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You are here: Home > University and Alumni News > University News 2012 > Anthony Burgess Plaque

Plaque will be UK’s first monument to Clockwork Orange author

10 Oct 2012

Clockwork Orange author Anthony Burgess was publicly honoured for the first time in the UK, with a blue plaque unveiled tomorrow at The University of Manchester, where he studied.

The unveiling was proceeded by the world premier of a trumpet fanfare he wrote as a birthday present for his son – Andrew Burgess Wilson - and recently discovered by the International Anthony Burgess Foundation (IABF) also based in Manchester.

Other than a plaque outside his flat in Monaco - where he lived for 17 years - no other monument exists to the world-famous author, who died in 1993.

Dr Andrew Biswell, Director of the International Anthony Burgess Foundation, said: "Although Burgess was one of the great English-language writers of the 20th century, he has always been neglected in the country of his birth.

"In his lifetime, he was always regarded with suspicion because he lived abroad, even though he regularly visited the UK and came back to London towards the end of his life.

"Burgess was awarded major public honours by President Mitterand of France and Prince Rainier of Monaco, but in Britain he received nothing except a cheap plastic trophy presented to him by Mrs Thatcher at the British Press Awards.

"So I’m delighted that the University has decided to install the first British public monument to Burgess, fifty years after A Clockwork Orange was first published."

The undergraduate John Burgess Wilson – who invented the name "Anthony Burgess" when he published his first novel - studied English literature at the University from 1937 to 1940.

He went on to write 33 novels, 25 works of non-fiction, two volumes of autobiography, three symphonies, and more than 250 other musical works, including a violin concerto for Yehudi Menuhin.

The son of a music-hall dancer and a shopkeeper, he grew up in Harpurhey and Moss Side, before winning a scholarship to Xaverian College in Manchester.

Some of his earliest poems were published in The University of Manchester student magazine "The Serpent", including a love poem to his first wife and fellow student, Llewela Jones. They became engaged while they were studying at Manchester.

He also wrote music as an undergraduate, composing a piano sonata, a number of cabaret songs, and a setting of T.S. Eliot's poem, "Lines for an Old Man".

The fanfare, called Flourish, was originally written for recorder and trumpet in the 1980s - but arranged for two trumpets by University of Manchester lecturer and Head of Composition Dr Kevin Malone.

Dr Howard Booth, lecturer in English and American literature, will be chairing a discussion on Burgess with Dr Biswell and Dr Kaye Mitchell from the University’s English and American Studies department.

The plaque was unveiled by Professor Jeremy Gregory, Head of the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures, to mark the launch of the school.

Dr Booth said: “It’s a great opportunity for all of us in the new School to celebrate a former English literature student. Burgess is a major novelist who deeply loved literature and language - he wrote so well about other writers.

“I’m eager to celebrate a distinguished former literature student for the benefit of the present cohort.

“Who knows, in fifty years’ time there may be a blue plaque for one of our current students.”

August marked the fiftieth anniversary of arguably Burgess’ most famous novel A Clockwork Orange with a landmark exhibition at the John Ryland’s Library.

The magnificent surroundings of the Historic Reading Room at the John Rylands Library provide the backdrop to a major new exhibition of rare books, photographs, manuscripts and film props.

The exhibition remains open until Sunday 27 January 2013. For more information about the exhibition, visit the John Ryland’s website: www.library.manchester.ac.uk/deansgate/exhibitions    

The International Anthony Burgess Foundation is an educational charity that encourages and supports public and scholarly interest in all aspects of the life and work of Anthony Burgess. More details at www.anthonyburgess.org