Terence Hanbury White (1906-1964)


T. H. White

T. H. White was born on 29 May 1906 in Bombay, India, where his father was a member of the Indian Civil Service, and was educated at Cheltenham and Queen's College, Cambridge. He was an English master at Stowe School from 1930 to 1936, and while there, completed his first real critical success, England Have My Bones, which was an autobiographical account of his country life.

T. H. White

He afterward devoted himself exclusively to writing and to studying such obscure subjects as the Arthurian legends, which were to provide the material for his books. White was reclusive by nature, often isolating himself for long periods from human society, and spending his time hunting, fishing, and looking after his often strange collection of pets.

He was a novelist, a satirist, and a social historian who probably was best known for his brilliant adaptation of Sir Thomas Malory's 15th-century romance, Morte d’Arthur, into the quartet of novels called The Once and Future King. He wrote books about hunting and other sports, a detective novel, books of adventure and fantasy, and many short stories and poems. He published a book of poems while still at Cambridge (Loved Helen and Other Poems), and continued to write poetry throughout his life. He died on 17 January 1964 aboard ship in Piraeus (Athens), Greece while returning home from his American lecture tour. His last book, America At Last, which was published after his death, records the tour.


Obituary as it appeared in the January 27, 1964 edition of Publisher's Weekly:

T. H. WHITE, author of "The Sword in the Stone" and "The Once and Future King," died aboard ship in Piraeus, Greece, on January 17. Mr. White was 57 years old. He was returning home to England after a lecture tour in the United States.

All of Terence Hansbury (sic) White's books, which have been published in the United States, have been published by Putnam since "The Sword in the Stone" in 1939. "The Sword in the Stone" was the first of a number of Mr. White's books which together formed his retelling of the story of King Arthur. The others were "The Witch in the Wood," 1939, "The Ill-made Knight," 1940, and "The Candle in the Wind," 1958. In 1958 Mr. White published "The Once and Future King," a revision, in one large volume, of the whole story of Arthur, Sir Gawain, Sir Launcelot and Queen Guinevere, as he had told it in his previous books. "The Once and Future King" which sold over 40,000 copies in the hardcover Putnam edition, was the basis of the Lerner and Loewe musical, "Camelot," which opened in 1960 and ran 873 performances on Broadway. "The Sword in the Stone" was made into a Walt Disney movie, which is showing now.

Mr. White's first book to gain attention in the United States was "Farewell Victoria" (H. Smith) in 1934. "The Sword in the Stone," which has become a modern classic, was a Book-of-the-Month Club selection in 1939. The club again selected one of his books in 1946, "Mistress Masham's Repose." The selection of these books gave his books a large popular audience in addition to the small, but intense, group of admirers which he had had almost from the beginning of his writing career.

T. H. White was born in Bombay, India, in 1906, educated at Cheltenham College, Gloucestershire, England, and graduated with first class honors in English from Queen's College, Cambridge, in 1928. He became a school teacher at Stowe and dedicated himself to the study of medieval life. In 1936 he left teaching to write full-time, and eventually retired to the Channel Island of Alderney, where he lived until his death.

Among T. H. White's other books are: "The Book of Beasts," 1955, which was reprinted in paper by Putnam in 1960 as "The Bestiary" and sold over 20,000 copies; "The Elephant and the Kangaroo"; "The Age of Scandal," "The Goshawk," and "The Master."


England Have My Bones: For the Reader of the Works of T. H. White
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Unless otherwise noted, entire contents 1996, J. Moulder and M. Schaefer. All rights reserved.
Revised Saturday, 28-Sep-2002 22:10:56 CDT.