British novelist, playwright, and critic.
Bennett was born in Hanley in the Potteries, the son of a solicitor. In 1888 he went to London as a solicitor's clerk, a profession he soon abandoned for the more congenial job of journalist. He became assistant editor (1893), then editor (1896–1900), of the journal Woman and also experimented with narrative prose; The Grand Babylon Hotel and Anna of the Five Towns, novels widely different in their styles, were published almost simultaneously in 1902.
The same year Bennett moved to Paris, where he married a Frenchwoman (1907). Here he wrote his most famous novel, The Old Wives' Tale (1908), which established him as a novelist who was at his best when dealing with the beliefs, cultural interests, and industrial surroundings of the people among whom he had passed his early life. He also wrote the first volumes of the Clayhanger trilogy: Clayhanger (1910) and Hilda Lessways (1911). Among his other productions of this prolific period were philosophical articles, later published as collections.
In 1912 Bennett resettled permanently in England. His enormously popular play, The Great Adventure (1913), was based on his own novel Buried Alive (1908). During World War I he was active as a political propagandist as well as keeping up his other writing. The last Clayhanger novel, These Twain, appeared in 1916.
In the postwar period Bennett was lionized on both the literary and social scenes; he satirized the latter in Lord Raingo (1926). Riceyman Steps (1923), a portrait of miserliness, was his last acknowledged masterpiece as a novelist. In his later years his writing retained its brilliance but lacked the depth and power of his earlier work. He died of typhoid.