Through the Magic Door
Ursula Moray Williams, Gobbolino and the Little Wooden Horse
Ursula Moray Williams (1911–2006) wrote 68 children’s books – illustrating 30 of them – plus short stories, plays and poems. Best known for Gobbolino the Witch’s Cat, she only stopped writing at 76, and died aged 95. This biography explores how Ursula’s upbringing – an identical twin, raised in a ramshackle mansion in the woods – influenced her ideas, drawing upon family anecdotes and Ursula’s unpublished letters and diaries to create a vivid picture of her fascinating life.
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.
This Long Pursuit
Reflections of a Romantic Biographer
Richard Holmes, the renowned biographer of Coleridge and Shelley, explains the two principles that have guided his biographical work: physically visiting all the places that held meaning for his subject; and keeping a two-sided notebook (one page of facts with reflections en face). In this book he first takes us on his journeys and through his notebooks; then goes in search of the lives of five women: Margaret Cavendish, Zélide, Madame de Staël, Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Somerville.
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.
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..
Oscar Wilde and his Circle
One of literature’s most witty and outspoken personalities, Oscar Wilde captivated late Victorian society. In this perceptive appraisal of Wilde and those around him – including Aubrey Beardsley, Max Beerbohm, Lillie Langtree and George Bernard Shaw – Simon Callow captures the spirit of one of Ireland’s most fêted, and ultimately tragic, literary lions. Rich in anecdote and incident, the book evokes the glamorous, decadent world of fin de siècle London.
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 Invisible Woman
The Story of Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens
Dickens spent the second half of his life with the actress Ellen Ternan, but following his death in 1870, she was written out of the story of the revered novelist. Written with all the atmosphere and page-turning energy of a Victorian detective story, this award-winning biography sleuths out long-hidden facts to restore this beautiful, charismatic woman to her rightful place in history.
The Life and Loves of Laurie Lee
Laurie Lee is loved by generations of readers for the stories he wove from his life, from the rural idyll of Cider With Rosie to his dramatic experiences fighting Franco in A Moment of War. But there was much he kept secret. Delving into letters and diaries hidden from the world, this sympathetic yet searching biography reveals the many women he loved, bringing this romantic enigma to full, rounded life.
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 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".
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.
A Life Revisited
Graham Greene called him ‘the greatest novelist of my generation’; Hilaire Belloc thought he was possessed by the devil. Written with the family’s support and drawing on unpublished letters, diaries and memoirs, the compelling new biography reassesses the life and career of the author of Brideshead Revisited: his troubled relationship with his father, his early homosexual affairs, his conversion to Catholicism, his wartime service, his happy second marriage, his drug-induced madness, and his sharp tongue and devastating wit.
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 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 sensitive, meticulously researched biography reveals, was a dark tale of possessive love and Michael’s doomed efforts to free himself.
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.
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.
Pamela Hansford Johnson
Her Life, Works and Times
Acclaimed as one of the most gifted writers of her day, Pamela Hansford Johnson (1912–81) was a prolific novelist who avoided the privileged settings favoured by contemporaries to place her books in the down-to-earth milieu of lower middle-class London. Written with the cooperation of her children and access to unpublished letters and diaries, this first-ever biography offers a sympathetic, entertaining account of her literary and personal life, including a youthful romance with Dylan Thomas and marriage to CP Snow.
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.
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 persuasively 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..
Solitude and Solidarity
Catherine Camus traces the life of her father, the writer Albert Camus (1913–1960), through a compilation of personal photographs, news photographs, documents, captions, and quotations from his writings and from contemporaries – her ‘photograph album’. It offers an evocative portrait of Camus, from the house in Mondovi, Algeria, where he was born, through a life of theatre, writing and activism against Fascism, rebellion in the 1950s and the Nobel Prize for Literature, to his death in a car crash in France in 1960.
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.
The Adventures of Sir Thomas Browne in the 21st Century
Sir Thomas Browne (1605–1682) was a physician, philosopher and naturalist, renowned for essays on subjects as diverse as death and the significance of number in nature. Rather than a plain biography of a man who ‘stands at the gates of modern science and yet remains happily in thrall to the ancient world and its mysteries’, Aldersley-Williams takes ideas that were important to Browne and remain important now – among them animals, plants, faith and melancholy – and explores them from both 17th- and 21st-century perspectives.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ted & I
A Brother's Memoir
Ted Hughes and his brother Gerald grew up in the Yorkshire countryside, pitching tents, making fires, fishing and hunting rabbits. In this touching memoir, Gerald records those carefree days, during which the love of nature that informed Ted's poetry was born. Further chapters reflect on the poet's marriage to Sylvia Plath, and the triumphs and tragedies of his later years. The book includes the author's sketches, family photographs and a foreword by Ted and Sylvia's daughter, Frieda Hughes.
Beyond the Last Dragon
A Life of Edwin Morgan
Edwin Morgan (1920–2010) was Scotland’s best-loved poet since Robert Burns, and its first official Makar of modern times. Written with his full cooperation, this biography reveals for the first time his multiple identities as an academic, cultural activist, radical writer, international traveller and gay man. Exploring hitherto unknown archive sources and unpublished letters, poems and plays, it recounts his brilliant and sometimes troubled career, and movingly celebrates his astonishing creativity in the face of the ‘last dragon’, cancer.
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.
Kipling is one of the most celebrated yet most controversial of English poets. His ‘If…’ is often cited as England’s favourite poem, yet its creator is either admired or reviled as a jingoistic champion of empire. Drawing on previously unpublished material about his years in India, England and America, plus recently discovered letters that shed intriguing light on his marriage and other close relationships, this masterly biography presents a nuanced and sympathetic interpretation of the writer and the man.
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.
Everything He Loved in Life, and Lost, 1934–1961
In 1934, at the height of his fame, Ernest Hemingway bought a 42-foot motor yacht, Pilar, from a Brooklyn boatbuilder. Blending poetic sensibility with painstaking research, this New York Times bestseller charts the relationship between writer and boat through three marriages, the Nobel Prize, and all his triumph and tragedy; how he sailed the waters from Key West to Cuba, and hunted big-game fish and German U-boats; and how, in 1961, the yacht finally slipped away from him, along with life itself.
Now All Roads Lead to France
The Last Years of Edward Thomas
A close friend of Robert Frost, the troubled English writer Edward Thomas (b.1878) became a poet in 1914 thanks to his encouragement, and after the outbreak of the First World War almost emigrated to New England to join him. Instead, partly inspired by Frost's The Road Not Taken, Thomas enlisted and died in 1917 at the Battle of Arras. This award-winning biography explores the final five years of his life, which he lost so soon after finding his vocation.
Letters of Ted Hughes
Ted Hughes described letter writing as 'excellent training for conversation with the world'. Christopher Reid has selected nearly 300 letters which show the many facets of Hughes: poet, husband and father, lover of the natural world, and a man for whom literature was a way of being fully alive to experience. Spanning the poet's life, from age 17 to a few days before his death in 1998, the letters are accompanied by Reid's notes on their biographical and literary context.
The Unauthorised Life
Ted Hughes (1930–1998) was one of the 20th century's greatest writers, the poet of The Hawk in the Rain, Lupercal and Crow, but also a children's storyteller, translator, critic, letter writer and the husband of Sylvia Plath. In this biography, Bates draws on the complete archive of writings that Hughes left for posterity, exploring the mental landscape it reveals to give the full story of the poet's life as it was lived, remembered and shaped in his art.
Margot At War
Love and Betrayal in Downing Street 1912–16
Margot Asquith was perhaps the most daring and unconventional Prime Minister's wife in British history. Stylish, witty and outspoken, she transformed 10 Downing Street into a glittering social and intellectual salon. Drawing on unpublished material from personal papers and diaries, this absorbing book recreates the emotional and political turmoil of the period when Herbert Asquith's government was beset by unrest from suffragettes, strikers and Irish nationalists, and the world was spiralling towards war.
The Poets' Daughters
Dora Wordsworth and Sara Coleridge
Dora Wordsworth and Sara Coleridge were lifelong friends. They were also the daughters of best friends, William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the poetic geniuses who shaped the Romantic age. Drawing on many unpublished sources, this dual biography charts for the first time the lives and friendship of these two remarkable women. Devoting their energies and talents to their fathers' literary reputations, they also wrestled with the darker legacy of fame, including anorexia, drug addiction and depression.
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.
His Life and Work
‘We know more about the life of Shakespeare than that of any of his literary contemporaries ... And the rest is there for all to see, in and between every line he ever wrote.’ This popular biography, written by the royal biographer and award-winning journalist Anthony Holden, sifts fact from legend and interweaves the poet’s own words to create an absorbing, vivid portrait of the man behind the genius. First published in 1999.
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.
The Consummate Collector
William Beckford's Letters to his Bookseller
This volume of over 350 letters written by William Beckford (1760-1844) to his bookseller George Clarke between 1830 and 1834 gives a vivid picture of the insatiable connoisseur in the act of gathering his extraordinary collection of printed books. The correspondence is the most complete documentary record of Beckford's libraries, both at Fonthill Abbey and in Bath, but also illuminates the contemporary world of the London book trade, wealthy collectors, publishers and auction houses.
Report From the Interior
Following Winter Journal, Paul Auster's memoir of his physical self in childhood, the Report follows his interior – psychological and intellectual – journey from around the age of six, through a sojourn in Paris and his early resolve to be a writer, to young adulthood. The book ends with an album – his life in pictures, from nursery rhymes to New York streets in the 1960s.
The Impossible Exile
Stefan Zweig at the End of the World
From being one of the most widely read authors in pre-war Europe and a celebrity in the vibrant intellectual and artistic life of Vienna, Stefan Zweig (1881-1942) became an exile when he fled Nazism in 1934. He settled first in Britain, then New York and, finally, Petropolis, a small town in Brazil, where he and his wife committed suicide. Prochnik's critically acclaimed study traces Zweig's rise and fall, exploring the cultural gulf between Europe and America and the alienation of the refugee forced into exile.