Eric Knight

For the American singer-songwriter, see Eric Knight (musician).
Eric Knight
Born Eric Oswald Mowbray Knight
(1897-04-10)10 April 1897
Menston, West Yorkshire, England
Died 15 January 1943(1943-01-15) (aged 45)
Dutch Guiana (later Suriname)
Occupation Writer
Language English
Nationality British, American
Citizenship American
Period 1934–43
Genre Fiction
Notable works This Above All,
Lassie Come-Home
Spouse Dorothy Caroline Noyes Hall (m. 1917–32, divorced)
Jere Brylawski (m. 1932–43, his death)

Eric Oswald Mowbray Knight (April 10, 1897 in Menston in West Yorkshire, England – January 15, 1943 in Suriname) was an English novelist and screenwriter, who is mainly notable for creating the fictional collie Lassie. He took American citizenship in 1942 shortly before his death.[1]


Born in West Yorkshire, England, Knight was the third of four sons born to Frederic Harrison and Marion Hilda (née Creasser) Knight, both Quakers. His father was a rich diamond merchant who, when Eric was two years old, was killed during the Boer War. His mother then moved to St. Petersburg, Russia, to work as a governess for the imperial family. She later settled in America.

Knight had a varied career, including service in the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry during World War I as a signaller then served as a captain of field artillery in the U. S. Army Reserve until 1926.[2] His two brothers were both killed in World War I serving with the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. He did stints as an art student, newspaper reporter and Hollywood screenwriter.

He married twice, first on July 28, 1917, to Dorothy Caroline Noyes Hall, with whom he had three daughters and later divorced, and secondly to Jere Brylawski on December 2, 1932.

Writing career

Knight's first novel was Invitation to Life (Greenberg, 1934).[3] The second was Song on Your Bugles (1936) about the working class in Northern England. As "Richard Hallas", he wrote the hardboiled genre novel You Play The Black and The Red Comes Up (1938). Knight's This Above All is considered one of the significant novels of the Second World War. He also helped co-author the film, Battle of Britain in the "Why We Fight" Series under the direction of Frank Capra.[4]

Knight and his second wife Jere Knight raised collies on their farm in Pleasant Valley, Bucks County, Pennsylvania. They resided at Springhouse Farm from 1939 to 1943.[5] His novel Lassie Come-Home (ISBN 0030441013) appeared in 1940, expanded from a short story published in 1938 in The Saturday Evening Post. The novel was filmed by MGM in 1943 as Lassie Come Home with Roddy McDowall in the role of Joe Carraclough and canine actor Pal in the role of Lassie. The success of the novel and film generated more films and eventually several television series, cementing Lassie's icon status. The novel remains a favorite, in many reprints.

One of Knight's last books was Sam Small Flies Again, republished as The Flying Yorkshireman (Pocket Books 493, 1948; 273 pages). On the back of The Flying Yorkshireman, this blurb appeared:

England's answer to America's James Thurber or Thorne Smith, Knight created the character Sam Small, a villager from Yorkshire whose stock in trade was an endless parade of outrageous tarradiddles and tall tales. Sam's adventures are chronicled in the ten stories of this vintage volume, originally published as Sam Small Flies Again. That's right, Sam can literally fly, which puts him into all sorts of mischief. "An immensely funny book." – The New York Times.


In 1943, at which time he was a major in the United States ArmySpecial Services where he wrote two of Frank Capra's Why We Fight series.[6] Knight was killed in a C-54 air crash in Dutch Guiana (now Suriname) in South America.[7]


  1. The Yale University library gazette: Volumes 65–66 Yale University. Library – 1990 "He became an American citizen in 1942, was commissioned as a captain in the Special Services, and died in an airplane crash in 1943. He was posthumously awarded the Legion of Merit."
  3. Eric Knight Home Page. "Eric Knight.". Retrieved 2014-11-26.
  4. Eric Knight Home Page. ""Worst Air Disaster Kills 35" – NY Times Headlines Jan.22, 1943.". Retrieved 2014-12-05.
  5. "National Historic Landmarks & National Register of Historic Places in Pennsylvania" (Searchable database). CRGIS: Cultural Resources Geographic Information System. Note: This includes David Kimmerly (January 2007). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form: Springhouse Farm" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-10-01.

External links

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