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Beckett, Francis

Francis Beckett

Francis Beckett’s most recent book is What Did the baby Boomers Ever Do For Us? – How the Children of the Sixties Lived the Dream and Failed the Future (Biteback, 2010). His sixteen books include biographies of four Prime Ministers – Attlee, Macmillan, Blair and Brown – as well as short biographies of Aneurin Bevan and Laurence Olivier. He is an author, journalist and playwright, and he won the 2010 Education Journalism Lifetime Achievement award.


Beauman, Nicola

Nicola Beauman

Angier, Carole

Carole Angier

Anderson, Sarah

Sarah Anderson

Sarah Anderson founded the Travel Bookshop in Notting Hill in 1979 and in 2004, after 25 years, she gave it up in order to write and paint. Her memoir, Halfway to Venus, was published in 2007.

Adams, Jad

Jad Adams

Jad Adams is an author and television producer. His books include the definitive biography Tony Benn; a biography of ‘the man behind the Mahatma’ called Gandhi: Naked Ambition and a composite biography of the Nehru clan called The Dynasty. Television work includes biographies of Bill and Hillary Clinton and Lord Kitchener.

Another strand of his life is his interest in the culture of the 1890s about which he has written in Hideous Absinthe: A History of the Devil in a Bottle and Madder Music, Stronger Wine: The Life of Ernest Dowson. He has also written biographies of Kipling and Emmeline Pankhurst.

He is an Associate Research Fellow at the Institute of English, School of Advanced Study, University of London; and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.


1997 | 1998 | 1999 | 2000 | 2001 | 2002 | 2003 | 2004 | 2005 | 2006

– 1997

Thursday 4th September 12.45 for 1.00

Elena’s L’Etoile, 30 Charlotte St W1


3rd December 12.45 for 1.00

Grant McIntyre Publishing Biography

Grant McIntyre, Publishing Director of John Murray, explains what publishers look for in commissioning biography.

The Sloane Club, 52 Lower Sloane St, SW1


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– 1998

Friday 1st May 12.45 for 1.00

Paul Marsh Biography in Translation

Paul Marsh, The Marsh Agency, on which biographies sell abroad.

Academia Club, 8 Grosvenor Place, SW!


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– 1999

All meetings held at Veronica’s Restaurant, 3 Hereford Rd, W2


Wednesday 27th January 12.45 for 1.00

Christine Nicholls Writing Short Biographies

The former editor of the Dictionary of National Biography and editor of a biography series for Sutton looks at the skills in writing and publishing shorter lives.


Thursday 25th February 12.45 for 1.00

Rupert Allason Secret Lives: Intelligence Biography

As Nigel West the author of numerous intelligence books , Rupert Allason considers the special problems of researching and publishing biographies of spies and spymasters.


Thursday 30th March 12.45 for 1.00

Michael Holroyd The Case Against Biography

Regarded as one of Britain’s leading biographers, Michael Holroyd argues that biography is not a proper literary genre.


Tuesday 27th April 12.45 for 1.00

Marion Milne Adapting biography for television and radio

The founder of 3BM TV ,which specialises in historical and biographical subjects, looks at how individual lives can be turned into film portraits.


Tuesday 25th May 7.45 for 8.00

Philip Ziegler ‘How Royal Biography Differs’

The author of many royal biographies, Philip Ziegler considers the special problems and different approaches to writing in the the genre.


Monday 28th June 12.45 for 1.00

Andrew Crofts ‘Ghosting a Life’

Andrew Crofts, one of Britain’s best-known ghost writers, describes how he tries to capture the voice of each of his autobiographical subjects.



Tuesday 27th July 12.45 for 1.00

Roy Jenkins Political Biography

Roy Jenkins looks at how he brings his own political experience to bear when writing lives of politicians.


7th September – 7.45 for 8.00

Hilary Spurling ‘The Unknown Matisse’

Hilary Spurling discusses her biography of the artist Henri Matisse.


Monday 4th October – 7.45 for 8.00

Andrew Motion Wainewright the Poisoner

The biographer of Keats and Larkin on his biography-cum-novel which uses a first person narrative with footnotes.


9th December 6.00-8.00

Christmas Party


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– 2000

All meetings held at Veronica’s Restaurant, 3 Hereford Rd, W2 except the annual dinner.


Monday 31st January 7.45 for 8.00

BRENDA MADDOX ‘What’s Love Got to do with it’

The biographer of DH Lawrence, WB Yeats and Nora Joyce talks about the importance of the private life in biography.


Wednesday 16th February 12.45 for 1.00

ANDREW LOWNIE (last minute replacement for Jan Morris) Different approaches to Biography.


Wednesday 15th March 12.45 for 1.00

CHARLES SPENCER The Challenges of Generational Biography

Earl Spencer draws on his recent histories of his own family to examine the techniques of writing multi-biography.


Thursday 13th April 7.45 for 8.00

ROBERT LACEY The Biography of a Year

The author of books on Princess Grave of Monaco, Sotheby’s and the House of Saud, Robert Lacey relates his experiences of writing the story of the year 1000.


Thursday 27th April 12.45 for 1.00

DAVID STARKEY The Importance of the Early Life in Biography

David Starkey, biographer of several Tudor and Elizabethan monarchs, traces the importance of childhood influences in shaping the adult subject.


Wednesday 24th May 12.45 for 1.00

ANDREW MORTON The Biographer as Subversive

Drawing on his lives of Princess Diana, President Moi and Monica Lewinsky, Andrew Morton argues for the role of biographer as subversive.


Wednesday 28th June 12.45 for 1.00

GILLIAN TINDALL Biography or Fiction?

The novelist and biographer Gillian Tindall discuss the shifting space between fact and fiction.


Tuesday 25th July 7.45 for 8.00



Wednesday 30th August 12.45 for 1.00

JEFFREY SIMMONS Celebrity Biography

The publisher and agent Jeffrey Simmons looks back on forty years of dealing with celebrity biography.


Thursday 28th September 12.45 for 1.00

JANE RIDLEY Can Biography be Taught?

Jane Ridley, biographer of Disraeli and Lutyens, who teaches a course on biography asks whether the skills can be taught.



Wednesday 25th October 12.45 for 1.00

JOHN CLAY Psycho-Biography

The biographer of RD Laing discusses the strengths and weaknesses of psycho-biography.


Tuesday 14th November 12.45 for 1.00

JULIET BARKER 19 th Century Biography

Juliet Barker, author of a recently-published biography of Wordsworth, on the case for the 19 th century approach to writing biography.


Tuesday 5th December 6.30



Go Top

– 2001

All meetings held at Veronica’s Restaurant, 3 Hereford Rd, W2 except annual dinner.


Friday 2nd February 12.45 for 1.00

TONY RENNELL Queen Victoria Symposium

To mark the centenary of Queen Victoria’s funeral Tony Rennell, author of a recently published book on her last days, talks about her legacy and how biographers have written about her. To be filmed by the BBC.



Thursday 22nd February 12.45 for 1.00

ADAM SISMAN The Biography of a Biography

The author of Boswell’s Presumptuous Task, discusses writing the story of James Boswell and his life of Johnson.


Wednesday 21st March 7.45 for 8.00

JAN MORRIS Annual Dinner

In the 14th century Founder’s Hall, New College, Oxford the journalist, travel writer and biographer Jan Morris reflects on forty years experience of writing and her view of biography.


Tuesday 3rd April 7.45 for 8.00

DAVID HOOPER Biographers and the Law

A solicitor and the author of several books on libel, David Hooper explains the particular legal problems biographers may encounter, especially with new rules on privacy.


Monday 23rd April 12.45 for 1.00

KATHRYN HUGHES The Future of Biography

Kathryn Hughes, winner of last year’s James Tait Black Prize for her life of George Eliot, draws on her extensive reviewing experience to speculate on biographical trends.


Tuesday 22nd May 7.45 for 8.00

GEOFF METZGER The Biography Channel

Geoff Metzger, Managing Director of The History Channel, explains the workings of the new Biography Channel.


Wednesday 27th June 7.45 for 8.00

HUMPHREY CARPENTER The Biographer as Villain

The biographer of several contemporary figures, Humphrey Carpenter looks at the sort of controversies involved in writing biography.




Athenaeum Hotel, Picadilly


Tuesday 24th July 7.45 for 8.00

VALERIE GROVE The Journalist as Biographer

The journalist and biographer of, amongst others, Laurie Lee, Valerie Grove recounts how journalistic skills can be brought to bear in writing biography.


Thursday 30h August 12.45 for 1.00

NIGEL JONES The Biographer as Gumshow

The author of a life of Rupert Brooke and a journalist on first History Today and now the BBC History Magazine, Nigel Jones looks at the investigative skills and techniques required by biographers.


Wednesday 26th September 12.45 for 1.00

ARTEMIS COOPER The Biography of Place

Artemis Cooper has written portraits of Cairo during the Second World War and Paris immediately afterwards. She considers how a place can be as much of a subject to the biographer as people.



Monday 22nd October 12.45 for 1.00

GARRY O’CONNOR Authorised or Unauthorised?

Garry O’Connor who has written lives of Ralph Richardson, Paul Scofield, Peggy Ashcroft and William Shakespeare – some authorised and some unauthorised – analyses the strengths and weaknesses of each approach.


Thursday 22nd November 12.45 for 1.00

ANGELA THIRLWELL The role of autobiography in biography

Angela Thirwell edited The Folio Anthology of Autobiography and is currently writing a life of the art-critic William Rossetti.



Monday 10th December 6.30

CHRISTMAS PARTY Berkeley Square Café, 7 Davies St, W1. Tickets £15

The Berkeley Square Café’s owner, film producer Leslie Linder, has kindly opened the café for our exclusive use. It takes over 150 people so I hope many of you will bring along potential new members as guests.


Go Top

– 2002

Tuesday 26th February 7.45 for 8.00

Cafe Rouge, 2 Lancer Square, Kensington Church St, W8

John Campbell, biographer of Margaret Thatcher and Edward Heath, will be discussing whether or not biography is simply a branch of history.


Wednesday 20th March 12.45 for 1.00

The Contented Vine, 17 Sussex St, SW1

Lucasta Miller, author of The Bronte Myth, on ‘The Biographer as Myth Maker’.


Friday 12th April 7.45 for 8.00

Magdalene College, Cambridge

Annual Dinner.

Piers Brendon, Keeper of the Churchill College Archives and author of books on Eisenhower and Churchill , will be our speaker in the candlelit medieval college hall.

Guests welcome. Tickets £40.


Monday 29th April 12.45 for 1.00

The Contented Vine, 17 Sussex St, SW1

John Blake of Blake Publishing on ‘Heroes and Villains: Biography publishing for the mass market’


Friday 24th May 7.30 for 8.00

Longleat House, Wiltshire

The Marquess of Bath will be talking about publishing his autobiography on his web site and the Wessex oral history project.

Guests welcome. Tickets £30.


Friday 14th June 12.45 for 1.00

The Contented Vine, 17 Sussex St, SW!

The journalist and biographer Gyles Brandreth, currently writing a book on the Queen, will speak on ‘The Queen and I: the pitfalls of writing about Monarchy’.


Monday 24th June 6.30-8,30

Athenaeum Club, 107 Pall Mall

Fifth Anniversary party to which all previous speakers and judges have been invited.

Tickets £25. Guests welcome

Wednesday 10th July 12.45 for 1.00

The Contented Vine, 17 Sussex St, SW1

Phil Craig, writer and television journalist, on ‘Biographers at war: the story behind the Princess Diana biographies’.


Tuesday 13th August 12.45 for 1.00

The Contented Vine, 17 Sussex St, SW1

‘Reading the Father-Daughter Relationship: Cross Fertilisations between psychoanalysis and biography’. Jane Polden gained a First in English at Cambridge before becoming a psychotherapist and author.



Thursday 12th September 7.45 for 8.00

The Contented Vine, 17 Sussex St, SW1

Peter Conradi, the authorised biographer of Iris Murdoch, discusses how his friend has been represented in film, the three memoirs of her husband and in biography.


Friday 27th September 12.45 for 1.00

The Contented Vine, 17 Sussex St, SW1

David Ellis is Professor of English Literature at the University of Kent. His books include Literary Lives: Biography and the Search for Understanding and DH Lawrence: Dying Game 1922-1930 ,which was short-listed for the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. His talk is entitled ‘Letters, biography and the strange case of William Shakespeare’.



Friday 25th October 12.45 for 1.00

Bertrolli’s, Frith St. Biographers Club Prize lunch.

Richard Holmes, Professor of Biography at UEA and author of biographies of amongst others Chatterton, Shelley and Coleridge will discuss his approach to biography.


Thursday 7th November 7.45 for 8.00

Contented Vine, 17 Sussex St, SW1

Sally Cline, author of a forthcoming life of the Fitzgeralds, on ‘Zelda (and Scott) Fitzgerald: Two Lives Beneath One Legend.’



Thursday 14th November 7.45 for 8.00

Café Rouge, Lancer’s Square, W8.

J.D.F. Jones, whose most recent book is the authorised biography of Laurens van der Post,on ‘The Problems of authorised biography.’


Monday 2nd December 6.30-8.30

Georgian Group, 6 Fitzroy Square, W1

Christmas party. Guests welcome. Tickets £20.


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– 2003

Wednesday 3rd September 12.45 for 1.00

Biographers’ Club Prize lunch

Ben Pimlott and Diane Middlebrook in discussion on ‘The Current State of Biography’

Bertorelli’s, Frith St


Tuesday 7th October 7.45 for 8.00

Andrew Roberts ‘Virtual history: can speculation about what did not happen in the past help us in the study of what did’


Tuesday 4th November 12.45 for 1.00

Neil McKenna The Importance of the Sex Life

Drawing on his The Secret Life of Oscar Wilde, Neil McKenna shows how the sex lives of individuals are often crucial in understanding their life and work.
Bertorelli’s, Frith St


Monday 1st December 6.00-8.00

Christmas Party

Georgian Group, 6 Fitzroy Square, W1


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– 2004

Monday 5th July Summer Party 6.00-8.00

Destino, 25 Swallow St, W1


Wednesday 29th September

Jane Mays and Brian MacArthur ‘Serialising Biography’

Two of Britain’s most important serial buyers, respectively for the Daily Mail and Times explain what they look for in extracting biography and how it can help sales.

Destino, 25 Swallow St, W1



Wednesday 27th October 7.45 for 8.00

The Contented Vine, 17 Sussex St, SW1

Rosalie Macfarlane, Group Publicity Director at Time Warner and Rina Gill, Publicity Manager at Random House will discuss ‘Publicising Biography’.



Monday 8th November 6.00 for 7.00

English Pen Media-Biz Quiz and dinner

Savoy Hotel

Tickets £100.

Last year The Biographers’ Club entered three teams – more than any other group – and I very much hope we can at least equal that number this year.


Monday 6th December 6.30-8.30

Christmas Party

Georgian Society, 6 Fitzroy Square, W1

Guests welcome. Tickets £20.


Go Top

– 2005

All meetings at The Savile Club, 69 Brook Street, W1 unless otherwise specified.


Friday 18th February

Drinks 6.30 for 7.00 pm talk. Dinner at 8.15pm. Guests welcome.

Jonathan Bate, author of The Genius of Shakespeare and Professor of Shakepeare and Renaissance Literature at the University of Warwick will talk on “The Impossibility of Shakespearean Biography”. The talk will be chaired by David Ellis, Professor of English Literature at the University of Kent.

The Biographers Club has entered a team for University Challenge and the BBC will be filming the drinks beforehand.


Thursday 31st March 12.45 for 1.00

Barbara Schwepcke, founder of Haus Publishing (UK) on “The Sorry Tale of an Independent Publisher of Short Biographies”.



Monday 9th May 12.45 for 1.00

Thomas Staley ‘Lives, Letters and the Ransom Centre.’

The Director of the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Centre at the University of Texas at Austin on his collection and how biographers can best use it.

Savile Club, 69 Brook St, W1


Monday 23rd May 7.45 for 8.00

Ann Wroe ‘Unknowable Lives’

The biographer of Pilate and Perkin Warback shows how biographies can be written about people of whom very little is known.

Arts Club, Dover St, W1. Tickets £27.50



Monday 6th June 7.45 for 8.00

David Twiston Davies Obituary Writing

Formerly Daily Telegraph obituaries editor and the author of The Daily Telegraph books on Naval and Military Obituaries, David Twiston Davies on writing obituaries.

The Savile Club, 69 Brook St, W1. Tickets £27.50



Thursday 16th June 12.45 for 1.00

Jeremy Lewis – Allen Lane

The publisher and writer Jeremy Lewis on his new biography of the publisher Allen Lane.

At and in association with the Savile Club, 69 Brook St, W1. Tickets £25.


Monday 20th June 6.30-8.30

Summer party

The Athenaeum Club, Pall Mall, SW1. Guests welcome. Tickets £20.

Guests welcome. Tickets £20.


Monday 4th July 12.45 for 1.00

Yvonne Ward ‘Packaging the Monarchy: Queen Victoria and her Editors’.

Yvonne Ward shows how our view of Queen Victoria has been based on highly selective editions of her letters.

Tickets £25.


Wednesday 14th September 12.45 for 1.00

Biographers’ Prize lunch

2005 judges: Caroline Moorehead, Miranda Seymour and Robert Lacey

Speaker: Alison Weir, The Appeal of Medieval Biography.

The Savile Club, 69 Brook St, W1. Tickets £25.


Friday 23rd September 7.45 for 8.00

Margaret Crick will discuss the problems she encountered writing her biography of Mary Archer.

The Savile Club, 69 Brook St, W1. Tickets £27.50


Monday 3rd October 12.45 for 1.00

David Sutton ‘Keeping WATCH: tracking down copyright holders’.

David Sutton is Director of Research Projects at Reading University Library, with responsibility, since 1982, for the Location Register literary manuscripts project ( and, since 1994, for the WATCH copyright project (Writers Artists & Their Copyright Holders,

Savile Club, 69 Brook St, W1. Tickets £25.



Wednesday 26th October 7.45 for 8.00

Dr Rebecca Stott, whose books include Darwin and the Barnacle, will talk about writing the biography of an animal species.

The Savile Club, 69 Brook St, W1. Tickets £27.50.


Tuesday 8th November 12.45 for 1.00

Hazel Bell Biographers in Fiction

Hazel Bell will be discussing some 24 novels which feature biographers including Henry James, Julian Barnes, William Golding, AS Byatt and Carol Shields

Savile Club, 69 Brook St, W1. Tickets £25.



Monday 28th November

PEN Quiz, Raphael Gallery at V&A Museum


Friday 9th December 6.30-8.30

Christmas Party

The Savile Club, 69 Brook St, W1. Tickets £20


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– 2006

Monday 24th April 12.45 for 1.00

Special Forces Club, 8 Herbert Crescent, SW1

Sarah Helm will talk about researching her biography A Life in Secrets: Vera Atkins and the Lost Agents of SOE.


Wednesday 24th May 12.45 for 1.00

Kazan, 93-94 Wilton Road, SW1

Diana Souhami’s talk ‘Subverting Biography’ is about her forthcoming book Coconut Chaos, which she describes as covering everything from chaos theory and cargo ships to the Mutiny on the Bounty and lesbian seduction at sea.


Wednesday 24th May 6.30 for 7.00

The Savile Club, 69 Brook St, W1

Lisa Chaney will be discussing her life of JM Barrie. Talk £10 with a glass of wine or £25 to include supper. You should book direct with the Savile on 0207 629 5462.


Tuesday 20th June 6.30-8.30

Garden, Athenaeum Club, 107 Pall Mall

Summer Party



Biographers Club Prize lunch.


Monday 27th November

Cafe Royal, Regent St

PEN Media Biz Quiz.


Monday 4th December 6.30 to 8.30

Georgian Group, 6 Fitzroy Square, W1

Christmas Party


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The £2,000 Biographers’ Club Prize, sponsored by the Daily Mail, supports uncommissioned first-time writers working on a biography.

This year’s judges are Nicola Beauman, publisher of Persephone Books and author of Cynthia Asquith and Morgan: A Life of E.M. Forster, Richard Davenport-Hines whose books include biographies of Proust and Auden, and Andrew Crofts, prolific ghostwriter and author of the forthcoming novel The Overnight Fame of Steffi McBride. Read more