Joe Randolph "J. R." Ackerley was a British writer and editor. Starting with the BBC the year after its founding in 1927, he was promoted to literary editor of The Listener, its weekly magazine, where he served for more than two decades. He published many emerging poets and writers who became influential in Great Britain. He was openly gay, a rarity in his time when homosexuality was forbidden by law and socially ostracized.
Family and education
Ackerley's memoir My Father and Myself, begins: "I was born in 1896 and my parents were married in 1919." Registered at birth as Joe Ackerley, he later took the middle name Randolph after an uncle. As an adult, he published under his first two initials and surname. His father Roger Ackerley was a successful fruit merchant known as the "Banana King" of London. (Roger was first married to an actress named Louise Burckhardt, who died young in 1892, probably of tuberculosis, and before they had children).
His mother was Janetta Aylward (known as Netta), an actress whom Roger met in Paris; the two returned to London together. They had an intermittent relationship and three years later in 1895, she gave birth to a son, Peter, then Joe a year later, and Nancy in 1899. According to Joe's maternal Aunt Bunny, Peter's birth, and likely all of them, were "accidents." She told him, "Your father happened to have run out of French letters that day," (when Peter was conceived).His father set up a household with his mother starting in 1903, after which the children saw him more regularly. His business did very well and the family had a "butler, a gardener, and, evidently, a very good table."
Ackerley was educated at Rossall School, a public and preparatory school in Fleetwood, Lancashire. During this time, he discovered he was attracted to other boys. His striking good looks earned him the nickname "Girlie," but he was not very sexually active as a schoolboy. He described himself as
"a chaste, puritanical, priggish, rather narcissistic little boy, more repelled than attracted to sex, which seemed to me a furtive, guilty, soiling thing, exciting, yes, but nothing whatever to do with those feelings which I had not yet experienced but about which I was already writing a lot of dreadful sentimental verse, called romance and love."
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