Frederick William John Hemmings (1920-1997) was born in Southampton. Hemmings did war service decrypting German codes in the Army Intelligence Corps but in 1946 he returned to academic life in Oxford, completing his DPhil in 1949, a groundbreaking study that was published the following year by Oxford University Press, The Russian Novel in France 1884-1914.
Hemmings really made his mark as a pioneer of Zola studies and is known as the foremost Zola critic in the English-speaking world. Further studies on Zola and Stendhal unfailingly appeared in later years, as did books on two other major 19th-century French writers: The King of Romance: A Portrait of Alexandre Dumas (1979) and Baudelaire the Damned (1982). This project of Balzacian and Zolaesque proportions was realized all the more remarkably during a busy nine-year term of office as head of the French department at Leicester University. Hemmings was a hugely respected literary scholar and Professor of French Literature, Leicester University 1963-85; twice married (one son, one daughter); died Leicester 9 May 1997.