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Michael Stapleton (1923–1994)

Author of A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Mythology

Includes the names: Stapleton Michael

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Stapleton, Michael J
Author & Editor (1923-1994)

Michael Joseph Stapleton was born in Dungarvan on 26 May 1923. He lived for some time with his family at Youghal Road, near Rice's Street, where the Garda Station now stands. He died in London on 13 November 1994, aged 71 years. He was a noted author and editor. His achievements were more noteworthy given the fact that he had no education.

The following obituary notice was written by David Shipman:- 'Michael Stapleton was the only man I knew who had read all of Thomas Love Peacock and most of Harrison Ainsworth. He was entirely self-taught. He left school at 12 to become a butcher's boy, by which time he was discovering literature and music; opera became an abiding passion. He joined the Merchant Navy on the outbreak of the Second World War, and spent some of his first 48 hour pass reading Dickens and sleeping in King's Cross station waiting-room.

After the war he become an actor, without much success, and then joined Oxford University press as a packer. His exceptional knowledge of books did not go unnoticed and he was promoted to proof-reader. In 1956 he published a history of Sadler's Wells, which brought him to the attention of Edith Sitwell who encouraged him to write his autobiography, 'The Threshold' (1958). This was an account of his life to the time of his joining the Navy. It was one of the most successful of Hutchinson's New Authors series and brought him literary friends beyond the Sitwell circle.

He joined the Hamlyn Group in 1964 and became commissioning editor for all titles on literature, biography, history, mythology and movies. He also wrote several books on ancient and Oriental mythology.

He edited 'The Cambridge Guide to English Literature' (1983). It is masterly in its knowledge, scope and freshly expressed opinions. He was rightly proud of it. It compensated for what he regarded as his biggest professional disappointment: failing to persuade Hamlyn to start a list of out-of-print titles, which he felt had been unjustly forgotten.'


(William Fraher)
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