Born on April 29, 1946, Humphrey William Bouverie Carpenter was an English biographer, author, and radio broadcaster who lived almost his entire life in the city of Oxford. As a child he lived in the Warden's Lodgings at Keble College, Oxford, where his father, Harry James Carpenter, served as Warden until his appointment as Bishop of Oxford. On leaving the Dragon School in Oxford, Humphrey was educated at Marlborough College in Wiltshire, returning to study English at Keble.
His large output of books includes biographies of J.R.R. Tolkien, W.H. Auden, Ezra Pound, Evelyn Waugh, Benjamin Britten, Robert Runcie, and Spike Milligan. With the assistance of Christopher Tolkien, Carpenter also served as editor of The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien.
A distinguished broadcaster, he began his career at BBC Radio Oxford as a presenter and producer before moving on to national radio. He played a vital role in launching Radio 3's ongoing arts discussion programme Night Waves and was a regular presenter of other programmes on the network, including Radio 3's afternoon drivetime programme In Tune and, until it was discontinued, its Sunday request programme Listeners' Choice. Until he died he was the presenter of the BBC Radio 4 biography series Great Lives. He wrote histories of BBC Radio 3, and a centennial history of the Oxford University Dramatic Society in 1985. His Mr Majeika series of children's books enjoyed considerable popularity and were successfully adapted for television. His encyclopedic work The Oxford Companion to Children's Literature (1984), written jointly with his wife Mari Prichard, has become a standard reference source.
A talented amateur jazz musician and an accomplished piano, saxophone, and double-bass player, he played professionally in a dance band during the 1970s. Later, in 1983, he formed a 1930s style jazz band, Vile Bodies, which for many years enjoyed a residency at the Ritz Hotel in London. He also founded the Mushy Pea Theatre Group, a children's drama group based in Oxford, which premiered his Mr Majeika: The Musical in 1991 and Babes, a musical about Hollywood child stars.
Carpenter's early death, on January 4, 2005, was the result of heart failure, compounded by the effects of the Parkinson's disease from which he had suffered for several years.
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