Authors: William Trevor

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Irish short-story writer, novelist, and playwright

Author Works

Short Fiction:

The Day We Got Drunk on Cake, and Other Stories, 1967

The Ballroom of Romance, and Other Stories, 1972

The Last Lunch of the Season, 1973

Angels at the Ritz, and Other Stories, 1975

Lovers of Their Time, and Other Stories, 1978

Beyond the Pale, and Other Stories, 1981

The Stories of William Trevor, 1983

The News from Ireland, and Other Stories, 1986

Family Sins, and Other Stories, 1990

Collected Stories, 1992

Ireland: Selected Stories, 1995

Outside Ireland: Selected Stories, 1995

Marrying Damian, 1995 (limited edition)

After Rain, 1996

The Hill Bachelors, 2000

Long Fiction:

A Standard of Behaviour, 1958

The Old Boys, 1964

The Boarding-House, 1965

The Love Department, 1966

Mrs. Eckdorf in O’Neil’s Hotel, 1969

Miss Gomez and the Brethren, 1971

Elizabeth Alone, 1973

The Children of Dynmouth, 1976

Other People’s Worlds, 1980

Fools of Fortune, 1983

Nights at the Alexandra, 1987

The Silence in the Garden, 1988

Two Lives, 1991

Juliet’s Story, 1991

Felicia’s Journey, 1994

Death in Summer, 1998

The Story of Lucy Gault, 2002


The Elephant’s Foot, pr. 1965

The Girl, pr. 1967 (televised), pr., pb. 1968 (staged)

A Night Mrs. da Tanka, pr. 1968 (televised), pr., pb. 1972 (staged)

Going Home, pr. 1970 (radio play), pr., pb. 1972 (staged)

The Old Boys, pr., pb. 1971 (adaptation of his novel)

A Perfect Relationship, pr. 1973

The Fifty-seventh Saturday, pr. 1973

Marriages, pr., pb. 1973

Scenes from an Album, pr. 1975 (radio play), pr., pb. 1981 (staged)

Radio Plays:

Beyond the Pale, 1980

Autumn Sunshine, 1982


A Writer’s Ireland: Landscape in Literature, 1984

Excursions in the Real World, 1993

Edited Text:

The Oxford Book of Irish Short Stories, 1989


William Trevor’s fertile imagination can scarcely be summed up in two adjectives, but if one were so limited, then “gothic” and “elegiac” would do very well. Though not an experimentalist, he has developed a flexible narrative form that conveys a wide variety of attitudes, shifts of tone, speaking voices, and descriptive passages that, while not pretending to rival the accomplishments of his master, James Joyce, have succeeded in establishing Trevor as a leading fiction writer on both sides of the Atlantic. Born William Trevor Cox in a small town in County Cork, Ireland, Trevor was educated in a haphazard way until he entered St. Columba’s College in Dublin in 1942. In 1950 he earned his baccalaureate from Trinity College and for the next decade or so eked out a living teaching school while working as a sculptor. Although one of his sculptures won a prize in 1952, he gave up sculpting a few years afterward in favor of writing. Meanwhile, he had left Ireland for England, where he eventually made his home in Devonshire after teaching in Rugby and Taunton and then working in advertising in London.{$I[AN]9810000738}{$I[A]Trevor, William}{$S[A]Cox, William Trevor;Trevor, William}{$I[geo]ENGLAND;Trevor, William}{$I[geo]IRELAND;Trevor, William}{$I[tim]1928;Trevor, William}

Moving to England was motivated strictly by economics, as work was hard to find in Ireland after graduation from Trinity College. Nevertheless, Trevor evidently found the English social and intellectual climate congenial, which explains his continued residence. More important, he found there a singular advantage to his writing, the advantage one enjoys as an acute observer of a culture different from one’s own. Hence, his early stories and novels treat English subjects and involve English men and women; only later did he begin to focus upon his native Ireland. Perhaps the advantage of living away from his homeland for an extended period gave him the perspective he felt he needed. In any event, while books such as The Old Boys and The Children of Dynmouth deal impressively with English themes and English characters, short stories such as “Attracta” in Lovers of Their Time, and Other Stories and the title story in The News from Ireland, and Other Stories reveal Trevor’s sure handling of Irish subjects, in both historical and contemporary settings.

The gothic aspect of Trevor’s imagination shows itself in the assemblage of misfits, oddballs, and eccentrics that populate almost all of his fiction. Studdy and Nurse Clock in The Boarding-House also demonstrate its sinister side. Bitter rivals and indeed enemies, they link up in an unholy alliance to become the sole beneficiaries of an unusual bequest, but they are ultimately thwarted by their own greed and a failure to grasp the warped intelligence of those they are trying to cheat. Young Timothy Gedge, by contrast, seems to understand only too well the weaknesses of his victims, as he tries to insinuate himself into their lives. If like Studdy he is a confidence man, his youth and his loneliness combine to make him finally a creature more pathetic than wicked, though Trevor does not underestimate the potential–and real–evil of which Gedge is capable.

The presence of evil in the world and the inability of many human beings to communicate effectively with one another explain the sadness, or the elegiac quality, that colors so much of Trevor’s work. Nights at the Alexandra develops this quality to an extraordinary degree. The keynote sounds with the opening short paragraph: “I am a fifty-eight-year-old provincial. I have no children. I have never married.” This statement is the unintended legacy that Alexandra Messinger, an Englishwoman married to a German, leaves young Harry. She and her husband have fled from Nazi Germany and are living in a small Irish town during the “Emergency” (as the Irish called World War II). Told from the vantage point of many years later, Nights at the Alexandra recounts the story of a youngster who, badly misunderstood by his parents and siblings, becomes a loner. Much taken by the beautiful, mysterious but kindly woman many years her husband’s junior, Harry defies parental orders not to visit with the strangers and ultimately elects to work in Herr Messinger’s newly erected cinema instead of his father’s lumberyard. Built despite wartime shortages and named for Frau Messinger, the cinema is her husband’s gift to her and to the town. When it finally opens, however, Frau Messinger has died and her husband leaves the town and Cloverhill, the home where Harry visited them, forever. The illness is never named or explained, but it doubtless derives in part from an early heartbreak Frau Messinger experienced, the inability to give her husband a child, her deep sense of gratitude to him for his love and devotion, and in general the profound isolation she finds in these alien surroundings. “We can live without anything but love, Harry,” she says at one point. “Always remember that.” Yet though she has love, she dies, and dying, she takes with her any chance Harry may have to love, though he lives on.

Trevor has written plays for stage and television, many of them adapted from his own stories or novels. He believes short stories lend themselves better to films than novels do, but he has adapted both for radio and television, including “Beyond the Pale,” “Voices from the Past,” “The Love of a Good Woman,” “Matilda’s England,” Elizabeth Alone, and “The Ballroom of Romance.”

Widely regarded as one of the finest storytellers and craftsmen writing in English, Trevor has been the recipient of numerous awards. Among these are the Royal Society of Literature Award, the Allied Irish Banks’ Prize for Literature, and the Whitbread Prize for Fiction. His novel The Story of Lucy Gault was short-listed for the Booker Prize in 2002. He is also a member of the Irish Academy of Letters and has been named an honorary Commander, Order of the British Empire.

BibliographyBonaccorso, Richard. “William Trevor’s Martyrs for Truth.” Studies in Short Fiction 34 (Winter, 1997): 113-118. Discusses two types of Trevor characters: those who try to evade the truth and those who gravitate, often in spite of themselves, toward it; argues that the best indicators of the consistency of Trevor’s moral vision may be his significant minority, those characters who find themselves pursuing rather than fleeing truth.Fitzgerald-Hoyt, Mary. “The Influence of Italy in the Writings of William Trevor and Julia O’Faolain.” Notes on Modern Irish Literature 2 (1990): 61-67. Compares the two writers’ use of Italian settings.Gitzen, Julian. “The Truth-Tellers of William Trevor.” Critique: Studies in Modern Fiction 21, no. 1 (1979): 59-72. Gitzen claims that most critics of Trevor’s work have found it in the comedic tradition, sometimes dark and at other times more compassionate in its humor, but he argues that, if it is comic, it is also melancholic in its journey from “psychological truth” to “metaphysical mystery.”Haughey, Jim. “Joyce and Trevor’s Dubliners: The Legacy of Colonialism.” Studies in Short Fiction 32 (Summer, 1995): 355-365. Compares how James Joyce’s “Two Gallants” and Trevor’s “Two More Gallants” explore the complexities of Irish identity; argues that Trevor’s story provides an updated commentary on the legacy of Ireland’s colonial experience. Both stories reveal how Irish men, conditioned by colonization, are partly responsible for their sense of cultural alienation and inferiority.MacKenna, Dolores. William Trevor: The Writer and His Work. Dublin: New Island, 1999. Offers some interesting biographical details; includes a bibliography and an index.Morrison, Kristin. William Trevor. New York: Twayne, 1993. A general introduction to Trevor’s fiction, focusing on a conceptual “system of correspondences” often manifested in Trevor’s work by a rhetorical strategy of “significant simultaneity” and a central metaphor of the Edenic garden. Through close readings of Trevor’s major works, including such short stories as “Beyond the Pale” and “The News from Ireland,” Morrison examines the overall unity of his fiction.Morrow Paulson, Suzanne. William Trevor: A Study of the Short Fiction. New York: Twayne, 1993. Provides analysis of Trevor’s short fiction in addition to interviews with the author and compilations of reviews of his work.Paulson, Suzanne Morrow. William Trevor: A Study of the Short Fiction. New York: Twayne, 1993. This introduction to Trevor’s stories examines four common themes from Freudianism to feminism: psychological shock, failed child/parent relationships, patriarchal repressiveness, and materialism in the modern world. Also contains an interview with Trevor and a number of short reviews of his stories.Rhodes, Robert E. “William Trevor’s Stories of the Troubles.” In Contemporary Irish Writing, edited by James D. Brophy and Raymond D. Porter. Boston: Twayne, 1983. Rhodes claims that, although most of Trevor’s fiction had until the 1980’s revolved around English characters, his Anglo-Irish stories and protagonists, because of their environment and historical experience, are of greater significance in exploring the complexities of the human condition.Schiff, Stephen. “The Shadows of William Trevor.” The New Yorker 68, no. 45 (December 28, 1992/January 4, 1993): 158-163. A profile of the writer and his works. Emphasizes Trevor’s Irish heritage.Schirmer, Gregory A. William Trevor: A Study in His Fiction. London: Routledge, 1990. One of the first full-length studies of Trevor’s fictional writings. Schirmer notes the tension in Trevor’s works between morality and the elements in contemporary society that make morality almost an impossibility, with lonely alienation the result. He also discusses Trevor as an outsider, both in Ireland and in England. An excellent study. Includes bibliographical references.Trevor, William. “A Clearer Vision of Ireland.” The Guardian, April 23, 1992, p. 25. A personal account of what it means to be an Irish writer. Trevor talks about when he first began consciously to feel Irish and when he first realized what Ireland was really like. Talks about his childhood and youth and his decision to become a writer.
Categories: Authors