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Charles Monteith (1921 - 1995):
Publisher


Born in Lisburn, Monteith was educated at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution and Magdelen College Oxford, where he was a demy (or scholar) in 1939 and a senior demy in 1948. His time at Oxford was interrupted from 1940-1945 by war service in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, which took him to India and Burma where he was seriously wounded in the legs; all his life he would suffer from impaired mobility. Before his army service he obtained a first class degree in English; after the war, he obtained a further first class degree in Law, was MA in 1948 when he won a prize scholarship to All Souls. He completed a BCL in 1949 and was called to the Bar at Gray's Inn.

Practising Law did not seem to interest him, and a colleague at All Souls was Geoffrey Faber, of the publishing house Faber and Faber; Monteith joined that firm in 1953, becoming a director the following year, Vice-Chairman in 1974 and Chairman from 1977-1980. Less interested in the business and commercial side of the concern, he showed considerable abilities and searching insights as an editor. His interests were extremely wide-ranging, embracing an extensive range of periods and genres, including the then little-read science fiction. He was very solicitous towards his chief writers, of whom there was a considerable list of outstanding names: amongst others were William Golding, Phillip Larkin, John Osborne, Ted Hughes, PD James and, from his native Ulster, Paul Muldoon, Tom Paulin and Seamus Heaney. With Golding he scored a considerable success. The author had struggled unsuccessfully - no fewer than 21 publishers had rejected it, as well as Faber's in-house reader - to obtain a publisher for his script, Strangers from Within, which opened strikingly with a nuclear explosion. Monteith considered the script, edited out the opening sequence and changed the title to Lord of the Flies. It became a classic, selling millions of copies worldwide, a set university and school text, translated into numerous languages, filmed several times, and earned Golding the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1983, the first of Monteith's writers to be so honoured; the second would be his fellow-Ulsterman Seamus Heaney.

Monteith was Director of the Poetry Book Society from 1966-81, was on the literary panel of the Arts Council 1974-1978, was a member of the Library Advisory Council of England 1979-1981 and patron of the Beckett Foundation. On his retirement from Faber and Faber, he became their senior editorial consultant. He was awarded the degree of honorary Doctor of Letters from the New University of Ulster in 1980, and from the University of Kent in 1982.



Born: 09 February 1921
Died: 09 May 1995
Richard Froggatt
Acknowledgements:

Wesley McCann