Six famous writers who used to be language teachers

glasses_and_bookAre you a language teacher who’s secretly a great writer “in the wings”? Feel you’ve got a great novel in you just waiting to come out? Take heart, the following six people were just like you!

1. J.R.R. Tolkien. Author of  The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien taught English Language at the University of Leeds.

2.  James Joyce. Author of Ulysses and The Dubliners. Joyce taught English for a Berlitz school in Austria-Hungary.

3. Aldous Huxley. Author of Brave New World. Taught French at the elite public school Eton, where Eric Blair (George Orwell) was one of his students.

4. .J.K. Rowling. Author of the Harry Potter series. Rowling worked as an EFL teacher in a private language school in Portugal while writing the first Harry Potter book.

5. Frank McCourt. Author of Angela’s Ashes, ‘Tis and Teacher Man. McCourt taught English literature at a high school in New York.

6. Nick Hornby. Author of High Fidelity, About a Boy, Fever Pitch. Hornby worked as an EFL teacher  in London (and I have a colleague, Duncan Foord, who worked with him!)

Does anyone else know other famous authors who taught English while trying to make ends meet? Post a comment and share!

Published in: on December 17, 2008 at 1:55 pm  Comments (15)  
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15 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. My last language teacher was an ineffectual hack… but I hope this makes her feel better too.

    • Oh dear, well I hope she didn’t force you to study her stories or poems as set texts!

  2. If Aldous Huxley had been my teacher my life might have been perfect.

  3. Great idea for a blog. I am an English teacher who hopes to have my novel published. Look forward to your emerging blog.

    • Thanks Tara, I’ve just been to check your blog and website. Nice stuff! Best of luck with the literary baby and of course the real one! One day I’ll have to publish my “six things that were just plain wrong with my novel and why I decided to shelve it” but I need to screw up the courage for that one. I’ll keep an eye out for you on Amazon too!

  4. Bob Geldof taught English in Spain I believe before becoming a Boomtown Rat and Feeding the world

  5. I can even tell you the school where Bob Geldof taught. Inlingua in Murcia. I worked there a good few years later and spoke to the cleaning lady, who remembered him. “Very scruffy and dirty”, she said.

  6. Ha! That is a hilarious anecdote.

  7. The First World War poet Wilfred Owen was a Berlitz teacher in France, I learnt from A History of ELT (

  8. Gord Sellar is a language teacher in South Korea and a published author of science fiction.

  9. Stephen King taught English – can you imagine having him for your professor? Professor ‘I have the heart of a small boy. I keep it in a jar on my desk’?

  10. […] Six Famous Writers who used to be English Teachers […]

  11. I know a famous actor who was almost an English teacher – Wentworth Miller, the guy who starred in Prison Break!

  12. […] Of course Joyce wasn’t a conscious, reflective dogme teacher in action, but I think there is    enough evidence to suggest that he did spontaneously display some of the characteristics that we describe as dogme today. As a Joyce enthusiast rather than a Joycean, I have certainly benefited from and enjoyed taking a look at an aspect of Joyce which is hardly ever attended to out there in the scholary world of Joycean criticism. I can’t thank Renzo Crivelli enough for the local work he has done in Trieste and I hope that this post brings some of his observations to a wider ELT world, the dogme take is all my interpretation and responsibility and the first thing I want to do is to write to Renzo and see what he thinks of the angle I have taken on one of the most famous writers in ELT who more than just dabbled in English Language Teaching over a period of 10 years. ( See Lindsay Clandfield’s six things) […]

    • Herbert Gorman in his biography of the great man suggests that Joyce did not particularly enjoy teaching and referred to it as ‘a rut’ and ‘a deadly boring grind’.

      When he managed to escape from Berlitz in Trieste Joyce was able to lure some of the students away with him, taught them privately and charged them accordingly. In the best possible EFL tradition!

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