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Hermione Lee with Richard Holmes – 23 January

We are thrilled to announce that Dame Hermione Lee is this year’s winner of the Biographer’ Club Prize for an Exceptional Contribution to Biography.

Hermione Lee has written a string of great biographies, including a dazzling, prize-winning life of Virginia Woolf, and lives of Willa Cather, Elizabeth Bowen, Edith Wharton and Penelope Fitzgerald, to name a few. She has published a collection of essays on autobiography and biography, Body Parts, and an indispensable Very Short Introduction to Biography. As Professor of English Literature at Oxford University and President of Wolfson College, she took the lead in bringing the academic study of biography to the dreaming spires.

Join us in saluting Hermione Lee on 23rd January 2019. She will be in conversation with Richard Holmes, winner of the club’s Exceptional Contribution Award in 2014.

Maggs Bros, 48 Bedford Square, WC1B 3DR

6.30pm for 7.00-8.30pm

£12.50 for a glass (or two) of wine

Please book with, and/or send cheques (made out to the Biographers’ Club) to Nicholas Clee, 8 Plimsoll Road, London N4 2EW. Or pay online – details available on request.

Slightly Foxed Best First Biography 2018 shortlist

Bart van Es, Michelle Mendelssohn, Roland Philipps, Fiona Sampson and Tara Westover are on the shortlist for the Slightly Foxed Best First Biography Prize. The £2,500 prize is sponsored by the literary quarterly Slightly Foxed. The judges are authors Anne Chisholm, Rachel Cooke and Andrew O’Hagan. They will announce their winner at a ceremony at Maggs Bros in Bedford Square on Tuesday 26 February.

Bart van Es, The Cut Out Girl (Fig Tree)
A powerful, harrowing story about a young girl’s struggle to survive Nazi persecution, and a man’s attempt to unravel his family secrets.

Roland Philipps, A Spy Named Orphan (Bodley Head)
This gripping retelling of the life of Soviet spy Donald Maclean reveals a man with an extraordinary appetite for self-destruction.

Michele Mendelssohn, Making Oscar Wilde (OUP)
This compelling account of Wilde’s rise, fall and resurrection draws on new archives and rare documents to tell the story from an entirely fresh perspective.

Fiona Sampson, In Search of Mary Shelley: The Girl Who Wrote Frankenstein (Profile)
Two hundred years after the writing of the gothic masterpiece, the poet Fiona Sampson teases out the inner life of the girl behind that extraordinary creation.

Tara Westover, Educated (Hutchinson)
The unforgettable memoir of escaping from a desperate Mormon fundamentalist childhood in Idaho through books and study – “an education”.

What all biographers need to know – by the experts


Maggie Fergusson spoke to leading biographers – including several winners of the Biographers’ Club Exceptional Contribution to Biography award – as well as to publishers and agents to gain their insights into the nature of the genre. The contributors are:


Clare Alexander  Sarah Anderson  Anne de Courcy  Caroline Dawnay  Clara Farmer  Helen Fry  Edmund Gordon  Selina Hastings  Bea Hemming  Richard Holmes  Michael Holroyd  Lucy Hughes-Hallett  Julie Kavanagh  Sam Leith  Andrew Lownie  Blake Morrison  Jane Ridley  Philippe Sands  Adam Sisman  Claire Tomalin  Jenny Uglow  Sara Wheeler


Harriet Baker wins Tony Lothian Prize

The Tony Lothian Prize, for the best proposal for a first biography, has gone to Harriet Baker for Rural Hours: Interwar Female Writers, Landscape and Living. Baker received the £2,000 prize at the Biographers’ Club Christmas party, held at Albany in Central London.

Rural Hours is a collective biography that explores the rural lives of female writers – Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Townsend Warner, Rosamond Lehmann, Rose Macaulay and Dorothy Richardson – in the period covering the two world wars.

The judges were Alex Clark, Lindsay Duguid and Edmund Gordon. They said: “Harriet Baker’s proposal is rich in potential, promising to change our perspective on the writers in question, and refreshing in its radical approach.”

Baker grew up in Leicestershire, and now lives in London. Her book reviews appear regularly in the TLS, and she writes about art for the Financial Times, Apollo, and frieze. She studied English Literature at the University of Oxford, then at King’s College London. She is represented by Harriet Moore at David Higham Associates.

The Tony Lothian Prize, run by the Biographers’ Club, is sponsored by the Duchess of Buccleuch in memory of her mother, Antonella, Marchioness of Lothian, OBE (1922-2007).

Biographers’ Tales

A distinguished and articulate line-up of biographers was at the October Gallery on 1 November to help celebrate more

Save the date!

26th February 2019

Slightly Foxed Best First Biography Prize presentation. Details to be announced.

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