution of the "Big House" in his novels Fools of Fortune and The Story of Lucy Gault.[citation needed]

Awards and honours[edit]

Trevor was a member of the Irish Academy of Letters and Aosdána. He was awarded an honorary CBE in 1977 for "services to literature", and was made a Companion of Literature in 1994.[17] In 2002 he received an honorary KBE in recognition of his services to literature.[18] He won the 2008 International Nonino Prize in Italy.

Trevor was nominated for the Booker Prize five times, making the shortlist in 1970, 1976, 1991 and 2002, and the longlist in 2009.[19] He won the Whitbread Prize three times and the Hawthornden Prize for Literature once.[20]

Since 2002, when non-American authors became eligible to compete for the O. Henry Award, Trevor won the award four times, for his stories Sacred Statues (2002), The Dressmaker's Child (2006), The Room (2007), a juror favourite of that year, and Folie à Deux (2008).

Trevor was shortlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award in 2011.[21]



A monument to William Trevor was unveiled in Trevor's native Mitchelstown on 25 August 2004. It is a bronze sculpture by Liam Lavery and Eithne Ring in the form of a lectern, with an open book incorporating an image of the writer and a quotation, as well as the titles of his three Whitbread Prize-winning works, and two others of significance.[citation needed]

On 23 May 2008, the eve of his 80th birthday, a commemorative plaque, indicating the house on Upper Cork Street, Mitchelstown, where Trevor was born, was unveiled by Louis McRedmond.[citation needed]


Novels and novellas[edit]

Short story collections[edit]

  • The Day We Got Drunk on Cake and Other Stories (Bodley Head, 1967)
  • The Ballroom of Romance and Other Stories (Bodley Head, 1972)
  • The Last Lunch of the Season (Covent Garden Press, 1973)
  • Angels at the Ritz and Other Stories (Bodley Head, 1975)
  • Old School Ties (Lemon Tree Press, 1976)
  • Lovers of their Time (Bodley Head, 1978)
  • The Distant Past (Poolbeg Press, 1979)
  • Beyond the Pale (Bodley Head, 1981)
  • The Stories of William Trevor (Penguin, 1983)
  • The News from Ireland and Other Stories (Bodley Head, 1986)
  • Family Sins and Other Stories (Bodley Head, 1989)
  • Outside Ireland: Selected Stories (Viking, 1992)
  • The Collected Stories (Viking, 1992; Penguin, 1993, 2003)
  • After Rain (Viking, 1996)
  • Cocktails at Doney's (Bloomsbury Classics, 1996)[25]
  • The Hill Bachelors (Viking, 2000) ISBN 978-0141002170
  • A Bit On the Side (Viking, 2004) ISBN 978-0143035916
  • Cheating at Canasta (Viking, 2007) ISBN 978-0670018376
  • Bodily Secrets (Penguin Great Loves, 2007; new selection of stories from earlier collections) ISBN 978-0141033235
  • The Collected Stories (Viking, 2009) ISBN 978-0140232455.
  • Selected Stories (Viking, 2010), listed as "the second volume of his collected stories" ISBN 978-0-670-02206-9.
  • Last Stories (Viking, 2018)

Short fiction[edit]

Title Year First published in Reprinted/collected in Notes
The third party 1986 Trevor, William (14 April 1986). "The third party". The New Yorker. Vol. 62, no. 8. pp. 35–44.
The women 2013 Trevor, William (14 January 2013). "The women". The New Yorker.


  • Out of the Unknown: "Walk's End" (1966)
  • Play for Today: O Fat White Woman (1971,[26] adaptation from short story)
  • The Old Boys (Davis-Poynter, 1971)
  • A Night with Mrs da Tanka (Samuel French, 1972)
  • Going Home (Samuel French, 1972)
  • Marriages (Samuel French, 1973)
  • The Ballroom of Romance (Pat O’Connor, 1982)
  • Going Home (Samuel French, 1972)

Children's books[edit]

  • Juliet's Story (The O'Brien Press, Dublin, 1991)
  • Juliet's Story (Bodley Head, 1992)


  • A Writer's Ireland: Landscape in Literature (Thames & Hudson, 1984)
  • Excursions in the Real World: memoirs (Hutchinson, 1993)

As editor[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Porter, Peter (21 November 2016). "William Trevor obituary". TheGuardian.com.
  2. ^ "William Trevor, eminent Irish author of the darkly humorous, dies at 88". The Washington Post.
  3. ^ "William Trevor obituary: Triple Whitbread Prize-winning Irish novelist, playwright and short story writer". Independent.co.uk. 23 November 2016.
  4. ^ "William Trevor, one of Ireland's great novelists, dies at 88". Los Angeles Times. 21 November 2016.
  5. ^ Flood, Alison (12 April 2011). "Impac prize shortlist dominated by three-strong Irish contingent". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 April 2011.
  6. ^ "It's like gadgets in shops".
  7. ^ "Punters tip Trevor for Nobel honour". Irish Independent. 10 October 2012. Retrieved 10 October 2012.
  8. ^ "William Trevor elected to position of Saoi by Aosdána to honour outstanding achievements". RTÉ News. 29 September 2014. Retrieved 4 December 2016.
  9. ^ The Guardian: William Trevor, watchful master of the short story, dies aged 88
  10. ^ Homan Potterton, 'Suggestions of Concavity: William Trevor as Sculptor', Irish Arts Review, vol 18 (2002), pp.93–103.
  11. ^ Tusa, John (12 June 2005). "BBC Radio 3 - The John Tusa Interviews, William Trevor". The John Tusa Interviews. BBC. Archived from the original on 2 August 2006. Retrieved 20 September 2018.
  12. ^ a b "William Trevor, award-winning writer, dies at the age of 88". The Irish Times.
  13. ^ "William Trevor, Irish writer – obituary". Daily Telegraph. 21 November 2016. Retrieved 29 June 2023.
  14. ^ Adams, Tim (2 August 2009). "William Trevor: the keen-eyed chronicler". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  15. ^ "William Trevor, novelist and short story writer, dies aged 88". BBC News. 21 November 2016.
  16. ^ Cain, Sian (21 November 2016). "Irish writer William Trevor dies aged 88". The Guardian.
  17. ^ "Royal Society of Literature".
  18. ^ Department for Culture, Media and Sport
  19. ^ "William Trevor". Man Booker Prize. Archived from the original on 3 December 2010. Retrieved 4 July 2010.
  20. ^ Pepinster, Catherine (29 September 2002). "William Trevor: The quiet chronicler of the lost and the damned". The Independent. Retrieved 4 July 2010.
  21. ^ Battersby, Eileen (12 April 2011). "William Trevor makes an Impac". The Irish Times. Irish Times Trust. Retrieved 12 April 2011.
  22. ^ Medrano, Juan Díez (24 January 2010). Framing Europe: Attitudes to European Integration in Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Princeton University Press. p. 273. ISBN 9780691146508.
  23. ^ The Man Booker Prize 1970
  24. ^ The Man Booker Prize 1970
  25. ^ http://www.borders.co.uk/book/cocktails-at-doneys-bloomsbury-classic-s/437707/[permanent dead link]
  26. ^ Play for Today: O Fat White Woman, BFI Film and TV Database


  • Mary Fitzgerald-Hoyt (2003). William Trevor: re-imagining Ireland. Liffey Press. ISBN 978-1-904148-06-7.
  • Dolores MacKenna (1999). William Trevor: the writer and his work. New Island Books. ISBN 978-1-874597-74-2.
  • McAlindon, Tom (2003). "Tragedy, history, and myth: William Trevor's Fools of Fortune". Irish University Review: A Journal of Irish Studies.
  • Stephanie McBride; Irish Film Institute (2006). Felicia's Journey. Cork University Press. ISBN 978-1-85918-399-1.
  • Kristin Morrison (1993). William Trevor. Twayne Publishers. ISBN 978-0-8057-7032-2.
  • Hugh Ormsby-Lennon (2005). Fools of fiction: reading William Trevor's stories. Maunsel & Co. ISBN 978-1-930901-21-6.
  • Gregory A. Schirmer (1990). William Trevor: Study of His Fiction. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-04493-6.

External links[edit]