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Members' News

Rolling news and notices from the club and its members, as well as items of interest from the world of biography.

Are you a Club member with news of your own? Get in touch to let us know about your book launches, rights deals, appearances, events, prizes and more, via our contact page.

People’s Book Prize winter 18/19 contenders

Titles by two Biographers’ Club members, Philippa Bernard (Mithras to Mormon, Shepheard-Walwyn) and Jane Dismore (Princess: The Early Life of Queen Elizabeth II, Thistle), are longlisted in the winter collection of the People’s Book Prize. Voting is open now, and remains open until 15 March. You can vote for them here:

https://peoplesbookprize.com/winter-2018/princess/
https://peoplesbookprize.com/winter-2018/mithras-to-mormon/

Ian Strathcarron – Crikey!

Ian Strathcarron, biographer and chairman of the Unicorn Publishing Group, has written a biography of a man about whom we know surprisingly little: Sir Bertram Wooster, KG. In Crikey! How Did That Happen?, Strathcarron fills in the gaps that PG Wodehouse left. Ten chapters centre on incidents throughout Wooster’s life: education at Malvern House, Eton and Oxford; pursuing a musical career in the south of France, in a milieu also including Alfred Hitchcock and Somerset Maugham; wartime captivity, in common with his creator but at the hands of the Italians; adventures in Hollywood. The final chapter is a murder mystery set on Mustique in the Seventies. As for Jeeves: he graduates from employment by Wooster to work in the Royal Household.

Strathcarron says: “Wodehouse never mentioned any dates, but it is generally accepted that the stories take place in the late ‘20s when Bertie was also in his late 20s. I therefore imagined him born in 1900 and take it forward seven years at a time from then.

“In the stories Wodehouse makes many references to Bertie’s childhood and schooling and I have included all of these in the early chapters. Of course from 1928 onwards I’ve made it all up, on the basis that while the main plot is pure fiction all the subplots are real events.”

Rasheed Kidwai – Neta Abhineta

Rasheed Kidwai’s new book, Neta Abhineta: Bollywood Star Power in Indian Politics, has just come out from Hachette India. It gives biographical sketch of 18 Indian film stars who have entered the Indian parliament. “With an eye for detail and an elephantine memory, Kidwai makes a compelling raconteur,” says the Indian Express.

The Extraordinary Life of E Nesbit

By Elisabeth Galvin

Published by Pen & Sword History, October 2018

A ground breaker in every sense, the Edwardian author Edith Nesbit (1858 – 1924) changed children’s books forever with her much-loved novels, The Railway Children and Five Children and It. Her stories of female heroines, magic, adventure and time travel continue to influence children’s literature more than a century later. Her personal life was every bit as colourful as her fiction. As a cigar-smoking socialist, she was a founder of the Fabian Society and George Bernard Shaw and HG Well frequented her wild bohemian parties. Author Elisabeth Galvin has included an acknowledgement to the Biographers’ Club in this book. She is appearing at the Yeovil Literary Festival, The Johnson Studio, Octagon Theatre, Yeovil, Dorset, on 28 October at 2pm, admission £5; and at the Richmond Literature Festival Dorset, Hampton Library, London, on 15 November, at 7.30pm.

Lansdowne: The Last Great Whig was published on 29th November to coincide with the anniversary of publication of Lord Lansdowne’s letter to the Daily Telegraph which was published  on 29th November, 1917.

A remarkable figure of British politics between the late Victorian and interwar years, Lord Lansdowne was among the last hereditary aristocrats to wield power by birth. Over the course of a distinguished fifty-year career he served as Governor-General of Canada, Viceroy of India, Secretary of State for War, Foreign Secretary and Leader of the House of Lords. It was Lansdowne who engineered the crucial changes in British foreign policy and the burden of Britain’s imperial commitments, led the House of Lords through one of the most divisive periods of modern times and at the end of the First World War became a figure of notoriety greater than any of the popular leaders of the day.

You can find more information here: http://www.unicornpublishing.org/page/detail/Lansdowne/?k=e201703281200435455

Simon Kerry was awarded an MA in Archaeology at Jesus College, Cambridge, and a doctorate in late Victorian British History at the University of East Anglia in 2015. He is married and lives in London.

BIO and Washington Biography Group member Dr. Stephen H. Grant is coming for a rare visit to the UK in October to lectures on his new biography about the founders of of Folger Shakespeare Library.
Johns Hopkins University Press in Baltimore released Dr. Stephen H. Grant’s biography, Collecting Shakespeare: The Story of Henry and Emily Folger, on the Ides of March 2014 to coincide with the 450th anniversary of the Bard’s birth in 1564. It is the first biography of the quiet, secretive Brooklyn couple who founded in 1932 the Folger Shakespeare Library, housing the largest Shakespeare collection in the world in a stunning marble memorial two blocks from the U.S. Capitol. 
Dr. Stephen Grant will be giving a series of lectures in October 2017 based on his biography of the founders of the Folger Shakespeare Library in which he will share aspects of the trips the Folgers took to England.

 

11 October 8:00pm
8 PM Talk #1 Blackheath Halls 
Blackheath Halls Recital Room, 23 Lee Rd, London SE3 9RQ

13 October 
5 PM Talk #2 St Andrews Library  
St Andrews University Library, North Street, St Andrews KY16 9TR

16 October
5:15 PM Talk #3 at Oxford Bibliographic Society 
Oxford Bibliographic Society, Christ Church Upper Library, Oxford OX1 3BG
(introduced by Henry Woudhuysen, Rector of Lincoln College)

20 October
4:30 PM Talk #4 Cambridge University Library
Cambridge University Lib., Milstein Room, West Road CB3 9DR

23 October
7:30 PM Talk #5 Bath Royal Lit & Sci Inst 
Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institute Elwin Room, 16 Queen Sq., Bath BA1 1BA

26 October
2 PM Talk #6 Shakespeare Institute, Stratford-upon-Avon.
Shakespeare Institute, Stratford-upon-Avon CV37 6HP

Grant is guest blogger (http://bloggingshakespeare.com/author/stephengrant) for the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-Upon-Avon, England and for the Johns Hopkins University Press (http://jhupressblog.com/?s=Stephen+Grant).

Former chairman of the Biographers’ Club Anne de Courcy’s latest book is published here by Weidenfeld & Nicolson) and in Australia on Thursday 1 June. The Husband Hunters: Social Climbing in London and New York tells the story of the thirty-year period – roughly between 1875 and 1905,and known as the Gilded Age – during which over hundred American girls married into the peerage;  and the real reasons behind the obvious one of cash for coronets. Anne will be speaking at various festivals round the country and American publication will take place in the late spring of next year.

The Biographers’ Club member Gill Blanchard has had her first biography published. Lawson Lies Still in the Thames: The Extraordinary Life of Vice-Admiral Sir John Lawson was published by Amberley Publishing a couple of weeks ago. You can find details at: www.amberley-books.com/lawson-lies-still-in-the-thames.html

There will also be a book launch at Jarrolds in Norwich on 13 July at 6pm. See:  http://www.jarrold.co.uk/events-diary/events-list/an-evening-with-gill-blanchard

Other events will be taking place later this year, including an exhibition about John Lawson at the Scarborough Maritime Heritage Centre.

The Biographers’ Club has received the following CALL FOR PAPERS:

Transnational Perspectives on the Writing of Artists’ Lives, 19th -21st centuries.
An Interdisciplinary Workshop
25-26 January 2018, University of Amsterdam

Some writers are so fascinated by other artists that they study their biographies and tell their life stories, in fictional or non-fictional form. Whereas artist’s lives have been written throughout the ages, they have become increasingly popular since the romantic period, with the rise of the artist-hero in the Künstlerroman. Many romantic and post-romantic writers portrayed an artist from their home country as iconic of the nation, thus establishing or consolidating a national cultural tradition.

However, there are numerous examples of authors who wrote the life stories of writers, painters or musicians from countries other than their own: Alexander Pushkin tells about the rivalry between two famous composers in his theatre play Mozart and Salieri (1830) ; André Maurois narrates the life story of Shelley in Ariel ou la vie de Shelley (1923); The Moon and Sixpence (1919) is a fictional biography of Paul Gauguin written by Somerset Maugham and Symphonie Pathétique (1935) is Klaus Mann’s biographical novel of Tchaikovsky. More recent examples are the literary biography of Jane Austen written by the Canadian novelist Carol Shields in 2001; Caryl Phillips’ Radio Play A Kind of Home: James Baldwin in Paris (2004) and Julian Barnes’s novel The Noise of Time (2016) in which he examines the biography of Shostakovich.

All these examples show literary writers who, in many different ways, construct their subject’s life stories in order to reflect on life and art and to define their own aesthetic position. Whether they criticize their ‘hero’ or identify with him/her as a formative model and make it their own, they establish a trans-national relation with this particular artist.

We will further investigate the dynamics of such transnational relations and appropriations in a two-day international workshop on artists’ biographies in the 19 th -21 st centuries. We will focus on the lives of artists, written by artists, such as literary biographies, biographical novels and operas or theatre plays that clearly rely on biographical elements.

We aim to examine four central issues:

1. the various forms and usages of artist’s biographies. How and why do writers engage with the lives of other artists? Which elements are foregrounded and which elements are ignored in the life narrative they construct?

2. the truth and fiction about an artists’ life. To what effect do writers fictionalize certain biographical elements? What kind of ‘truth’ do they convey through literary writing?

3. the historical development of the artist-hero in modern literature, literary biography and portraiture. Should we consider the romantic period as ‘tipping point’; a period in which artists begin to write about artists? Are there similar tipping or turning points in the twentieth century in the writing of artists’ lives?

4. the transnational dynamics of identity formation. What is the importance of studying ‘foreign’ artist’s lives in the formation of artistic identities? To what extent does this contribute to the sense of belonging to a (trans)national, European or cosmopolitan artistic community? How do politics come into play here?

Proposals, no longer than 200 words, should be sent before 1 June 2017 to Kasper van Kooten (K.B.vanKooten@uva.nl) and Marleen Rensen (M.J.M.Rensen@uva.nl).

Jeremy Lewis – author, former publisher, and noted supporter of the Biographers’ Club – has died. He had been suffering from cancer.

After graduating from Trinity College, Dublin in 1965, Lewis worked for publishers including OUP, Collins (as it was then), and Chatto. He was deputy editor of the London Magazine, and more recently deputy editor of the Oldie and editor-at-large of the Literary Review.

A genial figure likened by Anthony Powell to a “floppy Labrador”, Lewis was an astute and witty writer who had the gift, particularly apparent in his publishing memoirs such as Grub Street Irregular, of portraying characters candidly but without unkindness. He appeared to be too amused by people to dislike them, and he brought this sensibility to weightier works including biographies of Cyril Connolly, Allen Lane, the Greene family, and the Astors.

Lewis was a judge of the 2015 Biographers’ Club Tony Lothian Prize.