Cover image for Works on paper : the craft of biography and autobiography
Works on paper : the craft of biography and autobiography
Holroyd, Michael.
Personal Author:
First Counterpoint edition.
Publication Information:
Washington, D.C. : Counterpoint, [2002]

Physical Description:
xiv, 319 pages ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PR6058.O47 W67 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Holroyd (a biographer of Lytton Strachey, Bernard Shaw, and others) has gathered essays, lectures, and short reviews produced over the last 25 years into a collection that will appeal to those who love biography and British life and fiction. In addition to Strachey and Shaw, writers featured include H.G. Wells, Rebecca West, Evelyn Waugh, and Gwen John. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

Author Notes

Michael Holroyd was born in London, England on August 27, 1935. He was educated at Eton College. He published his first book, a biography of writer Hugh Kingsmill, in 1964. He has also written the biographies of George Bernard Shaw, Augustus John, Lytton Strachey, and Ellen Terry and Henry Irving. His other works include Basil Street Blues, Mosaic, and A Book of Secrets: Illegitimate Daughters, Absent Fathers. He has received several awards including the Heywood Hill Literary Prize in 2001, the David Cohen British Prize for Literature in 2005, and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for biography for A Strange Eventful History in 2009. He was knighted for his services to literature in 2007.

(Bowker Author Biography) Michael Holroyd has written acclaimed biographies of Lytton Strachey, Augustus John, & Bernard Shaw. He lives in London & Somerset, England.

(Publisher Provided)

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Authors and celebrities have often derided the biographer's craft as downright parasitic. Rebecca West painted an image of biographers picnicking round the tombstones of the newly dead, "sucking the bones clean and flinging them over their shoulders." Holroyd (Lytton Strachey; Bernard Shaw), one of the most distinguished biographers of the 20th century, responds to these charges both directly and indirectly in his new collection of essays, previously published in various journals and volumes. He argues that biographers bring hidden lives into view and therefore humanize our history: "By re-examining the past and pointing it in a new direction, it may now be used to question our understanding of the present, and affect our vision of the future." The liveliest pieces offer a generous helping of Holroyd's own reminiscences, particularly "The Making of Bernard Shaw," a behind-the-scenes account of his attempt to befriend a cranky, ungenerous George Bernard Shaw scholar, and "The Battle for Public Lending Right," an account of Holroyd's battle for authors to be paid each time their books are checked out of the library. But the heart and soul of the book lies in the literary reviews; taken as a whole, they provide a sweeping overview of 20th-century British authors, trends and movements, including top-notch essays on Evelyn Waugh, Edith Sitwell, E.M. Forster, Augustus John and several writers of the Bloomsbury group. Holroyd's earliest essays were published in a 1974 collection, Unreceived Opinions, and this selection of lectures, essays and book reviews, all written between 1973 and 2001, makes an excellent companion. (June 1) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

Distinguished biographer Michael Holroyd, author of such biographies as Lytton Strachey (CH, Mar'69), Augustus John (CH, Apr'76), and Bernard Shaw (four volumes, CH, Feb'89, Mar'90, Feb'92, Sep'93), collects here 25 years of essays and reviews on life writing. He begins in startling fashion with "The Case Against Biography," which proves to be a witty teaser for his subsequent essays, for no contemporary biographer has presented a more eloquent, amusing, or disarming defense of biography. Holroyd is just and generous to fellow biographers such as Elizabeth Longford and Victoria Glendinning, and he is highly informative on the subject of literary politics as it relates to the writing of lives, including his own monumental biography of Shaw. Holroyd writes mostly about 20th-century British authors, including Joe Orton, Rudyard Kipling, E.M. Forster, Edith Sitwell, Anthony Powell, and Evelyn Waugh, and his work reflects the tradition of the independent biographer unaffiliated with academia. The lack of an index represents a lapse in this otherwise impeccable book. Holroyd makes his subject come alive for undergraduate student, advanced scholar, and general reader alike. C. Rollyson Bernard M. Baruch College, CUNY

Table of Contents

Rebecca WestJohn Stewart CollisJ.R. AckerleyGwen JohnAugustus John
Introductory Notep. xi
Acknowledgementsp. xiii
Biographies and Biographers
The Case Against Biographyp. 3
Smoke With Fire On the Ethics of Biographyp. 10
What Justifies Biography?p. 20
Le Grand Sherlockp. 32
The Whispering Galleryp. 38
The Case of the Blood Relativep. 52
Katherine Mansfield's Camping Groundp. 60
Three Lives Joe Orton, Rudyard Kipling, E.M. Forsterp. 69
Edith Sitwellp. 74
Vitap. 81
A Secret Life Harley Granville Barkerp. 89
'008'p. 96
Portraits in Minature: The Dictionary of National Biographyp. 99
Elizabeth Longford: A Tributep. 103
Loitering With Intentp. 108
The Enemy Withinp. 111
H.G. Wellsp. 114
Autobiography, Diaries and Some Letters
Bound Upon a Coursep. 121
Osbert and Othersp. 130
Son and Fatherp. 135
Anthony Powellp. 139
Introducing Mr Crispp. 143
Peterley Harvestp. 149
Evelyn Waughp. 164
From the Life
The Making of Bernard Shawp. 169
A Romance in E Flat Minorp. 184
Artist in Exilep. 193
Themes and Variationsp. 209
Bloomsburyp. 216
Enthusiasms and Alibis
Patrick Hamiltonp. 227
The Polyglotsp. 242
A Month in the Countryp. 249
A Passage to Indiap. 257
All Wrong on the Nightp. 268
Among the Americansp. 275
The Battle for Public Lending Rightp. 286
Notes Without Musicp. 292
A Dark-Adapted Eyep. 304
Illness in Englandp. 317