Kingsley Amis was born in a south London nursing home on 16 April 1922. He was an only child and from infant to early teenage years he lived with his parents at 16 Buckingham Gardens, Norbury SW16. His environment was comfortably suburban, lower middle class and largely unaffected by the intellectual and political reverberations of the 1920s and 1930s. Amis's familial relationships were routinely imperfect and non-traumatic. His parents were almost attached to Baptist nonconformity, but they did not push Kingsley towards any particular brand of Christian morality or belief. Amis himself had no belief in God: ‘not the first beginning of one, not a shred, and never have had as far back as I can remember’ (in ‘Godforsaken’, The Amis Collection, 1990).
He attended the City of London School as a scholarship boy and, again on a scholarship, went up to St John's College, Oxford, in April 1941. There he met his life-long friend Philip Larkin. Amis, Larkin and a group of similarly inclined young men spent their spare time boozing, playing and telling jokes and moaning about the English curriculum. Amis joined the student branch of the Communist Party: ‘at least … it involved girls, not very nice looking ones, though’ (Memoirs, 37). By 1942 he was editing the Labour Club Bulletin.
After four terms in Oxford Amis was drafted into the Royal Corps of Signals where he served as first lieutenant until October 1945. He landed in Normandy two weeks after D-Day and took part in the allied push through France and Belgium, mostly behind the front line.
Amis returned to Oxford in 1945 and gained a first in English in 1947. He enrolled for a BLitt research degree and in 1950 submitted a thesis on ‘English Non-Dramatic Poetry 1850–1900 and the Victorian Reading Public’, which was failed. By 1950 he had also published a brief volume of poems, Bright November (1947), met and married Hilary Ann Bardwell (Hilly), had two children and secured a lectureship in English at University College, Swansea. Their third child, Sally, was born in 1954.
These are the skeletal facts of Amis's life up to the publication of the novel that made him famous. Lucky Jim (1954) was influenced directly and tangentially by all of these events.