Joyce Cary was born in 1888, in Londonderry. His father was a civil engineer from an Anglo-Irish family that had once been wealthy, but Castle Cary and other houses had already passed on to others by the time that Joyce was born. Joyce’s full name was Arthur Joyce Lunel Cary. He was related to the Joyces of Galway, which is why he was given this rather feminine name. Many websites comment on this, although none of them seem to elaborate on the more interesting question: why he dump Arthur in favour of Joyce? Perhaps everyone around him preferred to call him “Joyce”, or maybe it was related to the fact that there was another more famous writer from Ireland at the time, James Joyce?
With his £300 inheritance, Joyce set of to study art in Edinburgh and Paris, but discovered that he was a much better writer than painter. However, life intervened, and his novels are probably all the better more from the experiences that Joyce was able to relay in them. He read law at Oxford, and then served as a Red Cross orderly in 2 Balkan wars. Joyce then joined the Nigerian political service in 1913. During the First World War, he fought with a Nigerian regiment in the Cameroon. In 1920, he returned to England, settling in Oxford. He wrote several short stories under a pseudonym, but it was over a decade before his first novel was published in 1932, “Aissa Saved”. All of the novels in this period drew on his African experiences: “An American Visitor” (1933), “The African Witch” (1936), and his most famous novel, “Mister Johnson”, was published in 1939. The preceding year saw the publication of “Castle Corner”, which sounds akin to “Castle Cary”. Indeed, it drew heavily on Joyce’s childhood summer holidays in Inishowen, as did “A House of Children” in 1941, which won the James Tait prize. He then wrote 3 novels featuring the vivacious artist Gulley Jimpson: “Herself Surprised” (1941), “To be a Pilgrim” (1942), and “The Horse’s Mouth” (1944). “The Horse’s Mouth” was made into a movie in 1958, with an Academy Award nominated screenplay by Alec Guinness, who played the role of Gulley. Joyce Cary wrote the screenplay for another film, “Men of Two Worlds”.
Joyce Cary then wrote another trilogy of novels, this time with a political theme: “Prisoner of Grace” (1952), “Except the Lord” (1953), and “Not Honour More” (1955). Other Joyce Cary books included “Charley is my darling” (1940), “The Moonlight” (1946) and “A Fearful Joy” (1949). Joyce Cary died of motor neurone disease in 1957, leaving an incomplete final novel, “The Captive and the Free”, which was published in 1959. The following year saw the publication of a collection of short stories: “Spring Song and other stories”. He also wrote some factual pieces, published as “The Case for African Freedom” (1941), “Art and Reality” (1956), and “Selected Essays” were published in 1976.
The Paris Review – their lengthy interview with Joyce Cary in pdf format
“The African Trilogy”: ‘writing back’ to “Mister Johnson” – Katharine Slattery’s essay
Moulding Identity: Aesthetics and Society in Joyce Cary – Ana Raquel Fernandes’ essay