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   Obituary - Edmund Morris


Arthur Edmund Morris

House: Scott
Years: 1953-1958

Arthur Edmund Morris was an eminent Old Cambrian who died in New York aged 79 on 24th May 2019.

Edmund (as he was known) was born in Nairobi on 27th May 1940, the son of South African parents May (Dowling) and Eric Edmund Morris, a pilot with South African Airways. He attended the Prince of Wales School as a day boy in Scott House from 1953 to 1958. He was very able academically, capable of writing sparkling prose, of playing jazz piano (he later trained as a concert pianist), of drawing brilliant caricatures and of running fast. He was a sharp wit.

After a strong performance in the Cambridge Overseas School Certificate examination, Edmund studied English and History at Higher School Certificate, but left the school before taking his Higher Certificate because of a serious disciplinary misdemeanour.

Edmund moved back to South Africa where he studied literature, art and music at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, leaving college in 1961 to work in advertising, composing brochures and advertisements, which he later admitted had influenced his literary style.

Moving to Britain in 1964, Edmund worked as a copywriter in an American advertising agency. He married an English teacher, Sylvia Jukes, in 1966 and in 1968 they moved to the USA where they settled in New York. It is said that their writing a series of travelogue cassettes for TWA kindled their interest in History. They became part of the New York literary scene.

Edmund won the prestigious Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award in 1980 for his biography “The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt. Further volumes on Teddy Roosevelt – “Theodore Rex” in 2001 and “Colonel Roosevelt” in 2010 – followed.

His reputation as a biographer established, Edmund was the unanimous choice to write the official biography of President Ronald Reagan. He was paid a substantial advance and given full access to the White House and to Reagan’s private family papers. After 14 years research, the volume “Dutch” (one of Reagan’s nicknames) was published in 1999, but was badly received by critics and historians. It did not sell well.

Edmund and his wife continued to grace the New York literary scene. He wrote biographies of Beethoven (2005) and Thomas Edison (to be published in October 2019) while Mrs Morris also wrote acclaimed biographies of Clare Boothe Luce, the American writer-journalist, politician and diplomat, and of Edith Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt’s second wife.

Keith Aikin (Edmund’s classmate 1954-1958)

Edmund’s Wikipedia entry can be found at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edmund_Morris_(writer)