Lyndall Gordon, Biographer

Lyndall Gordon Divided lives, Paperback now out

Lyndall Gordon grew up in Cape Town where she studied history and English, then nineteenth-century American literature at Columbia in New York. In 1973 she came to England through the Rhodes Trust. For many years she was a tutor and lecturer in English at Oxford where she is now Senior Research Fellow at St Hilda’s College.

Virago has published her six biographies and two memoirs. Lyndall is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and member of PEN. She is married to Professor of Cellular Pathology, Siamon Gordon; they live in Oxford and have two grown-up daughters.

Review of Divided Lives: Dreams of a Mother and Daughter

"Literary history has a tendency to focus on the great deeds of renowned men. Women’s lives often end up sinking like dresses in a lagoon, pushed down by the rudders of ignorance and neglect. Lyndall Gordon’s writing inflates them with life-saving breath which allows them to float and sparkle in the sunlight of recognition."

Karina Szczurek, author of Invisible Others.

Complete review: LitNet

Celebrating Eliot on the fiftieth anniversary of his death

T S eliot

Monday, 22 December at 4.30. BBC Radio 4: ‘Beyond Belief’. A discussion about Eliot’s life and work.

‘How Eliot Looked at Lives’. The Hudson Review, New York (winter 2015)

A Guardian review of a new volume of Eliot’s Letters.

A commemorative talk at Keats House on 8 January 2015. ‘Footfalls Echo in the Memory’: Eliot’s Expatriation.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015: BBC radio 3, 10 pm: ‘Free Thinking’. Discussing Eliot with Anne McElvoy and Robert Crawford.

February 2015: Telegraph review of Young Eliot.

May 2015: ‘“Mixing /Memory and Desire”: What Eliot’s Biography Can Tell Us’ in The Cambridge Companion to The Waste Land.

Eliot’s Memories at Burnt Norton. Inaugural talk for the Chipping Campden Festival on 5 May 2015.

7 May 2015: 8.15 pm. Talk on Eliot at Jesus College, Oxford

21 May 2015. 7 pm ‘Eliot and Lancelot Andrewes.’ Southwark Cathedral, London (where the seventeenth-century preacher, Andrewes, is buried). Organiser:

Sat. 18 July 2015: Lecture for the Eliot Society and International Eliot Summer School, in part to commemorate the centenary of ‘Prufrock’ (June 1915).

6.30 on 5 October 2015. The Cocktail Party by TS Eliot at the Print Room, the Coronet, Notting Hill Gate, London. In discussion with the play’s director.

Sat, 18 June 2016: Memorial Lecture for the American Eliot Society. Rapallo, Italy.


Divided Lives: Dreams of a Mother and Daughter (Virago hardback 2014; paperback: spring 2015). A daughter, in childhood, is called on to be the secret sharer of her mother’s illness and creativity. Here are kin who are alike as readers and dreamers, whose dreams will take them different ways: the mother, Rhoda Press, as visionary; the daughter exploring the question of how to be a woman.

ISBN: 978-1844088898

'Literature is where their relationship blossomed and where it is now preserved'
Claire Harman, The Guardian

'A biographer with soul, she reaches into the hearts of those she brings alive for us. She makes the meaning of their lives sing and sweat as she invites us into their experiences, their longings, their struggles and their disappointments. [A] fascinating mix between memoir and biography'
Susie Orbach, The Observer

'Prose both lyrical and meticulous... beautiful',
Juliet Nicolson, Evening Standard

Excerpt in The Hudson Review

Lyndall Gordon's intrepid and astute biographies of writers . . . frequently yield insights that have eluded previous scholars . . . Now Gordon brings her gift for uncovering startling truths to bear on her own upbringing in 1950s and 60s South Africa... [An] enthralling and painful account of her relationship with her mother (Elizabeth Lowry, Times Literary Supplement)

‘A wonderful read that's somehow both frank and delicate at the same time.’ Herald, Scotland

long-listed for the Alan Paton prize

long-listed for the Warwick prize

Lyndall Gordon on Leaving Cape Town