An Inspector Calls, first produced in 1946 when society was undergoing sweeping transformations, has recently enjoyed an enormously successful revival. While holding its audience with the gripping tension of a detective thriller, it is also a philosophical play about social conscience and the crumbling of middle class values. Time and the Conways and I Have Been Here Before belong to Priestley's 'time'plays, in which he explores the idea of precognition and pits fate against free will. The Linden Tree also challenges preconceived ideas of history when Professor Linden comes into conflict with his family about how life should be lived after the war.
About the Author
J.B. Priestley, the son of a schoolmaster, was born in Bradford in 1894. After leaving Belle Vue High School, he spent some time as a junior clerk in a wool office. (A lively account of his life at this period may be found in his volume of reminiscences, Margin Released.) He joined the army in 1914, and in 1919, on receiving an ox-officers' grant, went to Trinity Hall, Cambridge. In 1922, after refusing several academic posts, and having already published one book and contributed critical articles and essays to various reviews, he went to London. There he soon made a reputation as an essayist and critic. he began writing novels, and with his third and fourth novels, The Good Companions and Angel Pavement, he scored a great success and established an international reputation. This was enlarged by the plays he wrote in the 1930s and 1940s, some of these, notably Dangerous Corner, Time and the Conways and An Inspector Calls, having been translated and produced all over the world. During the Second World War he was exceedingly popular as a broadcaster. Since the war his most important novels have been Bright Day, Festival at Farbridge, Lost Empires and The Image Men, and his more ambitious literary and social criticism can be found in Literature and Western Man, Man and Time and Journey Down a Rainbow, which he wrote with his wife, Jacquetta Hawkes, a distinguished archaeologist and a well-established writer herself. It was in this last book that Priestley coined the term 'Admass', now in common use. Among his latest books are Victoria's Heydey (1972), Over the Long High Wall (1972), The English (1973), Outcries and Asides, a collection of essays (1974), A Visit to New Zealand (1974), The Carfitt Crisis (1975), Particular Pleasures (1975), Found, Lost, Found, or the English Way of Life (1976), The Happy Dream (1976), English Humour (1976) and an autobiography, Instead of the Trees (1977). In 1977 J. B. Priestley received the Order of merit. He died in 1984.