- 1926 - 1982 (Creation)
Level of description
Extent and medium
7 cm of textual records
Name of creator
George Richard Wilson Knight, professor, writer, critic, actor, Shakespearean expert, was born on 19 October 1897 at Sutton, Surrey, England to George Knight and Caroline Louisa Jackson. Knight attended Dulwhich College, London, from 1904 to 1914. Upon graduation, he worked as a clerk at the Phoenix Insurance Company and then at Alliance Assurance Company until 1916. At the age of 19, Knight enlisted in the army as a motorcycle despatch rider and was deployed to Mesopotamia in1917 (present day Iraq). His battalion was not transferred back to England until 1920. On his return to civilian life he became a mathematics master, teaching at the preparatory schools Seaford House and St. Peter’s in Sussex between 1920 and 1922.
In January of 1922, Knight began his studies of English at St. Edmund Hall at the University of Oxford. He earned a second class from the Honour School of English Language and Literature in the summer of 1923. In the autumn of the same year, he took up the position of a mathematics master at Hawtreys School in Kent where he remained until 1925. In 1926 Knight became the Senior English Master at Dean Close School in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. His time at the school marks the beginning of his active involvement in theatre productions of Shakespearean plays and his publication of scholarly work as well as novels and short stories. The bulk of his writings pertain to the study of Shakespeare and spiritualism, with a few works dedicated to the study of Byron and Powys. He continued to teach at the school until his appointment as Chancellor Professor of English at the University of Trinity College, Toronto in 1931.
At Trinity College, Knight continued his involvement with the theatre, both directing and acting in numerous Shakespearean plays at Hart House Theatre. In 1934 he was appointed President of the Shakespearean Society in Toronto. In 1940, he returned to England where he gave recitals on
Shakespeare. In 1941, he was became a temporary war replacement at Stowe School, Buckingham, teaching mathematics, geography and English. In 1946 Knight was appointed as a Reader in English at the University of Leeds where he taught a two-year course on World Drama. He also was also a member of the Leeds University Union Theatre Group from 1949, participating in numerous productions of Shakespearean drama. In 1956, he was given a chair as a Professor of English at the University where he remained until his retirement in 1962.
After 1962, Knight continued to publish a variety of academic and biographical material, as well as tour universities in the UK, United States and Canada with guest lectures recitals. In 1965 he was given an Honorary Fellowship at St. Edmund College, Oxford and was awarded Honorary Degrees at the Universities of Sheffield and Exeter in 1966 and 1968 respectively. He lived in Exeter, Devon until his death on 20 March 1985.
Immediate source of acquisition or transfer
G. Wilson Knight donated much of the material in this collection, in particular the clippings and programs. Correspondence and manuscripts are from other donors.
Content and structure area
Scope and content
The collection consists mainly of material relating to Knight’s theatrical performances and productions in Toronto and the United Kingdom, including theatre programs, review articles and newspaper clippings pertaining to the theatre, as well as a few published articles.
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Various copyright holders, it is the researcher’s responsibility to obtain permission to publish any part of the collection.
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