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), and Tom Stoppard (2020). 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, in 2013 she was made a Dame for services to literary scholarship, and in 2023 she was made GBE (Dame Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire) for services to English Literature. She is currently working on a biography of Anita Brookner.

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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 meticulously 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

Longlisted for the Carnegie Medals for 2022

“The Best Books We Read in 2021” (New Yorker, December 13 2021)

New York Times Critics’ “Top Books of 2021” (NYT, December 15 2021)

American Vogue “Best Books of 2021” (Vogue, November 28 2021)


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

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


Tom Stoppard A Life by Hermione Lee

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

"Poet of the Dispossessed," New York Review of Books, 6 October 2022 [Review of Endless Flight: The Life of Joseph Roth by Keiron Pim].

"Regarding the Solace of Others," New York Review of Books, 10 February 2022 [Review of On Consolation: Finding Solace in Dark Times by Michael Ignatieff].

"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.