Anthony Burgess

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Date: Jan. 8, 2015
Document Type: Biography
Length: 4,731 words

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About this Person
Born: February 25, 1917 in Manchester, United Kingdom
Died: November 25, 1993 in London, United Kingdom
Nationality: British
Occupation: Writer
Other Names: Wilson, John Anthony Burgess; Wilson, John Burgess; Kell, Joseph (British writer)
Updated:Jan. 8, 2015

Born February 25, 1917, in Manchester, England; died of cancer, November 25, 1993, in London, England; son of Joseph and Elizabeth Wilson; married Llewela (Lynn) Isherwood Jones, January 23, 1942 (died, 1968); married Lilliana Macellari (a translator), 1968; children: (second marriage) Andreas. Education: Attended Bishop Bilsborrow School, Xaverian College; Manchester University, B.A. (honors), 1940. Military/Wartime Service: British Army, Education Corps, 1940-46; became sergeant-major. Memberships: Royal Society of Literature (fellow).


Writer. Lecturer, Central Advisory Council for Adult Education in the Forces, 1946-48; lecturer in phonetics, Ministry of Education, 1948-50; Banbury Grammar School, Oxfordshire, England, master, 1950-54; Colonial Service, education officer in Malaya and Brunei, 1954-59. Visiting professor, Columbia University, 1970-71, and City University of New York, 1972-73. Visiting fellow, Princeton University, 1970-71. Literary adviser, Guthrie Theater, 1972-93. Composer.


Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger, 1981, for Earthly Powers; Prometheus Award Hall of Fame prize, 2008, for A Clockwork Orange. Honorary degrees from Manchester University and Birmingham University.




  • The Right to an Answer, Norton, 1960.
  • The Doctor Is Sick, Heinemann, 1960, Norton, 1966.
  • The Worm and the Ring, Heinemann, 1961, revised edition, 1970.
  • Devil of a State, Heinemann, 1961, Norton, 1962.
  • (Under pseudonym Joseph Kell) One Hand Clapping, P. Davies, 1961, published under pseudonym Anthony Burgess, Knopf, 1972.
  • A Clockwork Orange (also see below), Heinemann, 1962, published in the United States with last chapter omitted, Norton, 1963, reprinted with final chapter, 1987.
  • The Wanting Seed, Heinemann, 1962, Norton, 1963.
  • Honey for the Bears (also see below), Heinemann, 1963, Norton, 1964.
  • Nothing Like the Sun: A Story of Shakespeare's Love Life, Norton, 1964.
  • The Eve of Saint Venus, Sidgwick & Jackson, 1964, Norton, 1970.
  • A Vision of Battlements, Sidgwick & Jackson, 1965, Norton, 1966.
  • Tremor of Intent, Penguin, 1972.
  • "A Clockwork Orange" and "Honey for the Bears," Modern Library, 1968.
  • MF, Knopf, 1971.
  • Napoleon Symphony, Knopf, 1974.
  • Beard's Roman Women, McGraw, 1976.
  • A Long Trip to Tea Time, Stonehill Publishing, 1976.
  • Moses the Lawgiver (based on Burgess' screenplay of the same title; also see below), Stonehill Publishing, 1976.
  • Abba, Abba, Faber, 1977.
  • Nineteen Eighty-Five, Little, Brown, 1978.
  • Man of Nazareth (based on Burgess' teleplay Jesus of Nazareth; also see below), McGraw, 1979.
  • The Land Where the Ice Cream Grows, Doubleday, 1979.
  • Earthly Powers, Simon & Schuster, 1980, reprinted, Carroll & Graf, 1994.
  • On Going to Bed, Abbeville Press, 1982.
  • The End of the World News: An Entertainment, Hutchinson, 1982, McGraw, 1983.
  • This Man and Music, McGraw, 1983.
  • The Kingdom of the Wicked (also see below), Arbor House, 1985.
  • The Pianoplayers, Arbor House, 1986.
  • The Devil's Mode (short stories), Random House, 1989.
  • Any Old Iron, Random House, 1989.
  • A Dead Man in Deptford, Hutchinson, 1993 , reprinted, Carroll & Graf, 1995.
  • Byrne, Carroll &Graf (New York, NY), 1997.


  • Time for a Tiger (also see below), Heinemann, 1956.
  • The Enemy in the Blanket (also see below), Heinemann, 1958.
  • Beds in the East (also see below), Heinemann, 1959.
  • The Long Day Wanes: A Malayan Trilogy (includes Time for a Tiger, The Enemy in the Blanket, and Beds in the East; published in England as Malayan Trilogy, Penguin, 1972), Norton, 1965.


  • (Under pseudonym Joseph Kell) Inside Mr. Enderby (also see below), Heinemann, 1963.
  • Enderby Outside (also see below), Heinemann, 1968.
  • Enderby (includes Inside Mr. Enderby andEnderby Outside), Norton, 1968.
  • The Clockwork Testament, or Enderby's End, Hart-Davis, 1974, Knopf, 1975.
  • Enderby's Dark Lady, or No End to Enderby, McGraw, 1984.


  • (Under name John Burgess Wilson) English Literature: A Survey for Students, Longmans, 1958, revised edition published under name Anthony Burgess, 1974.
  • The Novel Today, British Council, 1963.
  • Language Made Plain, English Universities Press, 1964, Crowell, 1965, revised edition, Fontana, 1975.
  • Re Joyce (published in England as Here Comes Everybody, Faber, 1965), Norton, 1965.
  • The Novel Now: A Guide to Contemporary Fiction (published in England as The Novel Now: A Student's Guide to Contemporary Fiction, Faber, 1967, revised edition, 1971), Norton, 1967.
  • Urgent Copy: Literary Studies (essays), J. Cape, 1968, Norton, 1969.
  • Shakespeare, J. Cape, 1970, Knopf, 1971, I. R. Dee, 1994.
  • Joysprick: An Introduction to the Language of James Joyce, Deutsch, 1973, Harcourt, 1975.
  • Ernest Hemingway and His World, Scribner, 1978.
  • Ninety-Nine Novels: The Best in English since 1939, Summit, 1984.
  • D. H. Lawrence in Italy, Penguin, 1985.
  • Flame into Being: The Life and Work of D. H. Lawrence, Arbor House, 1985.
  • But Do Blondes Prefer Gentlemen? Homage to QWERTYUIOP: Selected Journalism, 1978-1985, McGraw, 1986.
  • Little Wilson and Big God (autobiography), Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1987.
  • You've Had Your Time: Being the Second Part of the Confessions of Anthony Burgess (autobiography), Heinemann, 1990, Grove Weidenfeld, 1991.
  • On Mozart: A Paean for Wolfgang, Ticknor and Fields, 1991, published as Mozart and the Wolf Gang, Hutchinson, 1991.
  • A Mouthful of Air: Languages, Languages--Especially English, Morrow, 1993.

Contributor to Partisan Review, Hudson Review,Times Literary Supplement, New York Times Book Review, and other periodicals.


  • (With first wife, Lynne Burgess) Michel de Saint-Pierre, The New Aristocrats, Gollancz, 1962.
  • (With L. Burgess) Jean Pelegri, The Olive Trees of Justice, Sidgwick & Jackson, 1962.
  • Jean Sewin, The Man Who Robbed Poor Boxes, Gollancz, 1965.
  • (And adaptor) Edmond de Rostand, Cyrano de Bergerac (play; produced on Broadway as Cyrano, 1973), Knopf, 1971, Applause, 1996.
  • (And adaptor) Sophocles, Oedipus the King (play; produced in Minneapolis, MN, 1972), University of Minnesota Press, 1972.

Also translator of librettos for Carmen and Oberon.


  • (Editor) Daniel Defoe, A Journal of the Plague Year, Penguin, 1966.
  • (Editor) James Joyce, A Shorter Finnegan's Wake, Faber, 1966, Viking, 1967.
  • (Author of introduction) Francis Haskell, editor, The Age of the Grand Tour, Crown, 1967.
  • (Author of commentary) Paul Elek and Elizabeth Elek, editors, Coaching Days of England, Time-Life, 1967.
  • (Author of introduction) G. K. Chesterton, Autobiography, Hutchinson, 1969.
  • (Author of introduction) G. V. Desani, All about H. Hatten, Bodley Head, 1970.
  • A Clockwork Orange (audiocassette), Caedmon, 1973.
  • Anthony Burgess Reads from "The Eve of Saint Venus" and "Nothing Like the Sun" (audiocassette), Caedmon, 1974.
  • Anthony Burgess Reads from "A Clockwork Orange" and "Enderby" (audiocassette), Spoken Arts, 1974.
  • Moses the Lawgiver (screenplay), ITC/RAI, 1976.
  • Jesus of Nazareth (teleplay), National Broadcasting Company, 1977.
  • (Editor) New York, Time-Life, 1977.
  • (Author of preface) Benjamin Forkner, editor, More Irish Short Stories, Viking, 1980.
  • (Contributor) Quest for Fire (screenplay), Twentieth Century-Fox, 1982.
  • (Author of introduction) Rex Warner, The Aerodrome: A Love Story, Oxford University Press, 1982.
  • (Author of introduction) Henry Yule, Hobson-Jobson: A Glossary of Anglo-Indian Colloquial Words and Phrases, Routledge, 1986.
  • (Author of foreword) Alison Armstrong, The Joyce of Cooking: Food and Drink in James Joyce's Dublin, illustrated by John Digby, Station Hill, 1986, second edition, 1989.
  • The Rage of D. H. Lawrence (teleplay), TVOntario, 1986.
  • (Author of introduction) H. E. Bates, A Month by the Lake and Other Stories, New Directions, 1987.
  • (Author of introduction) Budd Schulberg, The Disenchanted, Donald I. Fine, 1987.
  • (Author of introduction) Dieter Hildebrandt, Pianoforte: A Social History of the Piano, Braziller, 1988.
  • (Author of introduction) Mervyn Peake, The Gormenghast Trilogy, Overlook Press, 1988.
  • A Clockwork Orange 2004 (stage play; adapted from Burgess' novel A Clockwork Orange), produced at Barbican Theater, London, 1990.
  • (Contributor) Peake, The Gormenghast Trilogy, Volume 2: Gormenghast, Overlook Press, 1991.
  • (Author of preface) David W. Barber, If It Ain't Baroque: More Music History As It Ought to Be Taught, Firefly Books, 1992.
  • (Author of introduction) Greg Vitiello, editor, Joyce Images, Norton, 1994.

Also author of the stage play Morning in His Eyes, 1968, and of the television miniseries A.D., based on Burgess' novel The Kingdom of the Wicked.


A Clockwork Orange was adapted for film and directed by Stanley Kubrick, Warner Bros., 1971.



John Burgess Wilson, better known to the reading public as Anthony Burgess, was regularly lauded by critics and peers for his imagination, his humor, his varied knowledge, and his sheer productivity. He was described by Washington Post Book World reviewer Michael Dirda as "the most consummate professional writer now alive. His knowledge of literary, linguistic and musical arcana rivals that of any Oxford don; he writes with a lyrical verve; and he seems willing to turn his hand to anything whatever." Though he was most often known as the author of A Clockwork Orange (a work from whose shadow, he often lamented, he could not seem to escape), Burgess' output also included textbooks; essays; scripts for stage, screen and television; translations of dramatic and literary masterpieces; and numerous reviews of books, plays, and music. "Burgess, one would swear, has it all," proclaimed American Spectator's Reid Buckley. "He is fecund and prolific (dear God, is he!) and a master of language. There seems to be almost nothing that he cannot say, and so say it that it sticks to the tastebuds deliciously long after." Gore Vidal, writing in the New York Review of Books, concurred: "He is easily the most interesting English writer of the last half century."

While in college at the University of Manchester, Burgess had hoped to study his first love--music--but was discouraged by the copious math courses required for such a degree; he instead finished his degree in English literature and linguistics. After a stint with the British Army he worked at some odd jobs in and around London, including teaching grammar school. In 1954 he and his wife, Lynne, moved to Malaya, where Burgess had accepted a position as an instructor of English literature for the British Colonial Service. Though his experiences in Malaya served as the basis for a trio of novels-- Time for a Tiger, The Enemy in the Blanket, and Beds in the East--Burgess still considered writing to be little more than a "gentleman's hobby."

It was not until 1959, when he and his wife were living in Borneo, that Burgess was forced to begin writing full-time--though the circumstances surrounding that decision are somewhat bizarre. While giving a lecture to a classroom of students, Burgess abruptly collapsed on the floor. Though he later considered his seizure to have been "a willed collapse out of sheer boredom and frustration," doctors at the time attributed it to an inoperable brain tumor, giving Burgess a year to live at best. Concerned for his wife's financial security, Burgess devoted his "terminal year" to writing, hoping that the profits from his writings would be enough to support his soon-to-be widow. He completed five novels: The Doctor Is Sick, One Hand Clapping, The Worm and the Ring, The Wanting Seed, and Inside Mr. Enderby. The doctors' diagnosis proved, of course, to be overly pessimistic; looking back, Burgess suggested that his "brain tumor" had been merely a political decision, a device for sending an occasional public embarrassment back to England.

Geoffrey Aggeler, writing in the Dictionary of Literary Biography, considered these five books to be an appropriate introduction to Burgess' body of work: "The five novels Burgess produced during his `terminal year' develop themes which he was to develop again and again in the course of the next twenty years--the role and situation of the artist vis-a-vis an impinging world, love and decay in the West, the quest for a darker culture, and his view of history as a perpetual oscillation or `waltz' between `Pelagian' and `Augustinian' phases."

Of these five novels, the one that enjoyed the greatest critical and financial success was 1963's Inside Mr. Enderby. It introduces F. X. Enderby, a middle-aged but largely immature poet who can only compose while sitting in his bathroom; the poetry he produces is quite good, though, and he is regarded highly by those few people who still read poetry. Burgess "intended for Inside Mr. Enderby to be `a kind of trumpet blast on behalf of the besieged poet of today--the man who tries to be independent, tries to write his poetry not on the campus, but in the smallest room in the house,' where he can have some privacy," wrote Aggeler. The poet once again appeared in 1968's Enderby Outside, which Aggeler, writing in Anthony Burgess: The Artist as Novelist, dismissed as "an overall assessment of the condition of modern poetry--a pessimistic assessment, to be sure." When the two books were released in America as simply Enderby, Burgess considered it "the book in which I say most, mean most to myself about the situation of the artist."

When The Clockwork Testament, or Enderby's End was released in 1974, it was clear to critics that this somewhat frumpy poet was becoming a mouthpiece for Burgess himself. "His comic escapades palliate for Burgess his own unhappy ventures," observed Roger Lewis in Punch. "Being a receptacle for incidents in his creator's life, when Burgess had a malady of the brain, Enderby followed suit by going completely mad. He lost his memory and appropriated the name Piggy Hogg." In The Clockwork Testament, Enderby travels to California to work as a Hollywood screenwriter; not coincidentally, Burgess penned this novel shortly after his own book, A Clockwork Orange, was made into a movie. As the title implies, Enderby dies at the conclusion of The Clockwork Testament, killed by a heart attack "induced by seeing his screenplay of Hopkins' The Wreck of the Deutschland altered by moguls into a pornographic movie about Nazis and raped nuns," according to Lewis. Aggeler wrote: "Burgess' impulse to write The Clockwork Testament came presumably from the experience of being `demoted' as an artist by the filming of A Clockwork Orange. It is his answer to those who would so demote him and the art of fiction itself."

The death of F. X. Enderby evoked such a clamor among Burgess' readers that the author was ultimately forced to resurrect the poet (a la Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's resurrection of Sherlock Holmes). Enderby's Dark Lady, or No End to Enderby, published in 1984, is supposedly a "lost chapter" in the life of Enderby, a chapter in which he travels to Indiana to author and eventually star in a play based on the life of Shakespeare. Along the way, Burgess (via Enderby) makes a number of observations concerning the "heartland" of America--a country the author has berated on many occasions. Though Walter Kerr, writing in the New York Times Book Review, considered this latest Enderby novel "more patchwork than clockwork," he admitted that it will be "welcomed by all those Burgess fans who simply cannot conceive of a world without Enderby."

The popularity of the Enderby books notwithstanding, the book that brought Burgess the greatest fame--and, according to its author, the greatest irritation--was 1962's A Clockwork Orange. Described by Aggeler in Anthony Burgess: The Artist as Novelist as "one of the most devastating pieces of multipronged social satire in recent fiction," it tells the story of Alex, a fifteen-year-old delinquent who revels in violence and sexual promiscuity. After a period of incarceration, Alex is chosen to be the subject of an experiment in which he is injected with a drug that induces nausea; he is then shown war films. As a result of this conditioning, Alex becomes paralyzingly ill at the thought of violence of any sort. Pronounced "cured," he is released to the world; however, the conditioning has sapped Alex of his ability to defend himself, and he becomes easy fodder for both his old gang and his retributive former victims.

Burgess indicated several events that led to his writing A Clockwork Orange. First was a report he'd read about American prisons using "behaviorist methods of reforming criminals ... with the avowed purpose of limiting the subjects' freedom of choice to what society called `goodness,'" according to Aggeler. Second was a trip Burgess and his wife had taken to the Soviet Union, during which they had encountered a group of rogues called stilyagi--marauding thugs who, strangely, maintained a kind of honor code. Lastly was the 1943 attack on Burgess' then-pregnant wife by a group of AWOL American GIs--an attack that sent Lynne to the hospital and caused her to abort her child; this scene was mirrored in the novel when Alex enters the home of the writer F. Alexander, beating him and raping his wife.

In addition to its protagonist's celebration of violence--a "guiltless joy" that, Aggeler noted, "suggests, however incongruously, innocence to the reader"--A Clockwork Orange garnered immediate attention for its use of the language nadsat, a construction in which Burgess combined Cockney slang and Russian. John W. Tilton, writing in Cosmic Satire in the Contemporary Novel, explained Burgess' three main reasons for creating nadsat: "To assure the survival of the novel by creating a slang idiom for Alex that would not grow stale or outmoded as real slang does; to brainwash the reader so that he emerges from the novel with a minimal knowledge of Russian; and ... `to cushion the reader from the violence ... [presenting it] through a filmy curtain of an alien language that the reader would have to fight through before he could get to the violence.'" Though the American edition of the novel included a glossary to assist in the translation of nadsat, Aggeler asserted that, "after a few pages of the novel, a reader of even moderate sensitivity should not need a glossary and will do well to refrain from consulting this one, whose translations, even when they are accurate, may substitute terms which lack the rich onomatopoeic suggestiveness of Burgess' language."

When A Clockwork Orange was brought to America, it underwent a now-famous transformation. In its original form, the book's final chapter shows Alex, grown bored with mindless violence, considering a more "adult" life in which he settles down with a family. The American publisher, W. W. Norton, chose to omit this final chapter, concluding instead with Alex unreformed, free to resume his life of wanton destruction. Because he needed the money, Burgess supported Norton's decision, telling interviewers that he found the novel to be better without the last chapter. "Much of my later life has been expended on Xeroxing statements of intention and the frustration of intention," Burgess said in the New York Times in 1986, "while both Kubrick and my New York publisher coolly bask in the rewards of their misdemeanor."

The Kubrick to whom Burgess referred is celebrated film director Stanley Kubrick who, in 1971, filmed A Clockwork Orange from a screenplay he had adapted himself. The film was a stylish and deeply disturbing depiction of gang violence and moral depravity that quickly overshadowed Burgess' novel. Like the American text, Kubrick's film omitted Alex's ultimate maturation, forever twisting Burgess' message of freedom of choice for all--even the amoral--into a celebration of violence. This further raised the author's ire toward America, where he felt he was known only "as Stanley Kubrick's underpaid assistant."

In the years after A Clockwork Orange was published, Burgess continued to reside in the shadow of that work and its film adaptation. His output did not decrease, though. He produced several screenplays for film and television, including Franco Zefferelli's Jesus of Nazareth; he composed the scores to operas, musicals, and concerts; and he continued to turn out works of fiction and nonfiction. But it was not until 1980 that he completed what many critics consider his masterpiece, Earthly Powers.

The novel centers on playwright and novelist Kenneth M. Toomey, a famous homosexual who, at the age of eighty-one, decides it is time to record his memoirs. Toomey--an amalgam of novelists Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh, Burgess himself, and especially W. Somerset Maugham--relates the story of his life, describing with equal passion scenes of tremendous joy and despair. During the course of his autobiography Toomey recalls his meeting one Don Carlo Campanatti, an Italian priest who goes on to become Pope; Don Carlo is, according to Aggeler, "a Faustian figure who made a bargain with the devil in return for the earthly powers of the papacy." The two men hold vastly different views on the nature of man: Toomey, the empiricist, believes that evil is endemic to mankind, while Don Carlo sees man as inherently pure and evil as a kind of coat that can be easily removed. "Burgess effectively juxtaposes Carlo's and Toomey's views and explanations of various evils in the twentieth century," observed Aggeler, "and he suggests that both views are to some extent partially correct, but [that] both are also significantly limited."

Though Earthly Powers is a long book, many critics found its message undiluted by its length. "The book is ruthlessly well organized--there is no point at which the reader feels [Burgess] is not getting on with it and no incident or character not in place by design," lauded London Times reviewer Michael Ratcliffe. "[It] is a hellfire tract thrown down by a novelist at the peak of his powers who cannot forbear to invent, divert, embellish and dazzle us the entire length of the way." Aggeler, too, found Earthly Powers unhindered by its length. "Enormous in scope, encompassing much of twentieth-century social, literary, and political history, it inevitably has some flaws.... [They] are, however, minor and unavoidable in a work so large and ambitious. Overall it is a magnificent performance."

In 1987, in the week that he turned 70 years old, Burgess released the first volume of his memoirs, Little Wilson and Big God. Beginning with his birth and childhood in northern England, Burgess relates the often bizarre details of his life in England, Malaya, Borneo and elsewhere, giving us a close-up look at not only himself but his surroundings. "His memory is as richly stocked with details as his fictions," wrote Peter Ackroyd in the London Times. "Like his literary hero, James Joyce, he has a proper respect for what the world calls trivia; and these fragments of memory are like small windows opening on a lost time. You need not read this book as autobiography at all, but simply as social history of a superior sort." The volume is subtitled "the confessions of Anthony Burgess," and many of those confessions concern the author's first wife, Lynne, an abusive and paranoid alcoholic. "Lynne ... dominates the book," observed Phil Kloer in the Atlanta Journal and Constitution. "She gave Burgess great joy and unimaginable pain."

Critics generally appreciated Burgess' long overdue memoirs, though some, like the New York Times' Michiko Kakutani, felt it was "somewhat scant on the author's own inner life.... [ Little Wilson and Big God] is at its most absorbing when the author refrains from pontificating on larger matters of language and society and simply gets on with his own story." William French of Toronto's Globe and Mail, however, still found Burgess a captivating storyteller. "Only occasionally does he seem like a garrulous guest at a party who grabs you by the lapels to force his opinions on you."

With Little Wilson and Big God concluding with Burgess' "death sentence" in 1959, it was clear that a second autobiographical volume was to come; that volume, You've Had Your Time, was published in 1990. It chronicled Burgess' new life as a professional writer, as well as his rapidly deteriorating marriage to Lynne, her death from cirrhosis in 1968, and the author's marriage to the Italian student Lilliana Macellari with whom he had conceived a child out of wedlock. As in Little Wilson and Big God, these introspective details are inserted between long passages relating Burgess' many authorial duties, from novels to plays to drama and music criticism. "His polymathic pursuits, which as they come in at us, chapter after chapter, sometimes page after page, yield up finally a pointillist portrait of [Burgess]," wrote William F. Buckley, Jr., in the New York Times Book Review. "The reader is, however, entitled to ask: is there a human narrative under this truckload of cultural petit point? Not a whole lot, to tell the truth, but some." Burgess instead entertains the reader with numerous seemingly-apocryphal anecdotes, including the famous story of how he reviewed one of his own books ( Inside Mr. Enderby, originally published under the pseudonym Joseph Kell) in a literary supplement.

A number of critics pointed out a certain mean-spiritedness in Burgess' second volume of memoirs. According to Phoebe Lou Adams in Atlantic, You've Had Your Time "excites considerable wonder ... because along with vignettes of stage and screen, tart descriptions of the miseries of the lecture circuit, and an account of his acquisition of a wife and son, it contains such a notable component of complaint." "Underneath the jokes and the would-be Falstaffian warmth of character, I detect a braggadocio," wrote the Spectator 's Paul Bailey, "nursing his critical sores and blustering his way through a world that he believes owes him a better living." Among those Burgess singled out were Kubrick, several fellow writers, and numerous literary critics. "Perhaps [Burgess] will yet find a way to confess his sins without blasting the reputations of others," opined John McAleer in Chicago's Tribune Books. "With his vast knowledge of languages, possibly he will come to learn the meaning of compassion." Still, Dirda summarized You've Had Your Time as "unputdownable biographical entertainment."

Though shortly after the publication of Little Wilson and Big God Burgess predicted in the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, "Unless some miracle of renewed inspiration occurs, the second volume of my memoirs [You've Had Your Time] will bring my writing career to an end," he did produce one last work of fiction, Dead Man in Deptford, and one last work of nonfiction, A Mouthful of Air: Languages, Languages--Especially English, both published in 1993. A Mouthful of Air is something of an extension of Burgess' 1964 text Languages Made Plain, a forum for the author to share with his readers his life-long love of languages, both foreign and domestic. "If Anthony Burgess were turned upside down and briskly shaken, the heap of objects that fell out of his pockets would much resemble this book," wrote Richard Eder in the Los Angeles Times Book Review. "In no particular order, it is just about everything he has to say about words, and that is a great deal." Not only does Burgess explore English--its mutations through history, for example, or the lip and tongue movements required to speak it--but other languages as well. "He thinks that even a smattering of the sounds of alien tongues does wonders for ones sense of the rich relativity of one's own," noted Observer contributor Lorna Sage, who pronounced A Mouthful of Air "provocative, full of life, of odd snippets of information, boasts and confessions, hates and loves."

In his final book, A Dead Man in Deptford, Burgess further revels in the joys of language. A mystery novel focussing on the murder of sixteenth-century dramatist Christopher Marlowe (who wrote Doctor Faustus and Edward II), it is told in a mixture of Elizabethan prose and Cockney--a combination that "is very, very difficult to get right," according to Robert Carver in the New Statesman and Society, but "Burgess gives the impression he speaks it like a native.... [He] is the last of our great, unreconstructed, Joyce-influenced modernist writers. While steeped in the old ... he resolutely makes it new as wordsmith and coiner--and so, paradoxically, achieves the right timeless-historical note." The Observer's John Banville also praised Burgess' prose, calling it "adventurous and demanding, a wonderfully dense and inventive mock-Elizabethan that bobs along on a ceaseless ripple of wordplay." " A Dead Man in Deptford is not just a very good novel; it may well be Burgess' masterpiece," summarized Carver. "His grasp of the age and its angsts is profound, and his portrait of Marlowe sympathetic, critical and brilliantly imagined all at once."

Burgess died of cancer on November 22, 1993, after a long illness. A London Times obituarist commented upon his literary impact: "When some future Burgess a century from now comes to write the cultural history of the second half of the 20th century, Burgess will be recognised as a giant in his tattered humanity and his intolerable wrestle with words and meanings.... He enriched his generation more than most, and left a body of work to keep readers arguing and delighted as long as reading survives, and civilisation does not fall into one of his own nightmare visions."




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  • Aggeler, Geoffrey, Anthony Burgess: The Artist as Novelist, University of Alabama Press, 1979.
  • Bergonzi, Bernard, The Situation of the Novel, University of Pittsburgh Press, 1970.
  • Biles, Jack I., editor, British Novelists since 1900, AMS Press, 1987.
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  • Burgess, Anthony, Little Wilson and Big God, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1987.
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  • Concise Dictionary of British Literary Biography, Volume 8: Contemporary Writers, 1960 to the Present, Gale, 1992.
  • Contemporary Literary Criticism, Gale, Volume 1, 1973, Volume 2, 1974, Volume 4, 1975, Volume 5, 1976, Volume 8, 1978, Volume 10, 1979, Volume 13, 1980, Volume 15, 1982, Volume 40, 1986, Volume 62, 1991.
  • DeVitis, A. A., Anthony Burgess, Twayne, 1972.
  • Dix, Carol M., Anthony Burgess, Longman, 1971.
  • Kennard, Jean E., Number and Nightmare: Forms of Fantasy in Contemporary Fiction, Archon Books, 1975.
  • Kostelanetz, Richard, editor, On Contemporary Literature, Avon, 1964.
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  • Morris, Robert K., Consolations of Ambiguity: An Essay on the Novels of Anthony Burgess, University of Minnesota Press, 1971.
  • Morris, Robert K., Continuance and Change: The Contemporary British Novel Sequence, Southern Illinois University Press, 1972.
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  • Solotaroff, Theodore, The Red Hot Vacuum, Atheneum, 1970.
  • Tilton, John W., Cosmic Satire in the Contemporary Novel, Bucknell University Press, 1977.


  • America, October 22, 1966.
  • American Spectator, August, 1983, pp. 38-40.
  • Arizona Quarterly, autumn, 1969.
  • Atlanta Journal and Constitution, March 1, 1987.
  • Atlantic Monthly, February, 1975; January, 1990; June, 1991; June, 1995, p. 120.
  • Bookletter, March 31, 1975.
  • Books & Bookmen, December, 1965.
  • Carleton Miscellany, spring, 1966.
  • Chicago Tribune, October 29, 1978; April 15, 1979; January 12, 1987; May 19, 1991.
  • Chicago Tribune Book World, November 23, 1980; March 27, 1983; September 8, 1985; October 13, 1985; May 4, 1986.
  • Christian Science Monitor, May 29, 1974; February 22, 1990; June 7, 1991.
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  • Contemporary Literature, summer, 1970.
  • Detroit News, October 13, 1985.
  • Economist, October 19, 1991.
  • Encounter, November, 1965.
  • Globe and Mail (Toronto), July 7, 1984; November 16, 1985; November 23, 1985; April 5, 1986; May 24, 1986; November 29, 1986; February 28, 1987; July 11, 1987; April 29, 1989; December 14, 1991, p. C12.
  • Guardian, October 10, 1964; October 20, 1991.
  • Harper's, March, 1966.
  • Hudson Review, spring, 1967; autumn, 1967; autumn, 1992.
  • Journal of Popular Culture, summer, 1973.
  • Library Journal, March 15, 1995, p. 96.
  • Life, October 25, 1968.
  • Listener, February 10, 1977; June 2, 1977, p. 729; April 5, 1984, pp. 24-25.
  • London Magazine, February, 1964.
  • Los Angles Times, November 7, 1985; March 27, 1986.
  • Los Angeles Times Book Review, December 14, 1980; May 30, 1982; May 1, 1983; March 16, 1986; May 10, 1987; December 31, 1989; October 21, 1990; December 8, 1991; August 15, 1993, p. 3.
  • Malahat Review, April, 1969.
  • Massachusetts Review, summer, 1966.
  • National Elementary Principal, May, 1971.
  • National Review, May 9, 1975; December 27, 1993, p. 18.
  • New Republic, October 15, 1966.
  • New Statesman and Society, April 23, 1993, p. 36; October 20, 1995, p. 41.
  • Newsweek, February 21, 1966; June 4, 1974; October 25, 1976; October 24, 1994, p. 82.
  • New York, September 5, 1994, p. 52.
  • New Yorker, May 7, 1966; May 20, 1991; August 7, 1995, p. 64.
  • New York Herald Tribune, February 8, 1965.
  • New York Review of Books, September 30, 1976; May 7, 1987, pp. 3, 6, 8; October 5, 1995, p. 47.
  • New York Times, December 1, 1965; November 18, 1980; March 12, 1983; August 8, 1983; April 14, 1984; September 11, 1985; December 31, 1986; February 14, 1987; February 14, 1990.
  • New York Times Book Review, May 1, 1966; December 4, 1966; November 29, 1970; November 19, 1978; April 15, 1979; December 7, 1980; March 6, 1983; April 22, 1984, p. 10; September 22, 1985; March 30, 1986; June 1, 1986; November 2, 1986; February 22, 1987; February 26, 1989, p. 12; December 10, 1989; October 21, 1990; April 28, 1991; May 5, 1991; June 9, 1991; June 16, 1991; May 31, 1992; May 28, 1995, p. 12.
  • New York Times Magazine, April 2, 1967.
  • Observer, November 1, 1992, p. 62.
  • Paris Review, spring, 1973.
  • Publishers Weekly, January 31, 1972.
  • Punch, June 12, 1968; March 28, 1984, p. 59.
  • Saturday Review, July 15, 1967.
  • Seventeen, August, 1973.
  • Spectator, May 31, 1968; August 30, 1968; November 10, 1990, p. 45; October 19, 1991; January 2, 1993, p. 25; May 8, 1993, p. 28.
  • Time, March 21, 1983, p. 76; October 17, 1983; April 23, 1984; November 17, 1986; February 16, 1987.
  • Times (London), January 16, 1964; October 20, 1980; April 4, 1982; October 28, 1982; March 29, 1984; May 16, 1985; August 12, 1985; March 6, 1986; May 17, 1986; August 28, 1986; February 27, 1987; October 10, 1987; March 2, 1989; October 10, 1991.
  • Times Literary Supplement, November 4, 1965; October 24, 1980; October 8, 1982; November 5, 1982; December 10, 1982; December 24, 1982; March 30, 1984; May 31, 1985; October 18, 1985; November 16, 1985; April 4, 1986; August 29, 1986; February 27, 1987; April 7, 1989; October 26, 1990; October 11, 1991; April 30, 1993, p. 21.
  • Times-Picayune (New Orleans), February 18, 1973.
  • Tribune Books (Chicago), January 12, 1987; February 15, 1987; January 29, 1989; May 19, 1991, p. 4.
  • Variety, May 16, 1973; October 31, 1994, p. 100.
  • Village Voice, April 14, 1966.
  • Washington Post, October 30, 1978; December 26, 1980; June 13, 1982, p. 4; March 8, 1987; December 24, 1989.
  • Washington Post Book World, March 31, 1968; November 23, 1980; June 13, 1982; March 13, 1983; January 1, 1984; April 8, 1984; March 17, 1985; May 12, 1985; October 6, 1985; January 19, 1986; March 9, 1986; November 16, 1986; March 1, 1987; February 12, 1989; May 12, 1991, p. 1; December 22, 1991; August 15, 1993, p. 3.
  • Wilson Library Bulletin, May, 1965.



  • Who's Who in the World, 11th edition, Marquis, 1992.


  • Chicago Tribune, November 26, 1993, section 3, p. 6; November 28, 1993, section 2, p. 8.
  • Current Biography, January, 1994, p. 58.
  • Los Angeles Times, November 26, 1993, p. A44.
  • New York Times, November 26, 1993, p. B23.
  • Times (London), November 26, 1993, p. 23.
  • Washington Post, November 26, 1993, p. C6.


Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|H1000013917