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Biography Writing: Lives in Context

LSE Literary Weekend/ Royal Society of Literature biography special events

These three prominent biographers will discuss the question of whether individual sensibility or wider context should take precedence when writing a biography in relation to their recent works.

Victoria Glendinning has written biographies of Elizabeth Bowen, Edith Sitwell (which won both the James Tait Black Award and the Duff Cooper Prize), Vita Sackville-West (Whitbread Prize for Biography), Rebecca West, Anthony Trollope (Whitbread Prize for Biography), and a biographical book about Jonathan Swift. She co-edited Mothers and Sons with her third son Matthew Glendinning, and has published three novels, The Grown-Ups, Electricity, and Flight. Her biography of Leonard Woolf was published in 2006. Her new book, published in early 2009, is Love’s Civil War, an edition of 30 years of love-letters from Anglo-Irish novelist Elizabeth Bowen to her Canadian lover Charles Ritchie, intercut with extracts from his diaries. Victoria has been a judge of the W.H.Smith Prize and other literary awards, and Chair of the judges of the Booker Prize (1992). From 2000-3 she was president of English PEN. She has served on the Council of the Royal Society of Literature and of the London Library, currently chairs the Wiener Library Endowment Trust, and is a member of the Man Booker Prize Advisory Committee. She is a Vice-president of the English Centre of PEN, a Fellow and Vice-president of the Royal Society of Literature, and on the Council of the Society of Authors. She is an Honorary Fellow of Somerville College, Oxford. She has been awarded a CBE (Commander of the British Empire), and has four Honorary Doctorates, from the universities of Southampton, Ulster and York, and from Trinity College, Dublin.

Caroline Moorehead is a biographer whose subjects have included Bertrand Russell, Heinrich Schliemann, Freya Stark, Iris Origo and Martha Gellhorn. Her biography of Madame de la Tour du Pain, Dancing to the Precipice, will be published in March 2009. She is also much involved in human rights. She is a governor of the British Institute of Human Rights and helped start a legal advice centre for asylum seekers from the Horn of Africa in Cairo. She has written a history of the International Red Cross, and studies of pacifism, terrorism and refugees.

D.J.Taylor is a novelist, critic and acclaimed biographer of William Thackeray and George Orwell (both available in paperback). His Orwell: The Life won the Whitbread Biography of the year for 2003. His most recent books include the Victorian novel Kept: A Victorian Mystery (Chatto, 2006) and The Corinthian Spirit: on the decline of Amateurism in Sport (Yellow Jersey, 2006). He is married with three children and lives in Norwich. His latest book Bright Young People, which he will be discussing during this event, is both a chronicle of England’s ‘lost generation’ of the Jazz Age, and a panoramic portrait of a world that could accommodate both dizzying success and paralysing failure. Drawing on the writings and reminiscences of the Bright Young People themselves, D.J. Taylor has produced an enthralling social and cultural history, a definitive portrait of a vanished age.

This event is supported by the Royal Society of Literature. Following this discussion there will be a break for tea, then A Tea-Time Tutorial with Michael Holroyd and Patrick French.

This is part of the LSE Space for Thought Literary Weekend, the LSE's first ever Literary Festival, celebrating the completion of the New Academic Building.


Victoria Glendinning | talks
Caroline Moorehead | talks
D.J. Taylor | talks


Date and Time:

1 March 2009 at 4:00 pm


1 hour 30 minutes



Sheikh Zayed Theatre, London School of Economics
New Academic Building
Lincoln's Inn Fields

Show map

Organised by:

London School of Economics & Political Science
See other talks organised by London School of Economics & Political Science...




Available from:

This event is free and open to all, but a ticket is required. One ticket per person may be requested from 2pm on Tuesday 17 February.

Members of the public can request one ticket via the online ticket request form which will be live on www.lse.ac.uk/events from 10.00am on Tuesday 17 February.

Additional Information:

For more information, visit www.lse.ac.uk/collections/spaceForThought/literaryWeekend.

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