Professor Dame Hermione Lee


Hermione Lee was President of Wolfson College from 2008 to 2017 and is Emeritus Professor of English Literature in the English Faculty at Oxford University. She is a biographer and critic whose work includes biographies of Virginia Woolf (1996), Edith Wharton (2006) and Penelope Fitzgerald (2013, winner of the 2014 James Tait Black Prize for Biography and one of the New York Times best 10 books of 2014). She has also written books on Elizabeth Bowen, Philip Roth and Willa Cather, an OUP Very Short Introduction to Biography, and a collection of essays on life-writing, Body Parts. She was awarded the Biographers’ Club Prize for Exceptional Contribution to Biography in 2018. From 1998 to 2008 she was the Goldsmiths’ Professor of English Literature at Oxford. She is a Fellow of the British Academy and the Royal Society of Literature, and a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2003 she was made a CBE and in 2013 she was made a Dame for services to literary scholarship.

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Professor Dame Hermione Lee; Photo by Tom Pilston
Photo by Tom Pilston

Tom Stoppard: A LIFE


The key book for all time on Tom Stoppard: the biography of our greatest living playwright, by one of the leading literary biographers in the English-speaking world, a star in her own right, Hermione Lee. 

With unprecedented access to private papers, diaries, letters, and countless interviews with figures ranging from Felicity Kendal to John Boorman and Trevor Nunn to Steven Spielberg, Hermione Lee builds a metiucously researched portrait of one of our greatest playwrights. 

Drawing on several years of long, exploratory conversations with Stoppard himself, it tracks his Czech origins and childhood in India to every school and home he’s ever lived in, every piece of writing he’s ever done, and every play and film he’s ever worked on; but in the end this is the story of a complex, elusive and private man, which tells you an enormous amount about him but leaves you, also, with the fascinating mystery of his ultimate unknowability.

Shortlisted for the Duff Cooper Prize, 2020.

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Tom Stoppard: A Life. Faber & Faber, 2020. ISBN: 9780571314430

Tom Stoppard: A Life. Alfred A. Knopf, 2021. ISBN: 9780451493224



4 February 2021 - Hermione Lee in conversation with Rachel Hewitt. Newcastle Centre for the Literary Arts. This is an online event (Free). Visit Event Website for More Information

19 February 2021 - Hermione Lee in conversation with Mark Lawson. British Library and RSL Joint Event. This is an online event (£5). Bookers will be sent a link in advance giving access and will be able to watch at any time for 48 hours after the start time. Visit Event Website for More Information

24 February 2021 - Hermione Lee in conversation with Tom Stoppard. Greenlight Bookstore. All tickets include access to the online event and a hardcover copy of Tom Stoppard: A Life, as well as a bookplate signed by Hermione Lee. Note pickup and shipping options when purchasing tickets. ($45-$50). Visit Event Website for More Information

28 February 2021 - Hermione Lee in conversation with Mark Damazer. Jewish Book Week. This is an online event in association with the Rabin Chair Forum, George Washington University (£9.50). Visit Event Website for More Information

4 March 2021 - Hermione Lee in conversation with longtime Stoppard collaborator Carey Perloff. Smithsonian Associates. This is an online event ($20-$55). Visit Event Website for More Information

10 March 2021 - Hermione Lee in conversation with Benjamin Taylor. Leon Levy Center for Biography. This is an online event (Free). Visit Event Website for More Information

Tom Stoppard A Life by Hermione Lee


"One of the pleasures of Lee’s book is the glimpse it offers into Stoppard’s working practice." -- Gaby Wood, The Atlantic, March 2020

"In Tom Stoppard, Hermione Lee Takes On a New Challenge: a Living Subject." -- Charles McGrath, New York Times, 13 February 2021

Hermione Lee Named Chair of the David Cohen Prize for Literature


Dame Hermione Lee (FBA, FRSL, Emeritus Professor, Faculty of English, University of Oxford) assumes the role of Chair of The David Cohen Prize.

Lee was one of the judges of the David Cohen Prize for Literature in 1999. Last awarded to Edna O’Brien in 2019, the prize is one of the UK’s most distinguished literary prizes, awarded for the body of work, not for a single title alone. Over the years it has earned the tag of the “UK and Ireland Nobel in literature”. David Cohen, who founded the prize, sadly passed away in August 2019.

Hermione Lee said: “I am delighted, honoured and excited to be appointed. I greatly admired David Cohen’s generosity, benevolence and intellectual curiosity and energy. This is a literary prize like no other (except the Nobel), and it has the added interest and value of allowing the winner to give a subsidiary prize, named after Clarissa Luard, to a writer or literary organisation of their choice. I am hugely looking forward to the diversity and range of reading which judging this prize will involve, and, I hope, to maintaining, with my fellow judges, the gold standard of this acclaimed and important literary award.”

Hermione Lee follows in the footsteps of previous chairs Mark Lawson, Andrew Motion and Michael Holroyd. Awarded every two years the David Cohen Prize for Literature was established in 1992 and first awarded in 1993. It recognises writers who use the English language and are citizens of the United Kingdom or the Republic of Ireland, and encompasses all disciplines: dramatists, novelists, poets and essayists.

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Recent Publications

Lives of Houses edited by Hermione Lee and Kate Kennedy - Princeton University Press

Lives of Houses

Edited by Hermione Lee and Kate Kennedy
Available from Princeton University Press, 2020
A group of notable writers—including UK poet laureate Simon Armitage, Julian Barnes, Margaret MacMillan, and Jenny Uglow—celebrate our fascination with the houses of famous literary figures, artists, composers, and politicians of the past.
A Love Letter to Europe: An Outpouring of Sadness and Hope from Writers, Thinkers and Artists

A Love Letter to Europe

With a Contribution by Hermione Lee
Coronet, 2019

Additional Publications

"The Wanderer," New York Review of Books, 25 February 2021 [Review of Thinking Again by Jan Morris].

"An Undisappearing Act," New York Review of Books, 3 December 2020 [Review of The True History of the First Mrs. Meredith: And Other Lesser Lives by Diane Johnson].

"Sympathy for the Devil,"New York Review of Books, 22 October 2020 [Review of Jack by Marilynne Robinson].

"Not Even Past," New York Review of Books, 28 May 2020 [Review of A Thousand Moons by Sebastian Barry].

In 2020, Lee was awarded with the BIO Prize by the Biographers International Organization. The text of her keynote address is available from the Biographers International Organization's website.

“Breaking Faith: Elizabeth Bowen and disloyalties”, in Uncertain Futures: Essays about the Past for Roy Foster, Oxford University Press, 2016.

“Dangerous Letters: A Biographer’s Perspective”, in Letter Writing Among Poets, edited by Jonathan Ellis, Edinburgh University Press, 2015.

“ 'From Memory': Literary Encounters and Life-Writing", in On Life-Writing, edited by Zachary Leader, Oxford University Press, 2015.

[Foreword] - Isaiah Berlin: Personal Impressions, edited by Henry Hardy, Princeton University Press, 2014.

[Introduction] - Alain-Fournier, The Lost Domain, Oxford University Press, 2013.