HermioneLee.com
books & editions
publications
 
life-writing
 
Bowen
Cather
Wharton
Woolf
home
 
interviews
 
media
 
 
author bio
 
publicity / contact


Photo by Jane Bown

Professor Dame Hermione Lee grew up in London and was educated at Oxford. She began her academic career as a lecturer in Williamsburg, Virginia (Instructor, 1970-1971) and at Liverpool University (Lecturer, 1971-1977). She taught at the University of York from 1977, where over twenty years she was Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, Reader, and Professor of English Literature. From 1998-2008 she was the Goldsmiths' Chair of English Literature and Fellow of New College at the University of Oxford. In 2008 Lee was elected President of Wolfson College, University of Oxford.

Lee is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, a Fellow of the British Academy and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and an Honorary Fellow of St Hilda's and St Cross Colleges, Oxford. She has Honorary Doctorates from Liverpool and York Universities.

Her numerous works are available online via Vintage, Chatto & Windus, Alfred A. Knopf, Random House Canada, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com, or from a variety of quality independent booksellers through localbookshops.co.uk or Book Sense.

 
 

On John Updike
("He Gave ‘the Mundane Its Beautiful Due’." New York Review of Books, 8 May 2014)

Updike
by Adam Begley
Harper, 558 pp., $29.99

The Collected Stories: Collected Early Stories, Collected Later Stories
by John Updike, edited by Christopher Carduff
Library of America, two volumes, 1,949 pp., $75.00

From the Essay:

When John Updike was a small boy living at 117 Philadelphia Avenue, Shillington, Berks County, Pennsylvania, with his parents and his maternal grandparents, he would stand on a chair every day after lunch to reach up and get at the “little metal Recipes box, with floral decorations and a red lid,” which stood on top of the zinc-lined, wooden icebox in the kitchen, and which held the family’s cash. He would take six cents from it—a nickel and a penny—so he could buy a Tastykake at Kieffer’s on the way back to his elementary school. This ritual is recorded, with minuscule variations, in his 1989 memoir, Self-Consciousness, and in several of the stories about his childhood.

It may have been a particularly tender memory because it was associated with a growing unease about where the “meagre” supply of cash was coming from and the realization that his father was “borrowing” it from the sports day receipts of the school where he taught: “My Father on the Verge of Disgrace” is one of the stories in which the anecdote appears. But the essence of the memory is pleasure: the pleasure of the treat, of eating the Tastykake as he is walking along the street “instead of sitting down and being told to have good manners.” Like many of Updike’s childhood details, it shines with a sense of security and realness. “If there was a meaning to existence, I was closest to it here.” It is a part of his Proustian memory hoard.

 
 

Lecture on Virginia Woolf
(Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain, 25 January 2014)

Annual Virginia Woolf Birthday Lecture: 'To pin down the moment with date and season'
by Professor Dame Hermione Lee

The Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain is a non-profit organisation which aims to raise the profile of Virginia Woolf and promote the reading and discussion of her works. Formed in August 1998 the Society is supported by an Executive Council of elected volunteers. An Editorial Committee produces the Virginia Woolf Bulletin three times a year (January, May and September), as well as a number of other publications. Woolf-related events and talks are held throughout the year.

 
 

Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life by Hermione LeeHermione Lee
Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life

Chatto & Windus, 2013

Penelope Fitzgerald (1916–2000) was a great English writer, who would never have described herself in such grand terms. Her novels were short, spare masterpieces, self-concealing, oblique and subtle. She won the Booker Prize for her novel Offshore in 1979, and her last work, The Blue Flower, was acclaimed as a work of genius. The early novels drew on her own experiences – a boat on the Thames in the 1960s; the BBC in war time; a failing bookshop in Suffolk; an eccentric stage-school. The later ones opened out to encompass historical worlds which, magically, she seemed to possess entirely: Russia before the Revolution; post-war Italy; Germany in the time of the Romantic writer Novalis.

Fitzgerald’s life is as various and as cryptic as her fiction. It spans most of the twentieth century, and moves from a Bishop’s Palace to a sinking barge, from a demanding intellectual family to hardship and poverty, from a life of teaching and obscurity to a blaze of renown. She was first published at sixty and became famous at eighty. This is a story of lateness, patience and persistence: a private form of heroism.

Loved and admired, and increasingly recognised as one of the outstanding novelists of her time, she remains, also, mysterious and intriguing. She liked to mislead people with a good imitation of an absent-minded old lady, but under that scatty front were a steel-sharp brain and an imagination of wonderful reach. This brilliant account – by a biographer whom Fitzgerald herself admired – pursues her life, her writing, and her secret self, with fascinated interest.

Hermione Lee on Penelope Fitzgerald: "Penelope Fitzgerald: Staying Afloat." The Guardian, 25 October 2013. [Hermione Lee looks back at Fitzgerald's free yet fraught way of life on the Thames in the 60s that would inform her Booker prize-winning novel, Offshore.]

Reviews

Hensher, Philip. The Guardian, 1 November 2013. From the Review: "Hermione Lee has done a superb job, capturing the novelist's elusive personality and telling a complex, sometimes harrowing story."

Wullschlager, Jackie. "Penelope Fitzgerald by Hermione Lee." Financial Times, 1 November 2013. From the Review: "Lee elucidates the depth of [Fitzgerald's] achievement, and ties it enthrallingly to a life and personality more complex and difficult than anyone imagined. Julian Barnes once pinpointed Fitzgerald’s courteous, elusive self-presentation as “a jam-making grandmother who scarcely knew her way in the world”. In a perfect literary biography, Lee plumbs the creative mind beneath that persona, tracing the metamorphosis of messy experience into crystalline art."

"Decoding a singularly English novelist." The Economist, 2 November 2013.

Townshend, Emma. The Independent, 3 November 2013. From the Review: "This book will hold insights and treats for any admirer of her fiction, and recruit converts to this reticent, witty, ferocious champion of the utterly downtrodden."

Shakespeare, Nicholas. The Telegraph, 5 November 2013. From the Review: "[Lee] is excellent on the tensions of living at close quarters with an ineffectual partner, and on the bread and butter of a writer’s existence, at the mercy of publishers who underpay and undervalue."

Roberts, Michèle. The Independent, 8 November 2013. From the Review: "Penelope protected herself by pretending to be a gentle, old-fashioned, absent-minded eccentric. From underneath this woolly disguise she could shoot razor-sharp barbs when necessary. She also wrote penetrating literary criticism, deploying quiet scholarship, wry humour, wisdom and generosity. Lee mirrors her lovingly, and does her lucid justice."

McCrum, Robert. The Guardian, 16 November 2013. From the Review: "Thanks to this sympathetic biography, her afterlife shows signs of becoming finally blessed with understanding, admiration and respect."

 

    

books & editions
publications
 
life-writing
 
Bowen
Cather
Wharton
Woolf
home
 
interviews
 
media
 
 
author bio
 
publicity / contact


Last update: 22 April 2014

Hermione Lee Website Copyright © 2006-present