Joyce Cary


Biography of Joyce Cary

Joyce Cary (born Arthur Joyce Lunel Cary, December 7, 1888 – March 29, 1957) was an Anglo-Irish novelist and artist.

Arthur Joyce Lunel Cary was born in a hospital in Derry, Ireland, on December 7, 1888. His family had been landlords in Inishowen in County Donegal since Elizabethan times, but lost their property after passage of the Irish Land Act in 1882. Cary's grandfather died soon after and his grandmother moved into a cottage near Cary Castle, one of the lost family properties.

The family dispersed and Cary had uncles who served in the frontier US Cavalry and the Canadian North-West Mounted Police. Most of the Carys wound up in England. Arthur Cary, his father, trained as an engineer and married Charlotte Joyce, the well-to-do daughter of a Belfast banker. After his son was born in 1888, Arthur moved his family to London.

Throughout his childhood, Joyce Cary spent many summers at his grandmother's house in Ireland and at Cromwell House in England, home of his great-uncle, which served as a base for all the Cary clan. Some of this upbringing is described in the fictionalized memoir A House of Children (1941) and the novel Castle Corner (1938)—i.e., Cary Castle. Although he always remembered his Irish childhood with affection and wrote about it with great feeling, Cary was based in England the rest of his life. The feeling of displacement and the idea that life's tranquility may be disturbed at any moment marked Cary and informs much of his writing.

Cary's health was poor as a child. He was subject to asthma, which recurred throughout his life, and was nearly blind in one eye, which caused him to wear a monocle when he was in his twenties. Cary was educated at Clifton College in Bristol, England, where he was a member of Dakyns House. His mother died during this period, leaving Cary a small legacy which served as his financial base until the 1930s.

In 1906, determined to be an artist, Cary travelled to Paris. Discovering that he needed more technical training, Cary then studied art in Edinburgh. Soon enough, he determined that he could never be more than a third rate painter and decided to apply himself to literature. Cary published a volume of poems which, by his own later account, was "pretty bad," and then entered Trinity College, Oxford. There he became friends with fellow-student John Middleton Murry and introduced Murry to Paris on a holiday together. Cary neglected his studies and left Oxford with a fourth class degree.

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