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A.G. Macdonell - Author

About the Author

Archibald Gordon Macdonell (3 November 1895 – 16 January 1941) was a Scottish writer, journalist and broadcaster.


Born in Poona, India, AG Macdonell considered himself to be a Scotsman more than anything else. His father was a physician, and he was educated at Winchester where he was excelled academically and at sports, representing the school at association football and golf. During World War I, he served for two years as a lieutenant of the Royal Field Artillery before being invalided out of the army, possibly because of shell shock. (Lieutenant Cameron, the protagonist of England, Their England is sent home for the same reason.) The war had a profound effect on him, as it did with so many of his generation. Afterwards he spent two years in eastern Europe, firstly on the reconstruction of Poland, and then on famine relief in Russia. In 1922 he joined the League of Nations where he spent five years. During 1923 and 1924 he unsuccessfully contested Lincoln as the Liberal candidate.


Macdonell made his living as a journalist in London, principally writing stage reviews for the London Mercury. In 1933, he became famous with the publication of England, Their England. The book gained considerable critical and popular acclaim, and won the James Tait Black Award that year.


Today, Macdonell is remembered mostly for this one book. It is regarded as one of the classics of English humour and is much-loved by readers for its evocation of England between the wars. It is particularly cherished by devotees of cricket for its famous description of the village cricket match.


Although the rest of his books have been largely forgotten, several of them earned accolades during his lifetime. Among these are the novels How Like An Angel (1934) and The Autobiography of a Cad (1938). (The latter was reissued in the UK in 2001 in Prion Humour Classics.) Macdonell also wrote six mystery novels under the name 'Neil Gordon', one of them in collaboration with Milward Kennedy.


Macdonell was also a connoisseur of military history, and wrote a historical study called Napoleon and his Marshals (1934).


Macdonell wrote a number of plays for the theatre. These were mostly comedies, with titles like What Next, Baby? Or Shall I Go To Tanganyika, and were performed on the London stage. He also engaged in amateur theatrics himself, at least in the early part of his career. A review of an amateur production in Thursley, printed in the Times newspaper in January 1930, notes that he played his role with "immense gusto" which was "vastly to the taste of the audience". Macdonell also wrote "The crew of the Anaconda" in 1940, a Boys Own ripping yarn type tale.


Macdonell was a regular contributor to The Observer, and was also a well-known broadcaster for the BBC Empire Service. Politically, he was a supporter of the Liberal Party. He was a keen sportsman and a first-rate golfer, representing the Old Wykehamists on a number of occasions.


He died suddenly in Oxford in 1941 at the relatively young age of 45. In his obituary, the Times called him "one of the leaders of the younger school of satirical novelists". He was buried at Wolvercote Cemetery in Oxford.

Featured books by A.G. Macdonell

Other books by A.G. Macdonell

The Shakespeare Murders

The Shakespeare Murders

Author: A.G. Macdonell Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 23/08/2012

Writing under the pseudonym Neil Gordon, A. G. Macdonell wrote several crime and thriller novels. In the classic genre of '20s and '30s crime fiction, Macdonell managed to introduce a different element, unusual twists that keep the reader captivated and anxious to discover what came next. The Shakespeare Murders is another example of Macdonell's carefully thought-through detective stories, where the detective is aided by the star of the cast. Peter Kerrigan saw a pickpocket take the wallet of a shabby little man, and with speed and precision he stole from the thief. Peter was a handsome gentleman-adventurer - not too scrupulous - and before he returned the pocketbook he read the letter which it contained. It was so that he heard of the million pound treasure, and began the search which was to lead him through so many horrors. At Marsh Manor he found the police trying to solve a murder, and lent somewhat grudging assistance; three more violent deaths followed rapidly. The working out of the solution to the mystery, and the final disposition of the treasure are brilliantly satisfying. The strictly logical framework of the book is filled in witty and entertaining fashion with strange and amusing characters. Macdonell uses his usual skill, well-dosed with ingenious twists, and a fast moving story-line, to keep the reader riveted to the book. Chase, conspiracy, and American gangsters add to the excitement of solving the Shakespeare riddle.

The Autobiography of a Cad

The Autobiography of a Cad

Author: A.G. Macdonell Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 21/06/2012

The Autobiography of a Cad is the hilarious 'memoir' of an arch-rotter, chronicling the life of one (happily fictitious) Edward Fox-Ingleby. A. G. Macdonell had great fun in writing this book, undoubtedly his funniest. It is written as a tongue-in-cheek 'autobiography' of a man who ploughs his way through life shafting everyone around him. After inheriting an estate from his dull father while still at Eton, he then goes up to Oxford; adroitly evades service in the First World War, and finally becomes a Tory minister in the 1930s. A rotter and a chancer of the first order, Fox-Ingleby will do anything to get what he wants - power, prestige, money, and sex. Macdonell was capable of wielding a wicked pen, and in Edward Fox-Ingleby he exposes the double-standards of the age, especially the cynicism and hypocrisy with which some of the wealthy were capable of concealing their actions. The style of humour is very British, and one reader - Josef Goebbels the Reich Minister for Propaganda, in his diary entry for 8 December 1940 seems to have been taken in - inconceivable as it appears, he thought the book to be of a genuine person. I read a book by the Englishman MacDonell, Self-Portrait of a Gentleman, an unspeakably frivolous and cynical concoction that shows the English plutocrat without his mask. This is the face of the people whom we must overthrow.

England, Their England

England, Their England

Author: A.G. Macdonell, Alan Sutton Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 21/06/2012

England, Their England is an affectionately satirical inter-war comic novel first published in 1933. It hit the right spot at the time and became a bestseller, and has endured as a classic of humour, transending the passage of time. It is particularly famed for its portrayal of a village cricket match. The plot - if there can be said to be a plot - is set in 1920s England, the book is written as if a travel memoir by a young Scotsman who had been invalided away from the Western Front, Donald Cameron , whose father's will forces him to reside in England. There he writes for a series of London newspapers, before being commissioned by a Welshman to write a book about the English from the view of a foreigner. Taking to the country and provincial cities, Donald spends his time doing research for a book on the English by consorting with journalists and minor poets, attending a country house weekend, serving as private secretary to a Member of Parliament, attending the League of Nations, and playing village cricket. The village cricket match is the most celebrated episode in the novel, and a reason cited for its enduring appeal.An important character is Mr Hodge; a caricature of Sir John Squire (poet and editor of the London Mercury) while the cricket team described in the book's most famous chapter is a representation of Sir John's Cricket Club - the Invalids - which survives today. The book ends in the ancient city of Winchester, where MacDonnell had gone to school. New introduction by Alan Sutton

A Visit To America

A Visit To America

Author: A.G. Macdonell Format: Paperback Release Date: 15/03/2007

The Autobiography of a Cad

The Autobiography of a Cad

Author: A.G. Macdonell, Simon Hoggart Format: Hardback Release Date: 31/01/2001

The Autobiography of a Cad is a spoof memoir of the life and times of one Edward Fox-Ingleby. Born in 1889, it runs from his earliest memories of his father's Midlands estate through to Eton, Oxford, the Great War and his defining moment: installation as a Tory minister in the 1930s.

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