William John Locke (20 March 1863 – 15 May 1930) was a novelist and playwright, born in Cunningsbury St George, Christ Church, Demerara, British Guyana on the 20th March 1863, the eldest son of John Locke, Bank Manager of Barbados, and his first wife, Sarah Elizabeth Locke (née Johns). His parents were English. In 1864 his family moved to Trinidad and Tobago. In 1865, a second son was born, Charlie Alfred Locke, who was eventually to become a doctor. Charlie Locke died in 1904 aged 39. His half-sister, Anna Alexandra Hyde (née Locke), by his father's second marriage, died in 1898 in childbirth aged 25.
At the age of 3, W J Locke, was sent to England for further education. He remained in England for nine years, before returning to Trinidad to attend prep school with his brother, at Queen's Royal College, Trinidad where he won an exhibition to St John's College, Cambridge. He returned to England in 1881 to attend Cambridge University, where he graduated with honours in Mathematics in 1884, despite his dislike of that 'utterly futile and inhuman subject'.
After leaving Cambridge, Locke became a schoolmaster. He disliked teaching, but is known to have been a master at the Oxford Military College at Temple Cowley in 1889 and 1890 and at Clifton College Bristol, in 1890; from 1891 to 1897 he was modern languages master at Trinity College, Glenalmond. In 1893 he published a school edition of Murat, an extract from the Crimes celebres of Alexandre Dumaspere (1803–1870). In 1890 he became seriously ill with tuberculous, which affected him for the rest of his life.From 1897 to 1907 he was secretary of the Royal Institute of British Architects and lived in London.
In 1894 he published his first novel, At the Gate of Samaria, but he did not achieve real success for another decade, with The Morals of Marcus Ordeyne (1905) and The Beloved Vagabond (1906). Chambers Biographical Dictionary wrote of his "long series of novels and plays which with their charmingly written sentimental themes had such a success during his life in both Britain and America... His plays, some of which were dramatised versions of his novels, were all produced with success on the London Stage" (p. 836).
On the 19th May 1911, W.J. Locke married Amiee Maxwell Close (née Heath), the divorced wife of Percy Hamilton Close in Chelsea in the City of London. The Wedding was attended by Alice Baines and James Douglas.
Five times Locke's books made the list of best-selling novels in the United States for the year as determined by the New York Times. His works have been made into twenty-four motion pictures the most recent of which was Ladies in Lavender, filmed in 2004 and starring Dame Judi Dench and Maggie Smith. Adapted to the screen by Charles Dance, it was based on Locke's 1916 short story of the same title that had been published in a collection entitled "Faraway Stories." Probably the most famous of Locke's books adapted to the screen was the 1918 Pickford Film Corporation production of Stella Maris starring Mary Pickford. In addition, four of his books were made into Broadway plays, two of which Locke wrote and were produced by Charles Frohman.
Locke died of cancer at 64 rue Desbordes Valmore, Paris, France on 15 May 1930.
Read more about William John Locke: Bibliography
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