March 14th 2025 will mark one hundred years since John Wain’s birth, in Stoke-on-Trent. Poet, critic, novelist, and playwright: in the years since his death in 1994 many of his novels have been republished, as well as a retrospective Selected Poems and Memoirs, and his reputation has not just consolidated but grown. More of his novels are in print, in paperback and Kindle editions, than ever before. See the link above to the Happening Now pages for more information.
I’ve obtained the transcript of John Wain’s 1973 talk on BBC Radio in which he addresses the Russian writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn, then still being persecuted by the Soviet authorities. Read the post and the full text here
A new paperback and Kindle edition of John Wain’s iconic first novel with an Introduction by John Andrew Frederick
New 2019: John Wain’s Jazz. Archive recording of his BBC radio programme about the jazz musician Fats Waller, one of a series on jazz that he wrote and presented in the 1980s.
John Wain (1925-1994) was a writer whose work included novels, poetry, plays, criticism and biography. He was originally associated with the Movement poets and also with the so-called ‘Angry Young Men’ of the early 1950s, when his first novel Hurry On Down was published. He was born in the Potteries and educated at Newcastle High School, Newcastle Under Lyme, and at St John’s College Oxford. After Oxford he taught English at Reading University until 1955, when he resigned his academic post and for the rest of his life earned his living as a professional writer.
John Wain wrote thirteen novels, culminating in his massive Oxford Trilogy (1988 – 94), the third and last volume being published a few weeks after his death. He was also well known for his award-winning life of Samuel Johnson (1974). He also steadily wrote and published poetry, both short and long: his long poem Feng was based on the original Danish source for Hamlet’s stepfather Claudius in Shakespeare’s play.
Based in Oxford from 1963 until his death, he served the University as Professor of Poetry from 1973 to 1978, nominated by Philip Larkin and Peter Levi. He was awarded the CBE for services to literature in 1984. John Wain was married three times and had four sons.
A celebration of John Wain’s life and work was held on October 30th 2015 in his home town of Stoke-on-Trent – local press coverage here
Below: event in 2015 in the Potteries