Childhood & Education
Kingsley Amis was born on 16 April 1922 in Clap ham, a place in south London. His father, William Robert Amis was a mustard manufacturer’s clerk. Kingsley received his primary education from the City of London School and enrolled into St. John’s College, Oxford in year 1941. After less than a year in 1942, he was admitted into army service, where he served in the Royal Corps of Signals during the Second World War. With the ending of the war in 1945, he returned to Oxford and resumed his studies and got a distinction in English. In 1946, Kingsley joined the Communist Party of Great Britain.
Kingsley was appointed as lecturer at the University of Wales Swansea in 1948, where he worked till the year 1961. It was then that he wrote his first novel Lucky Jim, which became the most praiseworthy novel of 1950’s Britain. He was a visiting fellow researcher in creative writing at Princeton University in the United States and a visiting lecturer in other northeastern universities as well. After serving for thirteen long years at the University of Wales Swansea, he became a fellow of Peterhouse at Cambridge in 1961; though he regretted the decision very soon and resigned in 1963.
Marriages & Personal Life
Kingsley had two marriages and was divorced twice. He married his first wife Hilary Bardwell in 1948 but the two divorced soon after his love affair with Elizabeth Jane Howard was discovered by Hilary in 1963. However, the marriage broke partly because of the earlier adultery activities on the part of Kingsley, which he had admitted to many times. Kingsley fathered three children from Hilary, among which was Martin Amis, who would follow his father in his great career as a writer. After divorcing Hilary in 1965, Kingsley married Jen the same year. Again the marriage proved to be unsuccessful and they divorced in 1983. Kingsley did not remarry after it and in his last years stayed in the same house where his first wife Hilary lived with her third husband.
Kingsley’s literary works is known for its wide variety and reach to every genre- novels, scripts, short stories, science and mystery. In his early career, he gained recognition as a comedy novelist though the multiplicity of his work removed this tag later and he became known as the master of every genre. Originally inclined to be a poet, Kingsley wrote poetries which draw heavily for their simple and accessible approach.
As a novelist, his first novel Lucky Jim may well be termed as his most famous work in which was apparently a part of the Angry Young Men movement in Britain. He wrote novels that were a reflection of his own life and thoughts. Among his other popular works was That Uncertain Feeling, which came in 1955, and I like It Here, published in 1958’. ‘Take a girl like you’ which was published in 1960, was his second best novel after Lucky Jim and gained him a huge popularity as an author.
After 1960, Kingsley embarked on writing about science and mystery fictions as well as the comedy ones. He later shifted from mystery to horror genre and wrote a successful book The Green Man in 1969. Before that he had written The Anti-Death Leagues, which was based upon imaginary incidents and characters. An atheist, Kingsley wrote poems and stories which showed his scornfulness towards God and religious beliefs. Meanwhile, he produced several essays and social criticism mainly for journalistic publication.
In the late 1960s, Amis became writing James Bond novels. In 1965, he wrote the James Bond Dossier and for the first time it was attributed to him, before that, he had been writing it under a pseudonym or a false name. In the same year, he wrote The Book of Bond, which was also known as Every Man His Own 007. Towards the end of his career, he turned as an Anthologist and wrote a number of poems and essays.
Political & Religious Views
Kingsley was a communist all along his youth and a member of the Communist Party of Britain but estranged himself communism in 1956, when the USSR invaded Hungry. From that time on he became an anti-communist and a conservative. Kingsley’s religious views can be summed up in his one statement, in which he publicly declared that he is a non believer of God and rather hates him. Widely disparage for his addiction to drinking wine and boozing, Kingsley made many attempts to justify it as an influence of the characters in his novels. However, he separated drinking from writing and followed a disciplined routine of writing in his personal life. Kingsley received the honorary title ‘Knight’ in 1990.
Kingsley Amis suffered from a mild stroke in 1995 which worsened his already ill health. After suffering for few months, he eventually died on 22 October 1995 at a hospital in London.