Batchelor, John 1942-

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Batchelor, John 1942-


Born March 15, 1942, in Farnborough, England; son of Aubrey and Hilary Batchelor; married Henrietta Jane Letts; children: William, Clarissa, Leo. Education: Magdalene College, Cambridge, B.A., 1964; University of New Brunswick, M.A., 1965; Cambridge University, Ph.D., 1968.


Office—School of English, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 7RU, England. Agent—Felicity Bryan, 2A N. Parade, Oxford, England.


University of Birmingham, Birmingham, England, lecturer in English, 1968-76; Oxford University, Oxford, England, tutor and lecturer in English, fellow of New College, 1976-90, senior tutor, 1985-87; Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, England, Joseph Cowen Professor of English, 1990-2007, department head, 1992-94, currently Emeritus Professor of English and senior research investigator.


English Association (fellow).


Breathless Hush (novel), Duckworth, 1974.

Mervyn Peake: A Biographical and Critical Exploration, Duckworth (London, England), 1974.

The Edwardian Novelists, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1982.

(Editor and author of introduction) Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim: A Tale, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1983, published with introduction and notes by Batchelor, 2000

H.G. Wells, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1985.

(Editor) Joseph Conrad, Victory: An Island Tale, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1986.

Lord Jim, Unwin Hyman (Boston, MA), 1988.

Virginia Woolf: The Major Novels, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1991.

The Life of Joseph Conrad: A Critical Biography, Blackwell (Cambridge, MA), 1994.

(Editor) The Art of Literary Biography, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1995.

(Editor, with Tom Cain and Claire Lamont) Shakespearean Continuities: Essays in Honour of E.A.J. Honigman, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1997.

John Ruskin: A Life, Carol & Graf (New York, NY), 2000, published as John Ruskin: No Wealth but Life, Chatto & Windus (London, England), 2000.

Lady Trevelyan and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Chatto & Windus (London, England), 2006.

General editor, "World's Classics Edition of the Works of Joseph Conrad," 1982-2001. Contributor to periodicals. Editor for English and American literature, Modern Language Review and Yearbook of English Studies, 2003—.


John Batchelor edited The Art of Literary Biography, a volume that New Statesman & Society contributor Kathryn Hughes described as an "excellent book of essays [in which] 17 important biographers wrestle with their own practice." "While some [of the essays] concern themselves with the outer reaches of critical theory, others, written by non-academics … are rooted in a more pragmatic language. It is the fact that biography shares two ‘homes’—the academy and the commercial market—that makes it such a fruitful area for further scrutiny," wrote Hughes, concluding: "The Art of Literary Biography points the way."

Batchelor also wrote the biography John Ruskin: A Life. Ruskin, a noted nineteenth-century art critic in his time, was influential well beyond the art world. His writings, which were once collected in thirty-nine volumes, address a variety of topics including science, politics, and economics. Gandhi, Proust, Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, and Charlotte Brontë are just some of the notable people who have acknowledged the effect that Ruskin's words had on them. Writing in the Times Literary Supplement, Clive Wilmer recognized Ruskin as a man "of a rare greatness that is visionary, prophetic and transformative." "Yet," continued Wilmer, "for most of the hundred years since Ruskin's death, his name has effectively been forgotten."

London Sunday Times contributor John Carey acknowledged that great controversy surrounded some of Ruskin's thoughts—for example, he opposed democracy and once wished for the return of slavery. Ruskin also had a number of traits and behaviors unpalatable to many people: he was infatuated with pre-adolescent females, "had an infantile side," and, noted Carey, "spells of insanity, often grotesque and violent, clouded the last 20 years of his life." Ruskin did not have to work for a living; his parents supported him throughout his life. "[Batchelor] blames Ruskin's parents for his emotional maladjustment, the failure of his marriage, and his eventual insanity," related Wilmer. "Their devout expectations, [Batchelor] argues, stunted him." "Whatever his limitations and absurdities, it is impossible to read two pages of Ruskin without—literally or metaphorically—seeing something one had not noticed before," observed Wilmer, who also commented that "with the decline of social democracy … and the increasing removal of ordinary life from nature—there is every sign that Ruskin is returning."

Wilmer added: "There have been many biographies of Ruskin. The obvious fascinations of his rich but tragic life have made for several unusually good accounts. John Ruskin: A Life by John Batchelor is a book of this kind: a concise, intelligent, readable depiction of his character, life and intellectual growth." Carey similarly assessed John Ruskin, calling it a "crisp, skeptical book" geared less to scholars than to "ordinary readers … [looking] for a reasoned critique of [Ruskin's] political and religious views—and their bewildering fluctuations."

Batchelor once told CA: "My study of Edwardian literature centers on Conrad, Ford Madox Ford, Wells, Bennett, Galsworthy, and Forster. My short publications include articles on Virginia Woolf and, in the Edwardian period, on Chesterton, Arthur Machen, and Beerbohm."

Batchelor later added: "Since then I have published biographies of Joseph Conrad, John Ruskin, and Lady Trevelyan, as well as monographs on Wells and Woolf, and edited works on biography and Shakespeare.

"I have become increasingly committed to literary biography as a form, partly because interest in ‘lives’ drives all general readers (of novels as well as biography and history), and partly because such biographies are half in the academy and half in the marketplace. I love archive research. With Pauline Trevelyan (John Ruskin's closest woman friend) my greatest pleasure was handling and reading her manuscript diary (forty-four volumes, 1828-1866) in the Kenneth Spencer Research Library at the University of Kansas. My object in writing about her was to bring into view a brilliant, unknown friend and patron of the greatest artists and writers of the high Victorian period. Another project is a new biography of Tennyson, stressing his intellectual range and complexity, as well as the sheer beauty of his poetry."



New Statesman & Society, February 24, 1995, Kathryn Hughes, review of The Art of Literary Biography, p. 56.

Sunday Times (London, England), February 27, 2000, John Carey, "The Master of Scorn," pp. 40-41.

Times Literary Supplement, April 7, 2000, Clive Wilmer, "Go to Nature: The Vision, Politics, Art, and Religion of John Ruskin," pp. 3-4.