anthony burgess


Anthony Burgess (1917-1993) was a novelist, poet, playwright, composer, linguist, translator and critic. He is best known for his novel A Clockwork Orange, but altogether he wrote thirty-three novels, twenty-five works of non-fiction, two volumes of autobiography, three symphonies, more than 150 other musical works, reams of journalism and much more. Click through the timeline below to find out more about Anthony Burgess’s life and work.

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John Burgess Wilson was born in Harpurhey, Manchester, on Sunday 25 February 1917. His mother, Elizabeth Burgess, was a singer and dancer on the music-hall stage in Glasgow and Manchester. His father, Joseph Wilson, played the piano in music halls and silent cinemas before taking a job as a cashier at Swift’s beef market in Manchester. Elizabeth and Joseph were married in a civil ceremony at Prestwich Register Office on 26 December 1908. To ensure that their union was recognised by the Catholic church, they had a subsequent Catholic marriage ceremony at Our Lady of Loretto and St Michael Catholic Church at Musselburgh, Scotland, on 9 March 1909. Burgess's mother - then a Protestant - had received a conditional baptism into the Catholic faith the day before her marriage ceremony in Musselburgh.


Burgess's sister Muriel (b.1910) died of influenza and broncho-pneumonia..

'The Spanish influenza pandemic had struck Harpurhey. There was no doubt of the existence of a God: only the supreme being could contrive so brilliant an afterpiece to four years of unprecedented suffering and destruction. I, apparently, was chuckling in my cot while my mother and sister lay dead on a bed in the same room.' Little Wilson and Big God (1987)


Burgess's mother Elizabeth (b.1888) died of influenza and acute pneumonia. She is buried with her daughter in the Protestant cemetery in Harpurhey.

'My mother survived briefly in vague reminiscences of the Manchester music hall - a voice that could ride over a restive audience, the shining abundant hair, the neat ankles. ... I sometimes resent my father's failure to introduce me even to her insubstantial after-image, but he spoke little of her. She joined the great boneyard of the war and its aftermath.' Little Wilson and Big God (1980)