Category Archives: Priestley, J.B.

Who put the B. in J.B.?

We’re often asked about J.B. Priestley’s middle initial, so we thought we’d share our knowledge.

B is for BOYNTON!

Priestley, JB Chapman of Rhymes tp cr 2

Young John Priestley, known as Jack to his friends and family, adopted the B and the Boynton in his teens, growing up in Bradford before the First World War.  J. Boynton Priestley, 5 Saltburn Place, Bradford, Yorks was “added hopefully” to his juvenilia: scribbling books of closely-written poems, stories and essays and neat typescripts typed up for him by kind girls.

PRI7_6_10juvenilia3So why did Jack decide to use this extra name?  Partly to distinguish himself from other John Priestleys (not an unusual name in his family or the region.  His grandfather was John, his father,  Jonathan).   The addition also gave him a more suitable, interesting, distinctive name for a writer.

So why did he choose “Boynton”?  We don’t actually know.  There is a village of that name in the East Riding of Yorkshire, near Bridlington.  Could Jack have seen the village on a family holiday to that popular seaside resort?  However he came by the name, B for Boynton served Jack Priestley rather well as a pen-name and he was to be J.B. Priestley for the rest of his literary career …


The road to Boynton … (the B1253 between Bridlington and Boynton, by James Exon, licence CC BY-SA 2.0)

Sources and credits:

I am indebted to James Ogden for the suggestion that Jack found Boynton on a family holiday in Bridlington (“The name Boynton” p. 27-28, J.B. Priestley Society Newsletter, no. 24, Autumn 2011).

The road image is from the SABRE website, a vast compendium of images of Britain’s roads – the Roader’s Digest.

Priestley wrote about the juvenilia in the Swan Arcadian section of his memoir, Margin Released.  He gently mocked the literary pretensions of his teenage self, including the pompous pen-name, comparing J. Boynton to an “eighty years old retired clergyman” and sarcastically observing that “J. Boynton makes a bold frontal attack on his subject.”  Other than the hint of pretentiousness, he doesn’t actually explain the purpose or origin of the name.

The two reasons listed above come from an interview with Jacquetta Hawkes  cited in Vincent Brome’s biography of Priestley (Hamish Hamilton, 1988).  Jacquetta, J.B.’s third wife, would be likely to know and the reasons make perfect sense to me.

“Boynton” though awaits further explanation!


Bright Days and Cream Teas: the Joy of Waiting

The Joy of Waiting, a new album by Manchester musician and writer Sara Lowes, features songs inspired by J.B. Priestley, and in particular his interest in time.  The titles?  “Bright Day“, “The Chapman of Rhymes” and “J.B. Priestley”!

Sara Lowes Joy of Waiting

Sara’s music is difficult to categorise – you will have to hear her for yourself – but this description from Q Magazine will give you an inkling of her style:

“A voice somewhere between Alison Goldfrapp and Joni Mitchell, and songs that veer between folk, Brill Building pop and Dexys Midnight Runners-esque soul”.

J.B. Priestley Society members get a treat at the Society’s AGM on 11 April as Sara is to be our very special guest.   Not to mention a luxury afternoon tea.  Bliss!

Check out Sara’s website to hear her songs and find out more.

An Experiment with Time: Priestley and Dunne on Radio 3

J.B. Priestley, like many of his Great War veteran contemporaries, was a time-haunted man.  He was intrigued by the work of J.W. Dunne, not only to provide plots and ideas for his plays, but because he sought answers to deep questions about time and the meaning of life.  You can hear more about Dunne and Priestley and time in I Have Been Here Before, a recent BBC Radio 3 documentary.

Dunne, Experiment

The broadcast highlights an extraordinary part of the J.B. Priestley Archive here at Bradford.  Lecturer and author Katy Price discusses the “Time” letters written to Priestley by members of the public in response to his interest in precognition, dreams and other time-related phenomena.  The letters show how people trusted Priestley, pouring out experiences and thoughts they had never shared with anyone else.

Further reading: Dr Price recently published an academic article which uses the evidence in the letters to explore mid-20th century mentalities and psychiatric experiences: Testimonies of precognition and encounters with psychiatry in letters to J. B. Priestley.

Priestley, Documentary, Realism and Democracy: conference 25 October

Priestley, Documentary, Realism and Democracy: open one-day conference sponsored by the J.B. Priestley Society.

9.45-17.00 West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds.  25 October 2014.

There is still time to book a place at this fascinating conference, which includes Special Collections staff among the speakers.

PRI8_1_11 27 closeIt is eighty years since the publication of J.B. Priestley’s English Journey . The book influenced a whole generation on its appearance and has since inspired numerous responses and sequels. This conference aims both to do justice to that impact and also to consider wider issues raised by the documentary and social-realistic work of Priestley and his contemporaries in the Thirties and Forties.  Alison Cullingford will introduce delegates to the Heinemann Scrapbook, which shows how the publisher whipped up interest in Priestley’s controversial comments on English cities (image above).  Martin Levy will explore belatedness and Priestley’s social philosophy.  Other speakers will cover aspects of cinema, Orwell, Muir, social fiction and Priestley’s wartime suspense stories.

To find out more and book your place, see the conference mini-website.

Download the Programme.  JBPS 2014 Conference Running Order

Download the Poster.  JBPS_Conference_Poster

Unique chance to see! Johnson over Jordan, 12 October 2014

The J.B. Priestley Society and National Media Museum present Johnson over Jordan. 12 October 2014, Bradford.

In the experimental play Johnson over Jordan (1939), J.B. Priestley explored the meaning of life – and death.  Everyman Robert Johnson leads an ordinary family life, until he dies and is thrown into bewildering, terrifying, and, ultimately, moving afterlife experiences.  This event offers the first opportunity to see the TV adaptation of the play since its original “Thursday Theatre” broadcast on BBC2 in 1965.  The adaptation features a stellar cast, including Ralph Richardson, who created the part onstage, as Johnson.

A must-see for all Priestley fans and anyone with an interest in theatre, television or philosophy.  You can book tickets via the National Media Museum website.



The Actual and the Real

The Actual and the Real is a conference exploring J.B. Priestley’s English Journey and its connections to the documentary movement and other literary and political threads of the 30s and 40s.  It takes place in Leeds on 25 October 2014.  Find out more on the Conference website, including details of the Call for Papers which ends on 14 June.

Rediscovered: J.B. Priestley in the Yorkshire Post

Last weekend the Yorkshire Post published a really interesting piece about J.B. Priestley’s First World War experiences.  The article, by Steve McClarence, uses objects from Priestley’s Archive to tell the story: his shoulder-badge, his photographs, his letters, and above all Priestley’s unforgettable writings about the War in Margin Released and English Journey.  You can see the archive objects for yourself in our current exhibition at the Bradford Industrial Museum.