Biographers’ Tales

A distinguished and articulate line-up of biographers was at the October Gallery on 1 November to help celebrate the club’s 18th birthday, telling tales from their writing lives.

Anne Chisholm (chair), Adam Sisman, Selina Hastings, and Alexander Masters (pictured from left) ranged over subjects including the writer as a presence in the biography, choosing a structure that works, knowing more about a living subject’s life than the subject does her/himself, how they were first commissioned, and their relationships with their subjects. Selina Hastings told us about being chased round the room by Nancy Mitford’s lover, and coming across a letter from Mitford to James Lees-Milne, whom Hastings had considered a friend, reporting of her: “I don’t care what you say, I like her.” Sisman recalled spoiling the atmosphere of a lunch with David Cornwell (a.k.a. John le Carre) by interrupting one of the author’s recollections to tell him that it was not true.