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Hermione Lee receives Exceptional Contribution award

Hermione Lee receives Exceptional Contribution award

Hermione Lee received the Biographers’ Club Exceptional Contribution to Biography award at an event at Maggs Bros in Beford Square, where she was in conversation with Richard Holmes, himself a past winner of the award.

Their conversation ranged over the complex and sometimes contradictory lives of their subjects (“everybody’s life is a muddle”, Lee observed), chronological vs thematic approaches, conflicting accounts in one’s sources, the biography of blame, and the sometimes daunting scope of projects.

Jane Ridley, Biographer’s Club chair, presented Lee with an engraved Mont Blanc pen. Guests at the packed event included Julian Barnes, Caroline Moorehead, Anne Chisholm, Anne de Courcy, Rachel Cooke, and Valerie Grove.

Previous winners

Hisham Matar on winning the Best First Biography Prize 2016

“I would, before anything, like to express my appreciation to my fellow shipmates, David Aaronovitch, David Hare, Juliet Nicolson and Philippe Sands. I thank you for your books, and I am honoured to be included in your company.

Every book arises from conversations with the consciousness of our culture and our history, and, in my case and particularly with this book, conversations with other books, several paintings and buildings, and many individuals, living and dead, who are, in one way or another, and like me, embroiled in these events.

Literature cannot tell us what we are here for. But in a world where the ambition is that everything is measured and employed, literature’s seeming limitation—that it cannot tell us what we are here for—might mean that art is perhaps the last place for genuine thought and expression. It’s not that I believe literature can make the world better or less unjust, but that by its very nature, its will for doubt and remembrance and complexity and expansion, literature can hinder the cruel and bigoted oversimplifications that every tyrannical gesture requires.

I would like to thank my friends and family, and my publishers and agents. Most of all I am indebted to my first reader, my friend and companion, my wife the artist Diana Matar.

My deep thanks to the judges—Richard Davenport-Hines, Flora Fraser and Ysenda Maxtone Graham—and everyone else involved in the Slightly Foxed Best First Biography prize. I am honoured and accept the prize with the deepest gratitude and humility.”

The Tony Lothian Prize Winner 2015

The 2015 Tony Lothian Prize, which awards £2,000 to the best proposal for an uncommissioned first biography, has gone to Francesca Wade for SQUARE HAUNTING: A GROUP BIOGRAPHY OF EIGHT WOMEN WHO LIVED IN MECKLENBURGH SQUARE BETWEEN THE WARS.

Wade uses the Square as a prism through which to explore the intersecting inter-war lives of writers Hilda Doolittle (H.D.) and Dorothy L Sayers; the stylish lesbian Nancy Morris; historian and suffragist Eileen Power; classicist Jane Harrison and her lover Hope Mirlees, whose poetic work Paris was published by Woolf at the Hogarth Press; Lorna Wishart, muse to Laurie Lee; and Virginia Woolf, considered mainly here as a chronicler of war and of the City of London.

The judges were Claudia Renton (winner of the Slightly Foxed Best First Biography Prize in 2014), Jeremy Lewis, and Frances Wilson. They also shortlisted proposals by Eadie Heyderman, Jennifer Holmes, Ann Kennedy Smith, and Judith Paisner. Further details here.

The 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).

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