Claire Tomalin: English biographer and journalist (1933-) | Biography
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Claire Tomalin
English biographer and journalist

Claire Tomalin

Claire Tomalin
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro English biographer and journalist
A.K.A. Claire Delavenay
Is Writer Journalist Biographer
From United Kingdom
Field Journalism Literature Science
Gender female
Birth 20 June 1933, Greater London, London, England, United Kingdom
Age 90 years
The details (from wikipedia)


Claire Tomalin (born Claire Delavenay on 20 June 1933) is an English author and journalist, known for her biographies on Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Samuel Pepys, Jane Austen, and Mary Wollstonecraft.


Tomalin was born Claire Delavenay on 20 June 1933 in London, the daughter of French academic Émile Delavenay and English composer Muriel Herbert.


Tomalin was educated at Hitchin Girl’s Grammar School, a former state grammar school in Hitchin in Hertfordshire, and Dartington Hall School, a former boarding school in Dartington, near Totnes, in Devon, and Newnham College at the University of Cambridge.

Life and career

Tomalin has written several noted biographies. In 1974 she published her first book The Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft, which won the Whitbread Book Award. Since then she has researched and written Shelley and His World (1980); Katherine Mansfield: A Secret Life (1987); The Invisible Woman: The story of Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens (1990) [ NCR, Hawthornden, James Tait Black Prize- now a film ]; Mrs Jordan's Profession (1994); Jane Austen: A Life (1997) Samuel Pepys: the Unequalled Self (2002) [ Whitbread biography and Book of the Year prizes, Pepys Society Prize, Rose Mary Crawshay Prize ]. Thomas Hardy: The Time-Torn Man appeared in 2006, and she made a television film about Hardy, and published a collection of Hardy's poems. Her Charles Dickens: A Life was published in 2011. She also edited and introduced Mary Shelley's story for children, Maurice. A collection of her reviews, Several Strangers, appeared in 1999.

Tomalin organised two exhibitions about the Regency actress Mrs Jordan at Kenwood in 1995, and about Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley in 1997. She has served on the Committee of the London Library, and as a Trustee of the National Portrait Gallery and the Wordsworth Trust. She is a Vice-President of the Royal Literary Fund, Royal Society of Literature and of the English PEN. Tomalin married her first husband, fellow Cambridge graduate Nicholas Tomalin, a prominent journalist, in 1955, and they had three daughters and two sons,. He was killed in the Arab-Israeli Yom Kippur War in 1973.

Personal life

Tomalin married journalist Nick Tomalin in 1955. She worked in publishing and journalism as literary editor of the New Statesman, then The Sunday Times, while bringing up her children. She married the novelist and playwright Michael Frayn in 1993.

Awards and honours

  • James Tait Black Memorial Prize, The Invisible Woman (1990)
  • Hawthornden Prize, The Invisible Woman (1991)
  • Whitbread Book Award, Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self (2002)
  • Rose Mary Crawshay Prize, Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self (2003)
  • Samuel Pepys Award of the Samuel Pepys Club, Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self (2003)
  • Samuel Johnson Prize, shortlist, Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self (2003)
  • Honorary Member Magdalene College, Cambridge (2003)
  • Honorary Fellow Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge (2003), Newnham College; Cambridge (2004)
  • Honorary D.Litt: UEA (2005); Birmingham (2005); Greenwich (2006); Cambridge (2007); Goldsmith (2009); Open University (2008); Roehampton (2011); Portsmouth (2012)
  • Costa Book Awards (Biography), shortlist, Charles Dickens: A Life (2011)


  • Charles Dickens: A Life, 2011, Penguin Books (ISBN 0-14-103693-1).
  • Thomas Hardy: The Time-Torn Man, 2007 (ISBN 978-1-594-20118-9).
  • Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self, (New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 2002) (ISBN 0-670-88568-1 or 0-14-028234-3).
  • Jane Austen: A Life, 2000 (ISBN 0-14-029690-5)
  • Several Strangers; writing from three decades, 1999, Viking Books Hardcover, London (ISBN 0-670-88567-3); 2000, Penguin (ISBN 0-14-190950-1).
  • Katherine Mansfield: A Secret Life, (London, Viking, 1987), 1998 (ISBN 0-14-011715-6).
  • Mrs. Jordan's Profession: The Story of a Great Actress and a Future King, 1995 (ISBN 0-14-015923-1).
  • Shelley and His World, 1992 (ISBN 978-0-14-017152-5).
  • The Invisible Woman: The Story of Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens, (London, Viking, 1990) (New York, Knopf, 1991) (ISBN 0-14-012136-6).
  • The Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft (London, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1974), 1992 (ISBN 0-14-016761-7).
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