Kathleen and Frank
The Autobiography of a Family
Drawing on his mother’s diary and letters, the novelist Christopher Isherwood recreates the story of his parents’ marriage: how Kathleen, the lively daughter of a successful wine merchant fell in love with Frank, the shy, artistic son of a country squire. This family history evokes an Edwardian world of amateur music-making, suffragettes, rising hemlines and social change – a world brought to an end by the Great War, in which Frank Isherwood was killed.
Dylan Thomas: The Collected Letters
Volume I: 1931–1939
Spanning Thomas’s Welsh childhood, his early career and marriage, this volume charts his growing confidence as a poet as he experiments with ideas, submits verses for publication, gains the support of prominent figures including TS Eliot, Stephen Spender and Edith Sitwell, and casts a satirical eye over the literary world.
Dylan Thomas: The Collected Letters
Volume II: 1939–1953
The letters in this second volume cover the years of fame, the exhilaration and pain of Thomas’s tempestuous marriage to Caitlin Macnamara, his drinking and his hell-raising. They record the creation of Under Milk Wood, and the slide into alcoholism that claimed his life at the age of 39.
A Portrait of Harper Lee, from Scout to Go Set A Watchman
The author of To Kill a Mockingbird remained a reclusive figure despite the novel’s success. This biography sheds light on her enigmatic character, her relations with Truman Capote and her editor Tay Hohoff, the death of her beloved sister Alice, and the controversy around her former agent’s acquisition of the Mockingbird copyright. Fully revised and updated, it includes the surprise publication of her first novel, long believed lost, in 2015, shortly before she died. Slightly off-mint.
Charles Lutwidge Dodgson was a shy, stammering mathematician; Lewis Carroll the visionary writer who gave the world Alice, the Red Queen, the Cheshire Cat, the Jabberwock and the Snark. This authoritative, affectionate biography, which was originally published in 1995, draws on access to the family archives and brings together the two sides of this remarkable man to explore the emotional turbulence and self-reproach that lay beneath his apparently placid existence, and gave rise to some of the wildest characters in literature.
A Memoir of Growing Up
In this magical memoir, Antonia Fraser recalls her idiosyncratic upbringing with inimitable humour and style. Packed with incident and anecdote, it vividly evokes her childhood in Oxford where her father, the future Lord Longford, was a don, her education at a convent school, wartime evacuation to a romantic Elizabethan manor house, and her 'deeply, gloriously, heroically eccentric' great-uncle, Lord Dunsany. Above all, it charts her growing fascination with the subject to which she would devote her adult life: history.
Every Time a Friend Succeeds Something Inside Me Dies
The Life of Gore Vidal
For the latter half of the 20th century, the novelist Gore Vidal dominated American letters. Prolific, patrician, proudly gay and devastatingly witty, he was a withering critic of successive US administrations from his self-imposed exile in Italy. Drawing on 30 years’ friendship and unpublished letters and diaries, this candid, richly entertaining biography charts his turbulent life and career, his friendships with John F Kennedy, Tennessee Williams and Princess Margaret, and his famous feuds with Truman Capote and Norman Mailer.
The distinguished Beckett scholar Gerry Dukes presents a photographic biography of one of the most interesting and challenging writers of the 20th century. Illustrated with family snapshots, formal portraits and many informal photographs taken during rehearsals and performances of his plays, the book traces Beckett’s life from his birth in Dublin in 1919 to his death in Paris, his adopted home, in 1989.
We have a great deal of information on Geoffrey Chaucer's busy and eventful life – from the important offices he held while doing the king's business to his capture in battle and indictment for rape. In the first volume in his Brief Lives series, Peter Ackroyd shows that the real-life figure is often at odds with Chaucer's persona, presented in his literary works as a bookish and self-deprecating poet.
Flamboyant, eccentric, driven by nervous energy, Wilkie Collins was one of the great storytellers of the Victorian era. Peter Ackroyd charts Collins’s life and career from his childhood as the son of a well-known artist through his early struggles as a writer to his lifelong friendship with Dickens, and encourages readers to explore his less well-known works as well as the two masterpieces The Moonstone and The Woman in White. Felt-tip mark on lower trimmed edge and American-cut pages..
The Real Peter Pan
The Tragic Life of Michael Llewelyn Davies
JM Barrie first encountered Michael Llewelyn Davies playing with his brothers in Kensington Gardens, and the young boy’s unworldly qualities made him the inspiration for Peter Pan. When Michael’s parents – the models for Mr and Mrs Darling – died one after the other, the enigmatic and by now very rich author offered himself as the boy’s guardian. What followed, as this meticulously researched biography reveals, was a dark tale of possessive love and Michael’s doomed efforts to free himself.
Not The Whole Story
‘Suddenly, I am old…’ In this long-awaited memoir, the bestselling author of Land Girls and many other novels, short stories and plays looks back over her remarkable life. With characteristic compassion and nuanced observation, she recounts her eccentric childhood, the unconventional marriage of her film-star father and polyglot, party-loving mother, her time as a reluctant debutante, her first forays into journalism, and her successful career in advertising, film and television.
A Literary Life of Jan Morris
Soldier, journalist and author Jan Morris is one of the finest travel writers of the post-war era. This sympathetic biography by her long-term literary agent encapsulates the extraordinary career of a writer who, as James Morris, brought back news of the conquest of Everest in 1953 before undergoing the gender reassignment described in her candid memoir Conundrum. The text is illustrated with charming drawings from the visitor books kept at her Welsh home.
The Tragic Life of Klaus Mann
Novelist, playwright, essayist and journalist, Klaus Mann explored the sinister appeal of Nazism in his chilling 1936 novel Mephisto, and was the first person to link racism and fascism with homophobia. This first English-language biography provides a powerful account of his tormented life, dealing frankly with his drug addiction and his troubled relationship with the overpowering figure of his father, the Nobel Prize-winning novelist Thomas Mann, while shedding new light on his mysterious death.
The Untold Love Story and the Inspiration for Doctor Zhivago
Boris Pasternak’s masterpiece Doctor Zhivago has sold millions, but the true story behind its famed lovers has never been told. Drawing on previously neglected sources and original interviews, this scrupulously researched account breaks the family’s long silence about the author’s affair with Olga Ivinskaya to reveal how, on her release from Stalin’s gulags, the writer refused to leave his wife, channelling his thwarted passion into his great novel instead.
After a Funeral
Diana Athill had read Waguih Ghali’s novel, Beer in the Snooker Club, long before she met and fell in love with him. Love turned to friendship, and Ghali, or ‘Didi’, carried on living in her flat, where he ultimately took his own life. Published 13 years later, this is Athill’s honest account of the three years they spent together.
A Memoir of Iris Murdoch
If there was ever a marriage made in heaven, it was that of Dame Iris Murdoch, philosopher and novelist, and John Bayley, Professor of English, literary critic and novelist. Their life together was cruelly interrupted as Iris began, in her own words, 'sailing into the darkness' of Alzheimer's disease. In this frank and moving memoir, written before Iris's death, John Bayley recalls their marriage and describes how they coped after the onset of Alzheimer's in 1994.
Blue Touch Paper
Born in 1947, David Hare is one of Britain’s foremost playwrights and screenwriters. With warmth, humour, and characteristically dazzling prose, this memoir vividly evokes his Anglo-Catholic upbringing in a suburban Hastings ‘as vanished as Victorian England’, against the backdrop of a time in which faith in empire, Christianity, hierarchy and deference were being swept away. It also charts his early struggles to become a writer – and the high price he and those around him paid for that decision.
Time to be in Earnest
A Fragment of Autobiography
PD James (1920–2014) was not only the most stylish and intelligent crime writer of her generation – she was an influential figure in politics, culture and the media. In this, her only autobiographical work, she considers the year leading up to her 78th birthday, and looks back over her past: growing up in the 1920s and '30s, giving birth during an air raid, working for the Home Office forensic department, and her career as a novelist.
Letters Between Katherine Mansfield and John Middleton Murry
Katherine Mansfield and John Middleton Murry met in 1912 and married in 1918. Affectionate, informal and gossipy, their letters chart their stormy partnership, her writing, relations with the Bloomsbury Group, and the illness that would claim her at just 34. First published in 1988.
A Life Like Other People's
This moving, affectionate, witty and often very funny memoir by one of Britain's best-loved writers tells of his parents' marriage and his own childhood in 1940s Leeds. It is filled with wry and poignant vignettes of Christmases with Grandma Peel and the lives and loves of his unforgettable aunties Kathleen and Myra. Tragically, it also recounts his mother's slow descent into depression and dementia as a long-buried family secret is finally brought to light. Taken from "Untold Stories".
Johnson and Boswell
A Biography of Friendship
'No, no, sir, that will not do. You are good-natured but not good-humoured. You are irascible.' The friendship between the great lexicographer and his pleasure-loving Scottish biographer is one of the most celebrated in literary history. Drawing on everything they wrote to and about each other, this study charts the warm, complex and often competitive relationship of this oddly matched pair, from their first meeting in 1763 to the publication of Boswell's Life of Johnson in 1791.
This Long Pursuit
Reflections of a Romantic Biographer
In this ‘inside account of a biographer at work’, the renowned biographer of Coleridge and Shelley, Richard Holmes, reflects upon the principles that have guided his work, his life and his ‘strange, unappeased sense of some continuous, intense and inescapable pursuit’. He goes on exploring the art of biography through essays on five women, Margaret Cavendish, Zélide, Madame de Staël, Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Somerville, and the ‘afterlives’ of Keats, Shelley, Coleridge, Blake and the painter Thomas Lawrence.
The Shadow in the Garden
A Biographer's Tale
James Atlas, the biographer of the American poet Delmore Schwartz and the novelist Saul Bellow, reflects on the pursuit of literary biography and tells his own story as a biographer, from his student days studying under Richard Ellman at Oxford, to his ‘archaic laments’ in the age of email; but also traces the history of biography and great literary biographers, from Plutarch’s Lives to Richard Holmes’s Coleridge.
The Real Life of William Blake
William Blake is one of Britain's best-loved poets, yet for much of his career he was either ignored or ridiculed. Drawing on a large body of unpublished letters and diaries, alongside books and pamphlets, this biography charts his development as a writer, an artist and a visionary. It reveals Blake's inner and outer struggles in a well-depicted Georgian London, dispensing with the 'eccentric genius' cliché in favour of a serious examination of his radical theology.
The Genius of Jane Austen
Her Love of Theatre and Why She is a Hit in Hollywood
Jane Austen loved the theatre, participated joyously in amateur theatricals, and learned much of her craft from a long tradition of English comic drama. This pioneering study sheds refreshing light on this neglected aspect of her art, and demonstrates how her dramatic dialogue, comic characters, clever plotting and theatrical exits and entrances have lent themselves so successfully to stage and screen. What emerges is a world not of prim manners and genteel calm, but of wild comedy and outrageous behaviour.
Letters to the Lady Upstairs
No. 102 Boulevard Haussmann is an elegant address in the eighth arrondissement of Paris. Upstairs lives Madame Williams, with her second husband and her harp; downstairs, Marcel Proust is trying to write In Search of Lost Time. Between 1909 and 1919, a correspondence that starts with a request for silence develops into a touching friendship, discussing books, music, domestic arrangements, illness, and the sadness of losing friends in the war.
The poems and memoirs of Siegfried Sassoon have done much to shape our perception of the First World War as callous, unjust and unnecessary. This magisterial biography charts his upbringing, his military service, his time in the Scottish hospital for shell-shocked officers where he befriended Wilfred Owen, and his later life. The result is a perceptive portrait of a complex man who was both a war hero and a pacifist, a product of the establishment and its fiercest critic.
An Editor's Life
For half a century, Diana Athill edited, coaxed, nursed and, at times, coerced a succession of novelists from Jean Rhys to Timothy Mo into producing their finest work. Elegant, clear-sighted and self- deprecating, her memoirs offer a wise and often very funny account of a life in publishing; a life in which the parade of literary luminaries takes second place to Athill's sheer love of language and literature.
Agatha Christie: A Life in Theatre
Agatha Christie's fame as a writer of detective fiction has obscured her theatrical work; the long-running hit The Mousetrap is just the best-known of a string of ventures that established her as the most successful female playwright of all time. Filled with extracts from unpublished plays and letters, this well-researched book charts her childhood theatre-going experiences, her first attempts to write for the stage and her subsequent popularity. Extensive endnotes can be downloaded from the publisher's website.
Although Edna O'Brien's brilliant debut novel The Country Girls (1960) scandalized Ireland and was promptly banned, she has come to be regarded as one of that country's finest writers. In this frank memoir, written in the sparkling, evocative prose that characterizes her fiction, she recalls her rural childhood and family life, her writing, her travels, and her encounters with pop stars, Hollywood legends and literary lions. American-cut pages and felt-tip mark on lower trimmed edge.
How Oscar Wilde Was Shaped by the Women He Knew
Hailed as a gay icon and pioneer of individualism, Oscar Wilde was a staunch champion of gender equality, whose views were shaped by a series of remarkable, free-thinking women. This absorbing book tells the story of the women in his life: his extraordinary mother, Jane; his accomplished wife, Constance; the actress Lillie Langtree; and his niece Dolly, lover of fast cars, cocaine and foreign women.
The Lost Landscape
A Writer's Coming of Age
In this candid and moving memoir, one of America’s most acclaimed novelists recounts her tough rural upbringing in upstate New York. Through the eyes of her younger self, the book evokes the emotions of childhood and adolescence, from early friendships to her first encounters with death. Recalling her burgeoning desire to tell stories about the world and the people she meets, Oates reveals how those experiences coloured her later writing.
Primo Levi's Resistance
Rebels and Collaborators in Occupied Italy
Primo Levi is admired for his powerful testimony of survival in Auschwitz, but he was more than a witness. For three months in 1943, he was an anti-Nazi partisan fighter, but neither he nor his biographers have said much about this episode. Combining investigative flair with profound empathy, this pioneering book unearths the ‘ugly secret’ that haunted Levi for the rest of his life, and provides an insight into both Resistance politics and the moral complexity of his work.
Friends of Alice Wheeldon
The Anti-War Activist Accused of Plotting to Kill Lloyd George
Sheila Rowbotham’s 1986 play Friends of Alice Wheeldon dramatized the trial of a Derby socialist and feminist accused by an undercover agent during the First World War of plotting to kill the prime minister, Lloyd George. This new edition includes a carefully researched historical introduction that describes the interaction between workplace militants and anti-war activists, the intrigues of politicians and the intelligence agencies, and the campaign to clear Wheeldon’s name.
Letters to Véra
Vladimir Nabokov (1899–1977) first met Véra Slonim at an émigre ball in Berlin in 1923, they married in 1925 and stayed married until the novelist’s death in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1977. Ranging across topics from poetry to collecting the laundry, their correspondence, edited here by Olga Voronina and Nabokov’s biographer Brian Boyd, tells the story of a beguiling marriage of hearts and minds and sheds much light on Nabokov’s life and work as a writer. American cut pages and felt-tip mark on lower trimmed edge. Off-mint.
The Life and Times of Jessica Mitford
Admirers and detractors use the same words to describe Jessica ‘Decca’ Mitford: subversive, muckraker, mischief-maker. Born into an aristocratic family, she eloped at 19 with Winston Churchill’s nephew. While her sisters Unity and Diana were drawn to fascism, Decca became a communist, civil-rights activist and investigative journalist in the United States. Packed with incident and anecdote, this sympathetic, absorbing and entertaining biography recounts a remarkable life lived at the epicentre of the major events of 20th-century history.
A Centenary Celebration
Published to mark the centenary of the poet’s birth, this collection of specially commissioned essays celebrates the life and work of Dylan Thomas (1914–1953). In three parts, on his early and later life and his legacy, the 35 contributions include essays by biographers, critics and fellow poets; memoirs by a variety of people touched by Thomas’s genius, among them Rowan Williams, Philip Pullman, Griff Rhys Jones and Cerys Matthews; and a short poem by ex-US President Jimmy Carter.
A Life in Prague
Klaus Wagenbach, a leading authority on Kafka's life and work, quotes liberally from Kafka's personal writings in a biography that explores his family background, early life and education, and his attitude to Prague, his native city. This concise study is illustrated with photographs of Kafka, his family, friends and fiancées. Translated by Ewald Osers, with an introduction by Ritchie Robertson. From the Armchair Traveller series.
Percy Bysshe Shelley
Poet and Revolutionary
‘Rise, like lions after slumber… Ye are many – they are few!’ Shelley is one of England’s most beloved Romantic poets, yet his work is infused with a fierce revolutionary politics. This biography explores the experiences that shaped his hatred of a system in which a few lived in luxury while the many suffered poverty and oppression, and traces his influence on radical movements and thinkers to this day.
A Dublin Memoir
Having been born in Wexford, the young John Banville found Dublin ‘all the more alluring’ and the novelist’s memories stretch back to childhood trips in the 1950s, when the city, although poverty-stricken at the time, held magical promise for a boy. In this combination of vignettes from his own past, his historical investigations of Dublin and Paul Joyce’s photographs, Banville asks ‘What transmutation must the present go through in order to become the past?’
The Man Who Wrote Lord of the Flies
The Nobel Prize-winning author of a dozen novels, William Golding is still remembered chiefly for his first dark vision of humanity, Lord of the Flies. Drawing on unpublished papers including the novelist’s private journal, this illuminating biography plumbs the sources of that darkness in the writer himself; a war hero who considered himself a monster, who battled depression and alcoholism, but put his faith in the imagination above all.
Bohemians, Bootleggers, Flappers, and Swells
The Best of Early Vanity Fair
In the course of its 100-year history, Vanity Fair magazine has been a synonym for intelligence, wit and stylish writing, and its contributors have included some of the greatest names in world literature. This selection from its early issues includes F Scott Fitzgerald on what a magazine should be, DH Lawrence on women, Aldous Huxley on ‘What exactly is modern?’ and Dorothy Parker on peak, waspish form.
Mr Foote's Other Leg
The comedian and impressionist Samuel Foote (1720–77) was a superstar of the Georgian stage but was ruined by a media storm and two scandalous trials. This biography covers Foote’s early success with a true-crime book about his uncle’s murder; his long-forgotten satirical works; the roles he created; the disastrous practical joke that cost him a leg; and the ‘sodomitical’ circumstances of his fall from grace.
Here and Now
Although Paul Auster and JM Coetzee had been reading each other’s books for years, they did not meet until 2008. Their encounter sparked the correspondence that is presented in this book. Over three years, their letters touch on almost every subject: sport, fatherhood, literature, film, art, politics, philosophy, the financial crisis, eroticism, love and marriage. The result is an intimate and often amusing portrait of the growing friendship between two brilliant minds as they explore the complexities of life.
The Second I Saw You
The True Love Story of Rupert Brooke and Phyllis Gardner
In 2000 the British Library uncovered a cache of letters and a memoir documenting the previously unknown love affair between the First World War poet Rupert Brooke and Phyllis Gardner, a passionate and unconventional young artist. Sensitively compiled from their own words, this book tells – for the first time – their tragic story of love, conflict and loss, and provides a revealing insight into the life of the poet against a backdrop of a world on the brink of war.
Naked in the Marketplace
The Lives of George Sand
The first woman in Europe to become a bestselling novelist, George Sand was the author of nearly 90 works of fiction, yet her literary fame was inseparable from the notoriety of her personal life. The scandal of leaving her husband and children for an 18-year-old lover was followed by liaisons and friendships with Alfred de Musset, Chopin, Balzac and Flaubert. This skilful, sympathetic biography demonstrates how her genius and passions were intertwined, lending power and psychological depth to her fiction.