Biography of Timothy Findley

Timothy Irving Frederick Findley was a Canadian author and playwright. He was born in Toronto to upper-class parents, Margaret Maude Bull and Allan Gilmour Findley, a stockbroker. He attended St. Andrew’s College, a boarding school, until the 10th grade when he left for health reasons. He studied dance and acting before turning to writing. He was part of the original Stratford Festival company, acting alongside Alec Guinness, and he also appeared in the first performance of Thornton Wilder’s The Matchmaker at the Edinburgh Festival.

Findley declared himself a homosexual but went on to marry actress and photographer Janet Reid in 1959. The marriage ended only three months later. He met the writer William Whitehead in 1962 and eventually became his domestic partner. Through Whitehead, Findley met actress Ruth Gordon, whose work as a screenwriter inspired him to consider writing. After the publication of his first short story in the Tamarack Review, Findley decided to pursue writing full-time.

Though his first two novels were rejected by Canadian publishers, Findley found U.S. and British publishers to be more receptive. The Last of the Crazy People and The Butterfly Plague were published in 1967 and 1969 respectively. The Wars was published in 1977 and went on to win the Governor General’s Award for fiction. It was adapted for film in 1983.

Findley’s writing style evokes frequent themes of sexuality, gender, and mental illness. He is sometimes associated with the Southern Ontario Gothic style of writing. Many of his characters are burdened with personal secrets that torment them and challenge the limits of their sanity.

Findley was also the author of several plays, most notably Elizabeth Rex, which debuted at the Stratford Festival of Canada. The play earned him another Governor General’s Award. The play Shadows was his last completed work.

Findley died on June 21, 2002 in Brignoles, France. He was 71 years old.

Study Guides on Works by Timothy Findley

The Wars is a 1977 novel by Timothy Findley about the experiences of a young Canadian officer in World War I. Findley dedicated the novel to his uncle, Thomas Irving Findley, who fought in the First World War and survived. Findley drew upon...