Literary Birthday – 29 February – Hermione Lee

Happy Birthday, Hermione Lee, born 29 February 1948.


  1. Some cynical biographer said to me, Make sure it’s a good death. Make sure you’re not picking someone who just declined.
  2. Writing a biography is not a love affair. It’s not a marriage. It’s a job, it’s a piece of work.
  3. The belief in a definable, consistent self, an identity that develops through the course of a life-story and that can be conclusively described, breaks down, to a great extent, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, at a time when psychoanalysis, scientific discoveries such as the theory of relativity, and experiments in art forms, are producing a more indeterminate approach to identity. Western biography from this time has more to say about contradictions and fluctuations in identity, and about the unknowability of the self. (via)
  4. We all have a story, and we are unravelling our own story from ourselves like a spider making its own web, as we go along. But nobody’s life is necessarily a predictable story. And people’s lives are not consistent. (via)
  5. I think that biography has to be watchful of making life seem too predictable, or determinist, or shaped, or ordered. (via)

Hermione Lee is an English biographer and critic. Her first book, The Novels of Virginia Woolf, was published in 1977. Her latest books are Edith Wharton (2008), shortlisted for the James Tait Black Memorial Prize (for biography); Biography: A Very Short Introduction (2009); and Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life (2013).

Source for quotes

by Amanda Patterson

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Posted on: 27th February 2020