Friday, October 26, 2007

Humphrey Carpenter
Humphrey William Bouverie Carpenter (April 29, 1946January 4, 2005) was an English biographer, author and radio broadcaster. He was born, died, and lived practically all of his life, in the city of Oxford. As a child he lived in the Warden's Lodgings at Keble College, Oxford, where his father, Harry James Carpenter, was Warden until his appointment as Bishop of Oxford. On leaving the Dragon School in Oxford, Humphrey was educated at Marlborough College in Wiltshire, but returned to study English at Keble.
His large output of books includes biographies of J. R. R. Tolkien (1977) (also editor of The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien), W. H. Auden (1981), Ezra Pound (1988), Evelyn Waugh (1989), Benjamin Britten (1992), Robert Runcie (1997), and Spike Milligan (2004).
He also wrote histories of BBC Radio 3 (on which he was a regular broadcaster), the British satire boom of the 1960s, Angry Young Men: A Literary Comedy of the 1950s (2002) and a centennial history of the Oxford University Dramatic Society in 1985. His Mr Majeika series of children's books enjoyed considerable popularity and were successfully adapted for television. His encyclopedic work The Oxford Companion to Children's Literature (1984), written jointly with his wife Mari Prichard, has become a standard reference source.
A distinguished broadcaster, he began his career at BBC Radio Oxford as a presenter and producer before moving to national radio. He played a vital role in launching Radio 3's ongoing arts discussion programme Night Waves and was a regular presenter of other programmes on the network including Radio 3's afternoon drivetime programme In Tune and, until it was discontinued, its Sunday request programme Listeners' Choice. Until he died he was the presenter of the BBC Radio 4 biography series Great Lives recorded in Bristol. The last edition recorded before his death featured an interview with the singer Eddi Reader about her selected life, Robert Burns. The programme was transmitted on New Year's Eve 2004.
In 1983, he formed a 1930s style jazz band, Vile Bodies, which for many years enjoyed a residency at the Ritz Hotel in London.
He also founded the Mushy Pea Theatre Group, a children's drama group based in Oxford, which premiered his Mr Majeika: The Musical in 1991 and Babes, a musical about Hollywood child stars.
Carpenter was a talented amateur jazz musician and an accomplished player of the piano, the saxophone and the double-bass, playing the last instrument professionally in a dance band in the 1970s.
His early death was the result of heart failure, compounded by the Parkinson's disease from which he had suffered for several years.

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