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: General lists | on December 17th, 2008 | 16 Comments »

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  1. On December 17, 2008 at 2:21 pm DOMINO Said:

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

  2. On December 17, 2008 at 4:19 pm lclandfield Said:

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

  3. On December 17, 2008 at 8:11 pm DOMINO Said:

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

  4. On December 17, 2008 at 8:31 pm Tara Said:

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

  5. On December 17, 2008 at 8:48 pm lclandfield Said:

    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!

  6. On December 18, 2008 at 12:08 pm duncan Said:

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

  7. On December 19, 2008 at 6:52 pm Mark Said:

    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.

  8. On December 19, 2008 at 7:05 pm DOMINO Said:

    Ha! That is a hilarious anecdote.

  9. On December 31, 2008 at 6:10 am alexcase Said:

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

  10. On January 1, 2009 at 7:38 am EFL Geek Said:

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

  11. On January 30, 2009 at 3:46 am Sheri Said:

    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’?

  12. On June 28, 2009 at 9:31 am List #66 « Six Things Said:

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

  13. On November 15, 2009 at 1:32 pm Vicky Loras Said:

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

  14. On March 6, 2010 at 2:31 pm Matt Byrne Said:

    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!

  15. On August 19, 2011 at 6:24 am Jeremy Said:

    Steven Moffat, who is the current showrunner of Doctor Who and co-creator of the BBC series Sherlock, started as an English teacher. (I know tv isn’t literature but he’s such an amazing writer I had to mention it. He’s also working on Tin Tin for Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson.)

  16. On October 2, 2011 at 9:43 pm Ana Atanasković Said:

    I have found this text looking for some information for my article research and it came in handy. I myself am an English language teacher and a writer and find the possibility of being both at the same time thrilling. I am so glad I have found out the facts I did not know and honoured to be in such a wonderful company.