20 June 1933
(m. 1955; died 1973)
Claire Tomalin (née Delavenay; born 20 June 1933) is an English journalist and biographer, known for her biographies of Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Samuel Pepys, Jane Austen, and Mary Wollstonecraft.
Tomalin was educated at Hitchin Girls' Grammar School, a former state grammar school in Hitchin in Hertfordshire, and Dartington Hall School, a former boarding school in Devon, and Newnham College at the University of Cambridge.
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 published:
- 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 (2006), followed by a television film about Hardy, and published a collection of Hardy's poems.
- Charles Dickens: A Life (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. In 2004 she unveiled a blue plaque for Mary Wollstonecraft at 45 Dolben Street, Southwark, where Wollstonecraft lived from 1788. 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. She is also a member of the American Philosophical Society.
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 while reporting on the Arab-Israeli Yom Kippur War in 1973. 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. They live in London on Gloucester Crescent, Camden.
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)
- Biographers International Organization Annual Award (2016)
- Bodley Medal (2018)
- The Young H. G. Wells: Changing the World (New York, Penguin Books, 2021) (ISBN 978-1-984-87902-8)
- A Life of My Own (London, Penguin Books, 2017) (ISBN 978-0-241-23995-7). Autobiography.
- Charles Dickens: A Life (New York, Penguin Books, 2011) (ISBN 0-14-103693-1).
- Thomas Hardy: The Time-Torn Man (New York, Penguin Press, 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 (Vintage eBooks, 2000) (ISBN 0-14-029690-5)
- Several Strangers; writing from three decades (London, Viking Books, 1999) (ISBN 0-670-88567-3); (New York, Penguin, 2000) (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).
- The Invisible Woman: The Story of Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens (London, Viking, 1990) (New York, Knopf, 1991) (ISBN 0-14-012136-6).
- Shelley and His World (London, Thames and Hudson, 1980) (ISBN 0-500-13068-X); (New York, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1980) (ISBN 0-68-416620-8).
- The Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft (London, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1974), 1992 (ISBN 0-14-016761-7).
- Cooke, Rachel (24 September 2011). "Claire Tomalin: 'Writing induces melancholy...'". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 May 2014.
- "Tomalin, Claire, (born 20 June 1933), writer", Who's Who, Oxford University Press, 1 December 2007, doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.u37831, retrieved 6 December 2019
- "The Fitzwilliam Museum - Biography - Claire Tomalin FRSL (b. 1933)". Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. 2008. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
- team, London SE1 website. "Mary Wollstonecraft blue plaque unveiled". London SE1. Retrieved 6 May 2018.
- "APS Member History". search.amphilsoc.org. Retrieved 29 March 2021.
- http://www.freebmd.org.uk search on Tomalin marriages post 1953
- http://www.freebmd.org.uk search on Tomalin/Delavenay births post 1955
- "Claire Tomalin: A life in words". 2 July 2018. Retrieved 2 July 2018 – via news.bbc.co.uk.
- "Aida Edemariam meets Claire Tomalin", The Guardian, 18 November 2006
- "Claire Tomalin: a Life in Words", BBC World News, Entertainment, 29 January 2003
- An encounter with Anthony Gardner, from The Telegraph Magazine, 2003
- The Observer Profile: Claire Tomalin, by Gaby Wood, The Observer, 26 January 2003