Thwaite, Ann (Barbara Harrop) 1932-
THWAITE, Ann (Barbara Harrop) 1932-
PERSONAL: Born October 4, 1932, in London, England; daughter of Angus John (a journalist and historian) and Hilda (Valentine) Harrop; married Anthony Thwaite (a writer), August 4, 1955; children: Emily, Caroline, Lucy, Alice. Education: St. Hilda's College, Oxford University, B.A. (with honors), 1955, M.A., 1959. Religion: Church of England.
ADDRESSES: Home—The Mill House, Low Tharston, Norfolk NR15 2YN, England. Agent—Camilla Hornby, Curtis Brown, 28-29 Haymarket, London SW1Y 4SP, England.
CAREER: Children's writer, biographer, and educator. Tokyo Joshi Daigaku (women's university), Tokyo, Japan, part-time lecturer in English literature, 1956–57, visiting professor, 1985–86, 2005; Cricket, contributing editor, 1974–77; Helen Stubbs Memorial Lecturer, Toronto Public Library, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 1990; Ezra Jack Keats Memorial Lecturer, University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, 1992; Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY, Fox-Adler Lecturer, 2004. Governor at St. Mary's Middle School, Long Stratton, Norfolk, Great Britain, 1990–2002, and Hapton VC Primary School, Norfolk, Great Britain, 1995–.
MEMBER: Royal Society of Literature (fellow, 1987), Society of Authors, Royal Over-Seas League, Children's Books History Society, PEN.
AWARDS, HONORS: Duff Cooper Memorial Prize for nonfiction, 1986, for Edmund Gosse: A Literary Landscape, 1849–1928; Whitbread Biography of the Year Award, 1990, for A. A. Milne: His Life; Churchill Travelling Fellowship, 1993; Gladys Krieble Delmas Fellowship, British Library, 1998–99; D.Litt., St. Hilda's College, Oxford, 1998; honorary fellow of the University of Surrey, 2001.
The Young Traveller in Japan, Phoenix House (London, England), 1958.
The House in Turner Square, illustrated by Robin Jacques, Constable (London, England), 1960, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1961.
Toby Stays with Jane, illustrated by Janet Martin, Constable (London, England), 1962.
A Seaside Holiday for Jane and Toby, illustrated by Janet Martin, Constable (London, England), 1962.
Toby Moves House, illustrated by Janet Martin, Constable (London, England), 1965.
Jane and Toby Start School, illustrated by Janet Martin, Constable (London, England), 1965.
Home and Away, illustrated by Shirley Hughes, Brockhampton (Leicester, England), 1967, published as The Holiday Map, Follett (Chicago, IL), 1969.
The Travelling Tooth, illustrated by George Thompson, Brockhampton (Leicester, England), 1968.
(Editor) Allsorts, 1-5, Macmillan (London, England), 1968–1972.
The Camelthorn Papers, Macmillan (London, England), 1969.
The Day with the Duke, illustrated by George Him, World (New York, NY), 1969.
The Only Treasure, illustrated by Glenys Ambrus, Brockhampton (Leicester, England), 1970.
(Editor) Allsorts, 6-7, Methuen (London, England), 1974–1975.
The Poor Pigeon, illustrated by Glenys Ambrus, Brockhampton (Leicester, England), 1974, Children's Press (Chicago, IL), 1976.
Rose in the River, illustrated by John Dyke, Brockhampton (Leicester, England), 1974, Children's Press (Chicago, IL), 1976.
Horrible Boy, illustrated by Glenys Ambrus, Brockhampton (Leicester, England), 1975, Children's Press (Chicago, IL), 1976.
The Chatterbox, illustrated by Glenys Ambrus, Deutsch (London, England), 1978.
Tracks, illustrated by Gavin Rowe, Methuen (London, England), 1978.
A Piece of Parkin: A True Story from the Autobiography of Frances Hodgson Burnett, illustrated by Glenys Ambrus, Deutsch (London, England), 1980.
My Hat, illustrated by Anna Hancock, Macmillan (London, England), 1983.
Pennies for the Dog, illustrated by Margery Gill, Deutsch (London, England), 1985.
Gilbert and the Birthday Cake, illustrated by Jack Harvey, Hutchinson, 1986.
Amy and the Night-Time Visit, illustrated by J. C. Skinner, Deutsch (London, England), 1987.
The Ashton Affair, Scholastic (London, England), 1995.
The Horse at Hilly Fields, illustrated by Elaine Mills, Scholastic (London, England), 1995.
Waiting for the Party: The Life of Frances Hodgson Burnett, 1849–1924, Secker & Warburg (London, England), 1974, Scribner (New York, NY), 1974, reprinted Faber & Faber (London, England), 1994.
(Editor) My Oxford (bound with My Cambridge, edited by Ronald Hayman), Taplinger (New York, NY), 1977, published as My Oxford, My Cambridge: Memories of University Life by Twenty-four Distinguished Graduates, introduction by Thwaite and Hayman, 1979, revised edition published as My Oxford, introduction by Thwaite, Robson Books (London, England), 1986.
Edmund Gosse: A Literary Landscape, 1849–1928, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1984.
A. A. Milne: The Man behind Winnie-the-Pooh, Random House (New York, NY), 1990, published in England as A. A. Milne: His Life, Faber & Faber (London, England), 1990.
(Editor and author of introduction) Edmund Gosse, Portraits from Life, Gower (Brookfield, VT), 1991.
The Brilliant Career of Winnie-the-Pooh, Methuen (London, England), 1992, Dutton Children's Books (New York, NY) 1994.
Emily Tennyson: The Poet's Wife, Faber & Faber (London, England), 1996.
Glimpses of the Wonderful: The Life of Philip Henry Gosse, Faber and Faber (London, England), 2002.
Also compiler of Frances Hodgson Burnett: Exhibition Guide, [London], 1974. Regular book reviewer for the Times Literary Supplement, 1963–85, and for other periodicals. Contributor of essays to various works including The Troubled Face of Biography (edited by Homberger and Charmley), Macmillan (London, England), 1988; A Passion for Books (edited by Dale Salwak), Macmillan (London, England), 1999; and Living with a Writer (edited by Dale Salwak), Macmillan (London, England), 2004.
WORK IN PROGRESS: An autobiography tentatively titled Changing Sidesy.
SIDELIGHTS: Ann Thwaite is both an author and anthologizer of children's fiction, as well as a biographer of such literary figures as Frances Hodgson Burnett, Edmund Gosse, and A. A. Milne. What marks her children's works "is her acute understanding of contemporary sensibilities," maintained Lissa Paul in an essay for Twentieth-Century Children's Writers. "Her eye unerringly selects the stories of daily life that are the stuff of fiction. Her ear is tuned to the rhythms of everyday speech, and to the finer diction of contemporary poetry." Having worked with children's books for over twenty-five years, it was Thwaite's interest in other children's writers that led her to write her first biography—Waiting for the Party: The Life of Frances Hodgson Burnett, 1849–1924. From there, Thwaite went on to outline the lives of the English critic Edmund Gosse, and the creator of Winnie-the-Pooh, A. A. Milne.
"From her picture books to her juvenile novels," explained Paul, "Thwaite chooses stories that apparently play within conventional forms of children's literature but ultimately subvert them." The Chatterbox, for example, cautions teachers instead of children. Miss Walters, a young English teacher, comes to the conclusion that children talk entirely too much. In an attempt to stop the incessant chatter, she has a wooden box erected in the school yard and calls it the Chatterbox—any child talking too much will be sent to it. A few days later, Miss Walters finds herself facing an empty room and decides to turn the Chatterbox into a playhouse. "The vignettes of school life will be recognized by students and teachers everywhere," asserted Caroline S. Parr in the School Library Journal. Elizabeth Weir concluded in School Librarian that The Chatterbox is a "humorous and lively" tale.
One of Thwaite's books for older children, The Camelthorn Papers, also appears to be something that it is not—a traditional adventure story. Set in Libya, The Camelthorn Papers follows the adventures of two English sisters, Jessica and Kate, and their half-Egyptian friend, Gamal. In the beginning of the book, Kate promises one of her father's friends, Derek Lister, to look for a box of poems and journals that he buried near Benghazi during World War II. Instead of finding the treasure she is looking for, however, Kate finds Derek's lost youth and lost dreams of being a poet. By the time Kate actually finds his tin box of writings, it is not a surprise that they have disintegrated into dust. "The story Thwaite tells is not one of happily-ever-after fairytales," related Paul, "but a contemporary story of choices and possibilities, coded in the refrain that runs through the book: 'He who does not keep moving is lost.'"
Thwaite's works for children include her 1987 title Amy and the Night-Time Visit. This picture book deals with a quandary common to many parents: Can a child be left alone in an empty house for a short period of time? Amy's mother decides the answer is yes, and leaves her sleeping daughter a note as she visits her own mother. When Amy awakes, she senses the emptiness of the house, wandering around a bit before deciding she needs some human contact. Her mother arrives home to find her gone, and visits a neighbor's house for help, only to find her daughter there. The relationship between Amy and her mother is portrayed as "warm and honest," according to Sue Davis in School Librarian, adding that Amy and the Night-Time Visit is a perfect book for "sharing one-to-one."
In addition to her own writing for children, Thwaite has also collected the writings of other children's authors in a series of annuals entitled Allsorts. Published from 1969 until 1975, these collections contain poems, stories, and puzzles, and are similar to the popular annuals of the nineteenth century. Unlike other annuals, though, Allsorts is full of new material that Thwaite commissioned from such writers as X. J. Kennedy, Philip Larkin, Ted Hughes, and Penelope Lively. "It is the literary content, together with the quality of illustration, that distinguishes Allsorts from its slapdash and sometimes barely literate competitors," pointed out a Times Literary Supplement contributor.
Thwaite remains in the world of children's literature with her first adult biography. Waiting for the Party: The Life of Frances Hodgson Burnett, 1849–1924 provides a close examination of the creator of the children's classics Little Lord Fauntleroy and The Secret Garden. Burnett spent most of her life writing sentimental magazine stories and romantic novels for adults, but "twice in over half a century of constant and often exhausting commercial productivity she happened to tell one of those stories that turn out to be the externalized dreams of a whole society, which pass beyond ordinary commercial success to become part of popular culture," contended Alison Lurie in the New York Review of Books. In Waiting for the Party Thwaite covers everything from Burnett's American adolescence to her thirty-three visits to her native England and her unsuccessful search for happiness. "The Frances Hodgson Burnett who emerges from [Thwaite's] biography is an interesting and sympathetic if not a completely lovable character," observed Lurie, concluding: "Waiting for the Party is a good book: intelligent, moderate, thoughtful, well documented, well organized, and well written."
Thwaite's next biography takes on the English critic and author of Father and Son, Edmund Gosse. In Edmund Gosse: A Literary Landscape, 1849–1928, Thwaite begins with Gosse's religious Islington childhood, which Gosse himself describes in his famous novel Father and Son. From this background, Gosse ventured to London in the 1870s, hoping to make a name for himself as a poet. Unsuccessful in this endeavor, Gosse found that he did have a future as a man of letters, and wrote on numerous literary subjects during his career. He suffered a severe setback, however, when a literary history he wrote was found to be full of inexcusable inaccuracies. Gosse was never able to shake off this reputation for sloppiness, but he was still very successful—he was a lively conversationalist, a graceful prose writer, and was friends with a number of literary figures, including Thomas Hardy and Henry James. Thwaite's "version of [Gosse's] life is more complicated, and more credible, than any summing of opinions about him could be; she acknowledges his follies and limitations, but she also notes what was good, and what was interesting, about him," related Samuel Hynes in the New York Times Book Review. Thwaite's "portrait of this touchy, feline, ambitious, cautious, snobbish, self-stroking, vivacious, generous, warm-hearted, and interesting man is an authoritative and just one," concluded New York Review of Books contributor Janet Malcolm.
More recently, Thwaite examined the life of Edmund Gosse's father in Glimpses of the Wonderful: The Life of Philip Henry Gosse. According to Thwaite's biography, the attack on Henry Gosse as a tyrant by his son Edmund in the book Father and Son is not the whole truth. Instead, Thwaite presents a much different portrait of the father, whose interest in marine biology and devotion to the Christian faith had a profound influence on his life, enabling him to rise from a modest upbringing to become a successful naturalist. Author of books such as The Canadian Naturalist, Introduction to Zoology and The Aquarium: An Unveiling of the Wonders of the Deep, Philip became a widely read naturalist and started his own school. The only book he wrote that was a failure was Omphalos, which disavowed any idea of evolution in animals, instead emphasizing that each creature was created individually by God. According to Thwaite, the son's attack on his father can be shown to be untruthful from a number of sources, including Edmund's own letters to his father and journals. Writing in Contemporary Review, Richard Whittington-Egan called the biography an "engrossing examination of the life of one of the self-made Great Victorians." In a review for the London Guardian, D. J. Taylor called Thwaite's effort "a masterpiece of Victorian biography."
A. A. Milne: The Man behind Winnie-the-Pooh, published in 1990, is another one of Thwaite's more recent biographies. Milne was a humorist, playwright, and novelist who took a short trip into children's literature and found fame and fortune. He then spent the rest of his days hating the fact that his four children's books would be his immortality. Milne was a remote person throughout his life, moving from the academic world to the offices of Punch, and finally becoming a popular playwright and children's author. He based his two Winnie-the-Pooh books on stories he told his son Christopher Robin, and the shadow this cast over Christopher's life eventually drove father and son apart. "Thwaite tries to establish Milne's profile by a slow, careful, skillfully deployed accumulation of detail, based on free access to family papers and interviews with surviving friends and relatives," commented Peter Green in the Washington Post Book World. "I doubt whether we will ever learn more facts about Milne than are gathered in this biography." Chris Goodrich, writing in the Los Angeles Times Book Review, explained that "Thwaite argues … that A. A. Milne was 'a mass of contradictions,' being shy yet confident, modest yet proud, warm yet judgmental." Goodrich went on to state that A. A. Milne is "a sympathetic, understanding portrait, and Pooh fans will savor it."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Chevalier, Tracy, editor, Twentieth-Century Children's Writers, third edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1989.
St James Guide to Childen's Writers, fifth edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.
Booklist, September 1, 1994, review of The Brilliant Career of Winnie-the-Pooh, p. 57.
Books for Keeps, March, 1998, review of The Ashton Affair, p. 24.
Books for Your Children, summer, 1995, review of The Ashton Affair, p. 26.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, December, 1994, review of The Brilliant Career of Winnie-the-Pooh, p. 150.
Contemporary Review, May, 2003, Richard Whittington-Egan, review of Glimpses of the Wonderful: The Life of Philip Henry Gosse, p. 307
Financial Post, December 17, 1994, Mira-Friedlander, review of The Brilliant Career of Winnie-the-Pooh, p. 53.
Guardian (London, England), September 28, 2002, D. J. Taylor, review of Glimpses of the Wonderful.
Horn Book, July, 1995, review of The Brilliant Career of Winnie the Pooh, p. 481; fall, 1995, review of The Brilliant Career of Winnie-the-Pooh, p. 386.
Junior Bookshelf, June, 1995, review of The Ashton Affair, p. 109; December, 1996, review of The Horse at Hilly Fields, p. 242.
Library Talk, January, 1995, review of The Brilliant Career of Winnie-the-Pooh, p. 17.
London Review of Books, November 28, 1996, review of Emily Tennyson: The Poet's Wife, p. 18.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, September 16, 1990, Chris Goodrich, review of A. A. Milne: The Man behind Winnie-the-Pooh.
New Statesman, December 19, 1997, review of Emily Tennyson, p. 85.
New York Review of Books, November 28, 1974, Alison Lurie, review of Waiting for the Party: The Life of Frances Hodgson Burnett, 1849–1924, pp. 39-41; March 14, 1985, Janet Malcolm, review of Edmund Gosse: A Literary Landscape, 1849–1928, pp. 7-12.
New York Times Book Review, September 9, 1984, Samuel Hynes, review of Edmund Gosse, pp. 14-15.
Observer (London, England), May 1, 1994, review of Waiting for the Party, p. 26.
Publishers Weekly, September 12, 1994, review of The Brilliant Career of Winnie-the-Pooh, p. 93.
School Librarian, March, 1979, Elizabeth Weir, review of The Chatterbox, p. 29; May, 1988, Sue Davis, review of Amy and the Night-Time Visit, p. 59; November, 1996, review of The Horse at Hilly Fields, p. 148.
School Library Journal, October, 1979, Caroline S. Parr, review of The Chatterbox, pp. 145-146; November, 1994, review of The Brilliant Career of Winnie-the-Pooh, p. 38.
Spectator, October 5, 1996, review of Emily Tennyson, p. 49.
Times Educational Supplement, July 7, 1995, review of The Ashton Affair, p. R2.
Times Literary Supplement, October 16, 1969, review of Allsorts 2; October 4, 1996, review of Emily Tennyson, p. 32; October 18, 2002, Isobel Armstrong, review of Glimpses of the Wonderful, p. 15.
Washington Post Book World, September 9, 1990, Peter Green, review of A. A. Milne: The Man behind Winnie-the-Pooh, pp. 5, 11.
Christians in Science, http://www.cis.org.uk/ (August 24, 2005), Denis Alexander, review of Glimpses of the Wonderful.
Faber and Faber Online, http://www.faber.co.uk/ (September 12, 2005), brief biography of Ann Thwaite.