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Background Reading


Suggested background reading

Books about biography and autobiography:

Linda R. Anderson, Autobiography [New Critical Idiom series], 2001

John Batchelor, ed., The Art of Literary Biography, 1995

Martin Conway, Autobiographical memory: An Introduction, 1990

Mary Evans, Missing Persons: The Impossibility of Auto/biography, 1996

Peter France and William St Clair, eds., Mapping Lives: The Uses of Biography, 2002

Ian Hamilton, Keepers of the Flame: Literary Estates and the Rise of Biography, 1992

Richard Holmes, Footsteps: Adventures of a Romantic Biographer, 1996

Michael Holroyd, Works on Paper: The Craft of Biography and autobiography, 2002

Margaretta Jolly, ed., Encyclopaedia of Life Writing: Autobiographical and Biographical Forms, 2001

James Olney, Memory and Narrative: The Weave of Life-Writing, 1998

James Olney, ed., Studies in Autobiography, 1988

Michael Shortland and Richard Yeo, eds., Telling Lives in Science: Essays on Scientific Biography, 1996

Carolyn Steedman, Past Tenses: Essays on Writing, Autobiography and History, 1992

John Sturrock, The Language of Autobiography: Studies in the First Person Singular, 1993

Specific (auto)biographies:

Related to set subjects:


Jessica Mitford, Hons and Rebels, 1960

Nancy Mitford, The Letters of Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh, 1996

Diana Mosley, A Life of Contrasts: the autobiography of Diana Mosley, 1977

(Waugh) Martin Stannard, Evelyn Waugh: The Early Years, 1903-1939, 1986

(Waugh friends and contemporaries)

Harold Acton, Memoirs of an Aesthete, 1948

Henry Green, Pack My Bag, 1940

Martin Green, Children of the Sun: A narrative of ‘decadence in England after 1918, 1976

Anthony Powell, To Keep the Ball Rolling: the memoirs of Anthony Powell: vol 1, Infants of the Spring, 1976

(and see Nancy Mitford)

(The Wordsworths) Juliet R. V. Barker, Wordsworth: A Life, 2000

Stephen Gill, William Wordsworth, A Life, 1989

Robert Gittings, Dorothy Wordsworth: A Life, 1985

Kathleen Jones, A Passionate Sisterhood: the sisters, wives and daughters of the Lake Poets, 1997




Anne Frank, Diary, written 1942-44

Samuel Pepys, Diary, written 1660s

Influential / ‘Classic’:

Giorgio Vasari, The Lives of the most excellent Italian Architects, Painters, and Sculptors, 1550-68

John Aubrey, Brief Lives, written late 1600s

James Boswell, Life of Samuel Johnson, 1791

Lytton Strachey, Eminent Victorians, 1918

Richard Ellmann, James Joyce, 1959

See also the Classic Biographies series, Harper Perennial paperbacks



S. Schoenbaum, Shakespeare’s Lives, 1970


Richard Holmes, Shelley: The Pursuit, 1976

A.J.A.Symons, The Quest for Corvo, 1934


Christopher Hitchens, The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice, 1995


Stephen Greenblatt, Will in the World: How Shakespeare became Shakespeare, 2004


Virginia Woolf, Orlando, 1928


Hermione Lee, Virginia Woolf, 1996

James Shapiro, 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare, 2005


Janet Malcolm, The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, 1994


Roy Foster, W.B.Yeats: A Life, 2 vols., 1997, 2003

Andrew Motion, Philip Larkin: A Writer’s Life, 1993


Peter Ackroyd, T.S.Eliot, 1984

Writers on writers:

Elizabeth Gaskell, Charlotte Bronte, 1855

Samuel Johnson, Lives of the Poets, 1779-81

Specific issues:

Truth / Authenticity

Jacob Golomb, In Search of Authenticitry: From Kierkegaard to Camus, 1995