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Carpenter, Humphrey

Entry updated 16 October 2022. Tagged: Author, Critic.

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(1946-2005) UK author and broadcaster, a graduate of Keble College in Oxford, where he read English; best known for his popular biographies of literary figures and groups, in particular two sympathetic early studies of J R R Tolkien and his fellow-Inklings: J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography (1977) and The Inklings: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams and Their Friends (1978), the latter winning the 1978 Somerset Maugham Award and the 1982 Mythopoeic Scholarship Award for Inklings studies. With the assistance of Christopher Tolkien he edited The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien (coll 1981); another collaboration of some importance was The Oxford Companion to Children's Literature (1984) with Mari Pritchard (see Children's SF).

In The Captain Hook Affair (1979), a fantasy for children, an enchanted pencil allows the young lead characters to enter the worlds depicted in books, including the wonderlands of J M Barrie and Lewis Carroll. The title character of the Mr Majeika children's fantasy sequence opening with Mr Majeika (1984 chap) is a primary school teacher who is also a wizard and enlivens his classes with Magic. The books were adapted for Television as the ITV series Mr Majeika (1988-1990), in twenty episodes written by Jenny McDade; Carpenter based further stories on her scripts [again see Checklist below]. In the television continuity Mr Majeika becomes a magic-wielding humanoid Alien from the planet Walpurgis, whose chief wizard keeps a stern watch over his escapades from afar.

Further biographical subjects with entries in this encyclopedia are W H Auden, Spike Milligan, and Evelyn Waugh and his circle [again see Checklist below]. The Angry Young Men: A Literary Comedy of the 1950s (2002) surveys the titular group – a 1950s journalistic tag rather than an actual movement – which included Kingsley Amis and Colin Wilson. Carpenter's nonfiction was always highly readable, with scholarship worn lightly. [DRL]

Humphrey William Bouverie Carpenter

born Oxford, Oxfordshire: 29 April 1946

died Oxford, Oxfordshire: 4 January 2005

works (selected)


Mr Majeika

individual titles


works as editor

  • J R R Tolkien. The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1981) [nonfiction: coll: edited with Christopher Tolkien: highly revealing about the author: hb/nonpictorial]


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