Richard Adams (1920 – )
When and where born: Richard Adams was born on the 9th May 1920, the fourth child of a country doctor, in Newbury, Berkshire, England.
School days: He attended a prep school called Horris Hill School from the ages of 6 to 12, then Bradfield College from the ages of 13 to 18. He then went to Oxford University to study Modern History, but within 18 months, England declared war on Germany, and he was called up to join the British Army.
Why and when he began writing: After the war, Richard Adams returned to University to complete a Master of Arts, then in 1948 he joined the British civil service. For the next 26 years he worked as a civil servant in the Department of Agriculture, which later became part of the Department of the Environment. He was passionate about nature and the English countryside, and his work gave him a lot of insight into the perils the natural world was facing from all kinds of human activity. It was at this time that he started writing fiction for fun, but it wasn’t until the grand old age of 52 that his first book was published! This was the famous Watership Down, about a group of rabbits whose warren was destroyed by human beings, and their epic journey to find a new home.
Watership Down began as a story he told his two young daughters Juliet and Rosamond to while away the time on long car journeys. They insisted that he write the story down as a book. For a long time he resisted, but eventually he sat down to write the book, and it took him 2 years to finish it! He then showed it to seven publishers who all rejected it, until at last a small publisher called Rex Collings agreed to publish it. The book came out in 1972 and was immediately recognized as a great work of children’s literature, winning the famous Carnegie Medal and the prestigious Guardian Award for Children’s Fiction that same year!
In 1974, after his second children’s book Shardik was published, he left his civil service job. He has devoted himself to writing ever since! He has since published 2 series, 6 novels, 3 collections and 6 non-fiction books about Nature.
Why I love Richard Adams’ books: I’m a huge nature-lover and animal-lover myself, so I’ve always loved reading books about animals in their natural environment, and Richard Adams’ books are just about the best of the genre! His books portray animals as very sensible and sensitive creatures, quite distinct from human beings or from the cute and fluffy portrayal of animals you so often find in books. His books are extremely well-researched, so that when you read them you learn a lot about the real behaviour of the animals he’s writing about. And apart from that the stories are wonderful adventures which are very hard to put down!
When Watership Down was first published, the print run was only 2500 copies, but within a couple of years it had sold over a million copies, and to date has sold more than 50 million copies around the world!
In 1982, Richard Adams became President of the RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) for a year.
Apart from being an author, he’s a keen adventurer, and has made a voyage to the Antarctic with the famous ornithologist (bird expert) Ronald Lockley.
He’s now 91 years old and still writing! In fact his last book Gentle Footprints was published just last year! He now lives with his wife less than 10 miles away from where he was born.
“I can only say … that I am an entertainer, and the essence of fiction is that the reader should wish to turn the page”.
“Animals don’t behave like men…if they have to fight they fight, and if they have to kill, they kill. But they don’t sit down and set their wits to work to devise ways of spoiling other creatures’ lives and hurting them”.
“Men are mortal but ideas are immortal”.
Recommended websites: Like our last author Philippa Pearce, Richard Adams has never had his own website. But you can find some interesting information about him on the following links: