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James Hanley


James Hanley claimed to have been born in Dublin in 1901 but was actually born in Liverpool in 1897. His father had been in the merchant navy. Hanley himself ran away to sea at the age of thirteen. He sailed around the world and jumped ship in Canada to enlist in the Canadian Expeditionary Force. He fought in France but was gassed and, after spending time in hospital, returned to sea. While at sea he read a lot and started writing. In 1924 he left the sea and started working as a railway porter. His first novel – Drift – was published in 1930 in an edition of 500 copies, after being turned down by seventeen publishers. At this time, he joined the circle of writers around Charles Lahr, the socialist, bookseller and owner of the Blue Moon Press. His second book – The German Prisoner – based on his wartime experiences, was published by Lahr and illustrated by William Roberts, though it was banned for its scatological language and anti-war theme.

After Hanley had an affair with Lahr’s wife, there was a falling out between the two, though Lahr still continued to assist Hanley in his career. His next novel – Boy – was also controversial, depicting as it did the life of a young stowaway in graphic detail and the publisher was fined. However, the book received support from both T E Lawrence and E M Forster. His next novel – The Last Voyager – continued the theme of the outsider found in his previous works and was illustrated by Alan Odle, husband of Dorothy Richardson.

Hanley and his wife moved to North Wales, where they were to spend the rest of their lives. Hanley also persuaded John Cowper Powys to move there. Hanley achieved some success with the Furys series, starting with the novel The Furys. However, he continued to write stories about the sea. Though he received accolades from other writers, commercial success eluded him and he turned to drama, in particular writing for the BBC. He died in 1985 in London, five years after the death of his wife.

Books about James Hanley

Linneas Gibbs: James Hanley: A Bibliography
Edward Stokes: The Novels of James Hanley

Other links

James Hanley
James Hanley
James Hanley Collection


1930 Drift (novel)
1930 The German Prisoner (stories)
1930 A Passion Before Death (stories)
1931 Boy (novel)
1931 The Last Voyage (stories)
1931 Men in Darkness: Five Stories (stories)
1932 Ebb and Flood (novel)
1932 Stoker Haslett (story)
1932 Aria and Finale: Stories (stories)
1933 Captain Bottell (novel)
1934 Resurrexit Dominus (novel)
1934 Quatermaster Clausen: Stories (stories)
1935 The Furys (novel)
1935 At Bay (stories)
1935 Stoker Bush (novel)
1936 The Secret Journey (novel)
1937 Broken Water: An Autobiographical Expedition
1937 Grey Children: A Study in Humbug and Misery
1937 Half an Eye: Sea Stories (stories)
1938 Hollow Sea (novel)
1938 People Are Curious: Collected Stories (stories)
1939 Between the Tides (stories)
1940 Our Time Is Gone (novel)
1941 The Ocean (novel)
1943 No Directions (novel)
1943 Sailor’s Song (novel)
1945 Criller and Other Stories (stories)
1946 What Farrar Saw (novel)
1947 Selected Stories
1948 Emily (novel)
1950 Winter Song (novel)
1950 A Walk in the Wilderness: Stories (stories)
1951 The House in the Valley (later: Against the Stream) (novel)
1952 The Closed Harbour (novel)
1953 Don Quixote Drowned (autobiography)
1953 Collected Stories
1954 The Welsh Sonata (novel)
1956 Levine (novel)
1958 An End and a Beginning (novel)
1962 Say Nothing (novel)
1965 The Inner Journey: A Play
1968 Plays One (drama)
1969 The Face of Winter (story)
1969 John Cowper Powys: A Man in the Corner
1971 Herman Melville: A Man in the Custom House
1972 Another World (novel)
1973 The Darkness (story)
1973 A Woman in the Sky (novel)
1976 A Dream Journey (novel)
1978 A Kingdom (novel)
1979 Lost