British Author and Journalist
Born 1894 Died 1958
Charles Langbridge Morgan was born on the 22nd January 1894 at Warreston, Rodway Road in Bromley, the youngest of the four children of Charles Langbridge Morgan and Mary Watkins. Both his parents had spent their early lives in Australia before returning to Britain, where his father had a distinguished career as a civil engineer, becoming president of the Institution of Civil Engineers. Charles Morgan junior entered the Royal Navy in 1907 and was educated at the Naval Colleges at Osborne and Dartmouth, after which he served as midshipman in the Atlantic Fleet and on the China station on board the Monmouth.
In 1913 Charles left the Royal Navy with the intention of studying at Brasenose College, Oxford, but with the outbreak of World war I, he rejoined the Royal Navy. He was involved in the Antwerp Expedition, following which he was interned in the Netherlands for the duration. With the end of the war, he finally reached Brasenose where he read history and became president of the Oxford University Dramatic Society. After graduating in 1921 he joined the editorial staff of The Times and on the death of A B Walkley in 1926 he took over as the paper's theatre critic until 1939.
His first novel, The Gunroom, which recounted his experiences as a young midshipman in the Navy had already appeared in 1919, and was latter followed by My Name is Legion (1925), neither of which attracted that much attention. His first real success was Portrait in a Mirror, which won the Femina Vie Heureuse Prize in 1930. This was followed in 1932 by The Fountain, based on his wartime experiences in the Netherlands which won the Hawthornden Prize for 1933 and later The Voyage which won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction in 1940.
During World War II he worked for naval intelligence and went on a lecture tour of the United States. His publishers Macmillan commissioned him to write their official history which appeared in 1943, and from 1942 onwards he contributed a regular column Menander's mirror to the Times Literary Supplement which was republished in two volumes as Reflections in a Mirror after the war.
The Encyclopædia Britannica describes him as "a distinguished writer of refined prose who stood apart from the main literary trends of his time". Much of his writing possesed a mystical and abstract quality which won him a certain popularity during the 1930s but failed to win a wide audience. His work fell rapidly out of fashion after the war at a time when social realism and satire proved to be more popular. Neither was his work taken that seriously among literary critics in Britain, although it was more highly regarded by the French. who made him in an officer of the Légion d'honneur in 1936 and a member of the Institut de France in 1949.
After the war he tried his hand as a playwright without much success and wrote a number of novels which failed to win much in the way of recognition. He was president of International PEN from between 1953 and 1956.
Charles married a fellow novelist Hilda Campbell Vaughan on the 6th June 1923. They had two children, a son named Roger, and a daughter Elizabeth Shirley who married the Marquess of Anglesey. He eventually died of a bronchial ailment on the 6th February 1958 at his London home at 16 Campden Hill Square in Kensington.
Tanis Hinchcliffe, ‘Morgan, Charles Langbridge (1894–1958)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
Morgan, Charles Langbridge. Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 7 June 2007
Charles Morgan Bibliography