Thomas Hinde Biography
Thomas Hinde comments:
Pseudonym for Sir Thomas Willes Chitty, Baronet. Nationality: British. Born: Thomas Willes Chitty in Felixstowe, Suffolk, 1926; succeeded to the baronetcy, 1955. Education: Winchester School, Hampshire; University College, Oxford. Military Service: Served in the Royal Navy, 1944-47. Career: Worked for Inland Revenue, London, 1951-53; staff member, Shell Petroleum Company, in England, 1953-58, and in Nairobi, Kenya, 1958-60. Granada Arts Fellow, University of York, 1964-65; visiting lecturer, University of Illinois, Urbana, 1965-67; visiting professor, Boston University, 1969-70. Fellow, Royal Society of Literature.
Mr. Nicholas. London, MacGibbon and Kee, 1952; New York, FarrarStraus, 1953.
Happy as Larry. London, MacGibbon and Kee, 1957; New York, Criterion, 1958.
For the Good of the Company. London, Hutchinson, 1961.
A Place Like Home. London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1962.
The Cage. London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1962.
Ninety Double Martinis. London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1963.
The Day the Call Came. London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1964; NewYork, Vanguard Press, 1965.
Games of Chance: The Interviewer, The Investigator. London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1965; New York, Vanguard Press, 1967.
The Village. London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1966.
High. London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1968; New York, Walker, 1969.
Bird. London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1970.
Generally a Virgin. London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1972.
Agent. London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1974.
Our Father. London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1975; New York, Braziller, 1976.
Daymare. London, Macmillan, 1980.
Do Next to Nothing: A Guide to Survival Today, with Susan Chitty. London, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1976.
The Great Donkey Walk, with Susan Chitty. London, Hodder andStoughton, 1977.
The Cottage Book: A Manual of Maintenance, Repair, and Construction. London, Davis, 1979.
Sir Henry and Sons: A Memoir. London, Macmillan, 1980.
A Field Guide to the English Country Parson. London, Heinemann, 1983.
Stately Gardens of Britain, photographs by Dmitri Kasterine. London, Ebury Press, and New York, Norton, 1983.
Forests of Britain. London, Gollancz, 1985.
Just Chicken, with Cordelia Chitty. Woodbury, New York, Barron's, 1985; London, Bantam Press, 1986.
Capability Brown: The Story of a Master Gardener. London, Hutchinson, 1986; New York, Norton, 1987.
Courtiers: 900 Years of English Court Life. London, Gollancz, 1986.
Tales from the Pump Room: Nine Hundred Years of Bath: The Place, Its People, and Its Gossip. London, Gollancz, 1988.
Imps of Promise: A History of the King's School, Canterbury. London, James and James, 1990.
Paths of Progress: A History of Marlborough College. London, James and James, 1992.
Highgate School: A History. London, James and James, 1993.
Editor, Spain: A Personal Anthology. London, Newnes, 1963.
Editor, The Domesday Book: England's Heritage, Then and Now. London, Hutchinson, and New York, Crown, 1985.
Editor, Looking-Glass Letters, by Lewis Carroll. New York, Rizzoli, 1992.
University of Texas, Austin.
In New York Herald Tribune, 24 May 1953; The Angry Decade by Kenneth Allsop, London, Owen, 1958; Times Literary Supplement (London), 26 May 1961, 27 October 1966, 7 November 1968, 11 September 1970; Observer (London), 7 June 1964; New York Times, 9 August 1967; Books and Bookmen (London), September 1974.
I write novels because I like novels and I like trying to make my own. These aim to be—but unfortunately hardly ever succeed in being—the novels I will like best of all. Just as my taste in novels changes, so the sort of novel I try to write changes. I also believe in the importance of the novel—one of the few places where individual art as opposed to script-conference art can still flourish. I believe that it can and will change and develop, however fully explored it seems at present. I believe that people will go on wanting to read novels. But however much I am convinced by these logical arguments of the vitality, value, and survival of the form, the real reason why I go on writing novels remains personal: despite its anxiety and difficulties, I like the process, and, despite disappointments, I am still excited by the results which I aim for.
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When in 1957, American popular journalism first discovered the "Angry Young Men," Thomas Hinde was listed, in articles in Time and Life, along with Kingsley Amis, John Wain, and John Braine, as one of the principal progenitors of the "Movement." Happy as Larry, Hinde's second novel, had just been published and the novel's protagonist was a rather feckless young man who lost menial jobs, was vaguely trying to write, and irresponsibly drifted away from his wife. Yet the designation of "Angry Young Men," over-generalized and inappropriate as it was for all the writers to whom it was applied, was particularly inappropriate for Hinde. Far from "angry" or defiantly rebellious, Hinde's protagonist wanders about apologetically, full of guilt, trying to help a friend recover a lost photograph that might be used for blackmail. His indecision, inhibitions, and constant self-punishment characterize him far more consistently than do any articulate attitudes toward society. In addition, Hinde's point of view in the novel is far from an unqualified endorsement of his protagonist's actions and attitudes. The ending, like the endings of most of Hinde's novels, is left open, without any definitive or summarizable statement. And the kind of judgment frequently assumed in popular accounts of novelists, the clarion call for a new way of life or the castigation of depraved contemporary morality, is entirely absent.
At the same time, however, in other terms, Happy as Larry is a novel of the 1950s. The protagonist's wandering, his lack of certainty, his allegiance only to close personal friends, his inhibitions and apologies, his insistence on self as a starting point for value, are all characteristic of much of the serious fiction of the decade. London, too, shrouded in rain, and gloom, spotted with crowded pubs that provide the only refuge, is also made the grim postwar city. In addition, Hinde uses a frequent symbol in fiction, the photograph, as central to the plot of his novel. In a world in which identity was regarded as shifting, unreliable, unknowable, only the photograph, the fixed and permanent image, could give identity any meaning, although that meaning, far more often than not, was itself a distortion, an over-simplification, occasion for blackmail. In fact, Hinde's novels most characteristically begin with categories definable in terms of other novels and novelists, with genres to which the reader is accustomed.
His first novel, Mr. Nicholas, chronicles the struggles of a young Oxonian, home on holidays, to define himself against his domineering and insensitive father. Another novel, For the Good of the Company, deals with the struggles for definition and power within the business combine, the complex organization that seemed a microcosm to depict human efforts to maintain a sense of rational control. The Cage and A Place Like Home are Hinde's African novels, The Cage a particularly sensitive and effective treatment of a young British colonial girl in Kenya attempting to retain her ties to the world of her parents while simultaneously understanding sympathetically the emerging black society. The Village establishes, without sentimentality or nostalgia, the world of the small English village about to be leveled by bulldozers and flooded for a new reservoir. High is Hinde's American visit novel, an account of the 40-year-old British writer teaching at an American university, including the familiar device of a novelist character writing a novel which is itself partly reproduced within the novel. In other words, the themes, techniques, concerns, and atmosphere of Hinde's novels are all familiar, all representative of their time and place—the heroine of The Cage often sounds like a more restrained Doris Lessing heroine, the protagonist of High is well established in a lineage that stretches back to Eric Linklater—yet Hinde is also an individual novelist of great skill with an individual sense of texture and intelligence.
Hinde is frequently at his best in describing the sensitivities of his young characters—their introspections, their naivety, their commitments to attitudes and to people they cannot entirely understand. The heroine of The Cage, unable to untangle the racial antagonisms she does not entirely understand, thinks her young colonial boyfriend will kill the black man he thinks she's been sleeping with, over-dramatizing a conflict she cannot solve. The young budding capitalist in For the Good of the Company makes love to the boss's daughter but cannot really fathom all the perplexities of her emotions. He is loyal to the enigma he has partially observed and partially constructed, always wondering how much he has made up himself. A similarly intelligent sensitivity characterizes the love affair in The Village between the harassed local doctor and the opportunistic young stockbroker's wife, an affair in which love is created out of mutual desperation. Hinde's sensitivity is applied not only to personal relationships, but to exterior atmospheres as well. Each novel contains many descriptions of weather, rich and subtle evocations of different climates and seasons—equally acute whether England, America or Africa—that are shaped carefully to suit the emotions or the problems of the characters. Weather is both the material for physical description and a principal means of controlling the atmosphere of the novel.
Hinde's novels are also full of action, concerned with plot. Yet the plots never reach definitive conclusions, never entirely resolve the issues they present. The protagonist of Happy as Larry finally finds the photograph, but may or may not become a solid citizen and create a home for his faithful wife. The young capitalist in For the Good of the Company is enmeshed in the system and, at the end, like his boss, is about to live his past over again. But whether or not he will be any wiser is an open question. The Village ends with the feeling that the old English village is probably doomed, as much from its own hypocrisies and inadequacies as from an insensitive "urban bureaucracy," but the fight to save the village is not completely finished. Hinde's novels are, in a way, slices of recognizable contemporary life, a life in which people live and react, in which things happen although those things are not irremediably conclusive, and in which judgment is superficial or irrelevant. And these slices, communicated with a rich sense of personal and historical atmosphere, are never distorted by conversion into an object lesson or part of a message. In fact, Hinde, as author, keeps his distance. He can use familiar themes effectively because he treats them from a distance, stands far enough away to demonstrate a compassionate irony or an intelligent sympathy with his fictional world, a world effectively communicated because, like our larger world, it is one not easily reduced to understandable principles or judgments.