Lyndall Gordon, Biographer

Lyndall Gordon

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.

The first of her biographies, Eliot's Early Years (1977), began as a student thesis. The British Academy awarded it the Rose Mary Crawshay prize. A sequel, Eliot's New Life, was published at the time of the poet’s centenary (1988). The two books have been rewritten as one, The Imperfect Life of T.S.Eliot, and published by Virago. Henry James: His Women and His Art has been updated and reissued in paperback and on kindle at the same time. (See for what these two lives suggest about the possibilities of biography.) Virago has also brought out revised editions of Virginia Woolf: A Writer's Life (awarded the James Tait Black prize for biography) and Charlotte Brontë: A Passionate Life (Cheltenham prize for literature).

A memoir of three women who died young, Shared Lives (reissued by Virago), is about women's friendship going back to schooldays in the Cape Town of the fifties. For a new memoir, see below. 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.

To come: celebrating Eliot on the fiftieth anniversary of his death

T S eliot

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

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


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