The collection consists of manuscripts, typescripts & proofs of novels Saturday night at the Greyhound, Strip Jack naked, Care of 'The Grand', and The Family curse, together with copies of several of Hampson's books, some signed by the author, and a photocopy of a thesis The novels of John Hampson by Mercer F. Hampson Simpson, 1975.
Papers of John Hampson
- This material is held at
- ReferenceGB 6 RUL MS 5091
- Dates of Creation[193-] - 1975
- Name of Creator
- Language of MaterialEnglish
- Physical Description2 boxes
- Direct Link
Scope and Content
Administrative / Biographical History
John Hampson Simpson was born in Birmingham in 1901, fifth of the eight children of Kathleen and Mercer Hampson Simpson. His family made their names and fortunes in the Midlands through the theatre and the brewing industry, but a business collapse meant that John's father had to forfeit his inheritance and in these reduced circumstances the family moved to Leicester. Here John's mother became a swimming instructor and his father eventually found work as manager of a motor-cycle depot, but the struggle with poverty heightened conflicts within the family. Kept by his weak health from attending the village school, John was educated at home and his lack of a formal education left him with a life-long sense of inferiority.
During the First World War John worked in a munitions factory but in 1917 he left and moved to Nottingham. For some years he took a variety of different jobs, many of which would be reflected in his fiction, as a kitchen-hand, a waiter, a chef, a billiard-marker and helping his sister to run a public house in Ashover, Derbyshire. At one point desperation led him to turn to stealing books for which he was convicted and served a term in Wormwood Scrubs.
In 1925 John's life took a turn for the better when he was engaged by the Wilsons, a well-to-do family living in an Elizabethan country house in Dorridge, near Birmingham, to act as a nurse/companion to their Down's Syndrome son. He became devoted to his charge and his new-found security and stability allowed him to begin to write under the name of John Hampson. Hampson's first book Saturday night at the Greyhound was published by the Hogarth Press in 1931 and was an immediate success. Other books followed throughout the 1930s, O Providence (1932) Strip Jack Naked (1934) The Family curse (1936) and Care of 'The Grand' (1939), although none was as popular as the first. Hampson made many literary friends, including Forrest Reid, Graham Greene and W.H. Auden, and became a leading figure in the Birmingham Group which included Walter Allen, Walter Brierley, Henry Green and Peter Chamberlain.
During the Second World War John Hampson wrote documentaries for the BBC through which he became interested in the ideas of the psychologist James Ford Thompson. Hampson visited India in 1948 in order to meet Thompson and dedicated his last book A Bag of Stones (1952) to him. In 1955 the death of Mr Wilson meant that the family had to move to a much smaller house in Solihull and John Hampson's always precarious health deteriorated. He died in hospital of a heart attack on 26 December 1955.
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Purchased from David Mayon, 1998
This description was compiled by Gil Skidmore
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