NEWCASTLE-UPON-TYNE, England (AP) _ Tom Cookson, husband of novelist Catherine Cookson, died just 17 days after the death of his wife whom he encouraged to write, comforted in grief at childlessness and, finally, nursed. He was 86.

A statement from the family said Cookson died Sunday, a week after being hospitalized. Cause of death was not announced.

Dame Catherine died June 11 at their home in this north England city, near where she was raised in poverty. She was 91.

Cookson, an Oxford-educated teacher of mathematics, met his wife when he rented a room in a boarding house she ran in the south England town of Hastings. They married in 1940.

The couple's four children were stillborn. This sorrow partly prompted Dame Catherine toward writing novels, many based on working class poverty in 19th century England, that made her one of Britain's most popular authors.

Cookson, a devoted husband, encouraged her writing. In her final years, he helped nurse her through several heart attacks and other illnesses.

``He had what I needed,'' she once said of him. ``Kindliness, a loving nature, a high sense of moral values and above all ... a mind.''

Funeral arrangements were not immediately announced.