Birth: 22 January 1894
Place or Registered Place of Birth: Warreston, Rodway Road, Bromley, Kent
Baptism: Not Known
Place of Baptism: Not Known
Death: 6 February 1958 - Aged 64
Place or Registered Place of Death: Campden Hill Square, Notting Hill, London
Place of Burial: Gunnersbury Cemetery, Kew Green, London
Father: Sir Charles Langbridge Morgan (1855-1940)
Mother: Mary Watkins (1854-1907)
Spouse(s): Hilda Campbell Vaughan
Date of Marriage: 6 June 1923
Place or Registered Place of Marriage: St. Martin-in-the-Fields, London
Elizabeth Shirley Vaughan Morgan (1924-)
Roger Hugh Vaughan Charles Morgan (1926-)
Charles Langbridge Morgan (22 January 1894 – 6 February 1958), was an English-born playwright and novelist of English and Welsh parentage. The main themes of his work were romantic love, mysticism, and a longing for the timeless and sublime through telling the stories of idealistic and artistic protagonists.
His maternal grandparents had emigrated to Australia from Pembrokeshire. His paternal grandparents were from Gloucestershire and Devon in England. His parents were married in Australia. His father, Sir Charles Langbridge Morgan was a railway civil engineer, and at one time was President of the Institution of Civil Engineers. Morgan himself was born in Bromley, Kent. He was educated at the Naval Colleges of Osborne and Dartmouth and served as a midshipman in the China Fleet until 1913, when he returned to England to take the entrance examinations for Oxford. On the outbreak of war he rejoined the navy but was sent with Churchill's Naval Division to the defence of Antwerp. He was interned in Holland which provided the setting for his best-selling novel The Fountain.
Some of his early poems were published in the Westminster Gazette. "To America" (1917) was included in A Treasury of World Poetry, edited by George Herbert Clarke. After World War I, he took his degree at Brasenose College, Oxford.
After an unsuccessful relationship with Mary, a daughter of Alfred Mond, 1st Baron Melchett, he married the Welsh novelist Hilda Vaughan in 1923. They had two children: Dame Shirley Paget, Marchioness of Anglesey, and Roger Morgan, who became Librarian of the House of Lords. He was the drama critic of The Times from the 1920s until 1938, and contributed weekly articles on the London theatre to the New York Times. He wrote a series of articles for the Times Literary Supplement under the byline "Menander's Mirror" from 1942, and many articles for the Sunday Times.
His first play, The Flashing Stream (1938), had successful runs in London and Paris but was not well received in New York. The River Line (1952) was originally written as a novel in 1949 and concerned the activities of escaped British prisoners of war in France during World War II.
He was awarded the Legion of Honour in 1936, a promotion in 1945, and was elected a member of the Institut de France in 1949. From 1953 he was the president of International PEN.
While Morgan enjoyed an immense reputation during his lifetime and was awarded the 1940 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction, he was often criticised for excessive seriousness, and is now rather neglected; he once claimed that the "sense of humour by which we are ruled avoids emotion and vision and grandeur of spirit as a weevil avoids the sun. It has banished tragedy from our theatre, eloquence from our debates, glory from our years of peace, splendour from our wars..." The character Gerard Challis in Stella Gibbons's Westwood is thought to be a caricature of him. His reputation has been and remains higher in France than in Britain.
Charles Langbridge Morgan was born on January 22nd, 1894 at Warreston, Rodway Road, Bromley, Kent, as the youngest of the four children of Sir Charles Langbridge Morgan (1855-1940) and Mary Morgan née Watkins, who died in 1907. CM’s parents had lived in Australia but returned to England; his father eventually became president of the Institution of Civil Engineers.
Morgan entered the Royal Navy in 1907, at thirteen; he was educated at Osborne and Dartmouth, where he was cadet captain. He then went to sea as a young midshipman, and served in the Atlantic Fleet, and later on the ‘China Station’ in the Far East.
His first ship was H.M.S. Good Hope, where he suffered the relentless hazing of young midshipmen then common in the Service: this is described in his first novel, The Gunroom.
Later he was transferred to H.M.S. Monmouth, where his superior officer, Christopher Arnold-Forster, provided a kindlier atmosphere and encouraged Morgan’s steadfast desire to be a writer. Arnold-Forster, who was the great-grandson of Dr Arnold of Rugby School, believed in Morgan, and the two became fast friends.
Morgan’s father helped him to resign from the Navy in 1914, and he was entered for Brasenose College, Oxford, for the autumn of that year. After the outbreak of war, however, he rejoined the Navy and was sent as a subaltern with the hastily-formed Naval Brigades to the defence of Antwerp. In a confused and catastrophic four-day action, Morgan’s Hawke Battalion found itself first lost, then across the border in neutral Holland, where officers and men were interned in Groningen. Those officers who would not give their word not to attempt to escape were then sent to the ancient and secure fort at Wierickerschans near Bodegraven, a fortress on an artificial island. Here he stayed for around a year, before he and some fellow-officers were released on parole and went to live on the estate of Roosendaal Castle, the home of the aristocratic Van Pallandt family. Both the fort and the castle figure in Morgan’s 1932 novel The Fountain, although the Van Leyden family there portrayed is fictional. It was here that he was introduced to the French language and civilisation then still common in Dutch aristocratic circles, and which became for him a lifelong love. It was here also that he wrote the first draft of The Gunroom.
Morgan was interned in Holland until 1917, after which he was allowed to go on leave to England. While crossing to England, however, his ship was sunk and all his belongings with it, including the manuscript of the novel. Leave was extended, and he rewrote The Gunroom; he was in England when the Armistice was signed. In 1919, after some time in hospital, he saw The Gunroom published by A & C Black, and took his place at Brasenose, reading History and becoming president of OUDS, the university Dramatic Society, where he produced Hardy’s The Dynasts and met the author. Through OUDS he met the dramatic critic of The Times, A.B. Walkley, who gave him a job on the editorial staff. After five years, Walkley died, and Morgan took his place as the newspaper’s chief theatre critic.
An intense and reciprocated attachment, culminating in an engagement, to Mary Mond, daughter of Alfred Mond, Lord Melchett, was broken up by Lady Melchett who sent her daughter to India where she married another. Morgan, deeply affected by this, eventually met a Welsh fellow novelist, Hilda Campbell Vaughan, two years older than himself, and married her in 1923. Living in More’s Garden, a block of flats on the Embankment in Chelsea, they had two children, Elizabeth Shirley, born in 1924 (since 1948 Marchioness of Anglesey), and Roger, born in 1926, later Librarian of the House of Lords.
During this time Morgan published his second novel, My Name is Legion (1925), which introduces a number of the themes developed in his later work, and in which we can see his characteristic prose style beginning to develop. It is an uneven work, and he himself said that the man who completed it was not the same as he who had begun it four years earlier. Later he regarded it as an apprentice work, and though he never repudiated it, he never urged that it be reprinted.
His first major success was Portrait in a Mirror (1929), originally called First Love, the Bildungsroman of a young painter, which won the Prix Femina-Vie Heureuse the following year. By now Morgan was a successful novelist, and the family moved to a tall house at no. 16, Campden Hill Square in Holland Park. Here Charles and Hilda each had a workroom on the remodelled top floor, and here Charles completed his next novel, The Fountain (1932), which was even more successful than Portrait, being selected as the Book of the Month in America and selling over 140,000 copies – somewhat to the author’s surprise, as it is a novel about a man’s search for what he called ‘singleness of mind’, one of Morgan’s abiding subjects. The Fountain won the Hawthornden Prize in 1933, and Morgan at once began work on another long novel, Sparkenbroke (1936), which unites his three great preoccupations, as he put it to George Moore: ‘Art, Love, and Death’. Meanwhile, he had intended to write a biography of the novelist George Moore, but owing to Lady Cunard’s refusal to allow him access to her correspondence with Moore had to settle instead for a shorter but elegant and affectionate essay, Epitaph on George Moore (1935). It was in the same year that Morgan met the actress Margaret Rawlings, who was to be his lover for many years. Morgan now tried his hand at writing, as well as reviewing, drama, and wrote a play, The Flashing Stream, with a prefatory essay ‘On Singleness of Mind’. It was produced in London in 1938.
As the Second World War began, Morgan was at work on a novel set in late 19th-century rural France, The Voyage, which was published in 1940, dedicated (without dangerously naming names) to his French friends, Jacques and Germaine Delamain, the latter being his remarkable French translator.
Morgan spent most of the war in London working for Naval Intelligence and writing. His first short novel, The Empty Room, came out in 1941, and two selections of his weekly columns for the Times Literary Supplement, ‘Menander’s Mirror’, were published as Reflections in a Mirror, first and second series, in 1944 and 1946 respectively. One essay was on the topic ‘that France is an idea necessary to civilisation’, and his involvement with France was intensified as that country’s troubles grew. In 1942 he wrote an 'Ode to France'; and when in September 1944 the Comédie française was reopened, Morgan was asked to read his Ode from the stage – a moment Paul Valéry remembered as unforgettably moving in his Preface to The Voyage’s French translation two years later (see sidebar under 'Works' on this site).
In 1947 Morgan continued his format of the shorter novel with The Judge’s Story, a captivating Miltonic tale of good and evil, of temptation and deliverance. Two years later he wrote a novel about the French Resistance and its ‘passing’ of downed British airmen, The River Line, and subsequently rewrote this as a play, performed in 1952. Another feature of Morgan’s postwar work was his increasing preoccupation with totalitarianism and its conjunction of science with control: this found expression in a 1951 book of essays, Liberties of the Mind and in The Burning Glass, his last play, published in 1953.
He was not completely dominated by these fears, however, and one of his finest short novels, A Breeze of Morning, about an adult love affair witnessed by a young boy, came out in 1951. His final novel, Challenge to Venus, featuring an Englishman in Italy and revisiting in brief some of the themes of The Fountain, appeared in 1957.
Charles Morgan’s love of France was reciprocated: he had been made an officer of the Légion d’honneur in 1936, and five years after his appearance on the reopened stage of the Théâtre français he was made a member of the Institut de France, the body of which the Académie française is also a part. This induction, wearing the habit vert, the Institut’s magnificent embroidered uniform, was perhaps the proudest moment of his life: the hilt of his ceremonial sword showed the tomb if Ilaria del Carretto by Jacopo della Quercia in the cathedral at Lucca, mentioned in Sparkenbroke.
Though Morgan’s work was read with attention and affection by many British readers, his greatest successes were abroad, especially in America and France. He was a Romantic, and claimed to be a Platonist: his influences include his wife’s ancestor, the seventeenth-century visionary Welsh poet Henry Vaughan, the Romantic poets, especially Keats; and George Meredith. His distinction as a writer was twofold: in the first place the novels lead the reader through extraordinarily vivid descriptive passages to characters distinguished not only by action and emotion but also by thought; secondly, the craftsmanship of his prose was unequalled if in no sense ‘modern’. No twentieth-century author worked with more absolute attention at the English language. A posthumous book of essays, The Writer and his World (1960) discusses this craft, to which he had devoted a lifetime and at which he had become a master. Among his acknowledged influences were the Book of Common Prayer, Keats’s letters, and the prose of Addison; he admired Churchill also.
Morgan was not at ease with a world of modern art founded on irony, and a culture of strident vulgarity. At no time is his work precious, but it is unabashedly distinguished.
Charles Morgan died of a bronchial ailment at his Campden Hill Square home on February 6th, 1958, at the age of 64. He is buried in Gunnersbury Cemetery in West London; his gravestone reads ‘Charles Morgan, Author, Membre de l’Institut de France’, followed by the following verses from Sparkenbroke:
Weep thine own exile, not my life.
With Earth for mother, Sleep for wife,
Here in the tomb is winter spring.
Who stays? A fool. Who knocks? A King.
Sir Charles Langbridge Morgan (Sen.) was born 1 January 1855 at Autumn Terrace, St. Martins, Worcester in Worcestershire and died at 31 Wick Hall, Hove in Sussex on 9 November 1940.
Mary Watkins, the daughter of William Watkins and Martha Dalley, was born in Sydney, New South Wales about 1854 (although there does not seem to be a birth record in N.S.W. at that time) and died in the U.K. about 1907.
Sir Charles Langbridge Morgan and Mary Watkins were married at the Congregational Church, Redfern (inner Sydney suburb), New South Wales, 14 March 1883.
Sir Charles Langbridge Morgan CBE (1855 - 9 November 1940) was a British civil engineer.
Morgan was born in 1855 in Worcester, England. He married Mary Watkins in Australia to which her parents had emigrated. Their son, also called Charles Langbridge Morgan, was a playwright and novelist. During the First World War he served in the British Army's Royal Engineers as a Lieutenant-Colonel. Morgan's son also served in the war, as an officer of the Royal Navy. During the war the elder Morgan undertook "special engineering duties" for the War Office in Italy and France. On 6 April 1917 he was appointed Deputy Director of Railways and also served as Commissioner of the Newhaven and Seaford Sea Defences in East Sussex. He was appointed a Commander of the British Empire in 1918.
After the war Morgan served as a member of the Disposals Board, a government body formed to dispose of surplus war material, a body he was still a member of (with the rank of Colonel) on 29 December 1922 when it was announced that he would received a knighthood in the New Year's Honours. The knighthood was conferred by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 15 February 1923. From November 1923 to November 1924 Morgan served as president of the Institution of Civil Engineers, an organisation he had joined as an Associate Member on 9 January 1883. He was also a member of the Territorial Army Engineer and Railway Staff Corps, an unpaid volunteer unit which provides technical expertise to the British Army. He resigned his commission as Lieutenant-Colonel in this corps on 18 February 1925, he had permission to retain his rank and to continue to wear the uniform. He died on 9 November 1940.
SIR CHARLES LANGBRIDGE MORGAN, C.B.E., was born at Worcester on the 1st January, 1855, and died at Hove, Sussex, on the 9th November, 1940. He was educated at private schools in Australia and England, and in 1870 commenced his engineering pupilage under Mr. Edward Wilson, and from 1877 to 1883 he was engaged as chief engineering assistant to Messrs. E. Wilson & Company, on contracts for railway construction in various parts of Great Britain. During that period he acted as resident engineer on the construction of the Banbury and Cheltenham Railway. In 1883 he was appointed assistant engineer on the Great Eastern Railway, and in 1896 became chief engineer of the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway and of the Newhaven Harbour Company. He was responsible for numerous engineering improvements on the system, including the construction of the line from Stoats Nest to Earlswood, which provided a route to Brighton independent of the South Eastern Railway, and the complete reconstruction of the Brighton Company’s side of Victoria station, London. On his retirement in 1917, he was elected a director of the Company, and when the Brighton and South Eastern Companies were merged by the Railways Act of 1921 into the Southern Railway he became a member of the board of directors. During the Great War he served as a lieutenant-colonel in the Royal Engineers (T.), and undertook a mission on special engineering duties for the War Office in Italy and France. Later he became a member of the Disposals Board, and he was also a Commissioner of the Newhaven and Seaford Sea Defences. He was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1918, and was created a knight in 1923.
Sir Charles was elected an Associate Member of The Institution on the 9th January, 1883, and was transferred to the class of Member on the 30th April, 1889. He served on the Council from November 1912, became a Vice-President in November 1919, and was President of The Institution in the Session of 1923-24.
He married, in 1883, Mary, daughter of Mr. William Watkins, and had two sons and two daughters. They were:
Martha Lilian MORGAN was born ABT. SEP 1884 in Wandsworth, Surrey, England, and died 8 OCT 1965 in Sidmouth, Devon, England. She married John Gambier MORANT ABT. JUN 1934 in Steyning, Sussex, England. He was born ABT. DEC 1887 in Kensington, Surrey, England, and died AFT. OCT 1965.
William Watkins MORGAN was born 31 DEC 1885 in Wandsworth, Surrey, England, and died ABT. 19 JUN 1915 in Gallipoli Peninsula, Turkey.
Mildred Mary Langbridge MORGAN was born ABT. DEC 1887 in Broxsbourne, Hertfordshire, England, and died 17 SEP 1966 in 10 Eaton Gardens, Hove, Sussex, England.
Charles Langbridge MORGAN was born 22 JAN 1894 in Bromley, Kent, England, and died 6 FEB 1958 in London, England.
Charles Langbridge Morgan