Claire Tomalin

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Claire Tomalin
Claire Tomalin, 2013
Claire Tomalin, 2013
BornClaire Delavenay
(1933-06-20) 20 June 1933 (age 90)
London, England
OccupationAuthor, journalist
EducationHitchin Girls' School; Dartington Hall School
Alma materNewnham College, Cambridge
Notable worksThe Invisible Woman: The story of Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens (1990): Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self (2002)
(m. 1955; died 1973)
(m. 1993)

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.

Early life[edit]

Tomalin was born Claire Delavenay on 20 June 1933 in London, the daughter of English composer Muriel Herbert and French academic Émile Delavenay.[1][2]


Tomalin was educated at Hitchin Girls' Grammar School,[3] a former state grammar school in Hitchin in Hertfordshire, at Dartington Hall School,[3] a former boarding-school in Devon, and at Newnham College at the University of Cambridge.[3][1]


Tomalin has written several noted biographies.

Since then she has published:

Tomalin organised two exhibitions about the Regency actress Mrs Jordan at Kenwood House 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.[4] 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, the Royal Society of Literature and of English PEN. She is also a member of the American Philosophical Society.[5]

Personal life[edit]

Tomalin married her first husband, fellow Cambridge graduate Nicholas Tomalin, a prominent journalist, in 1955,[6] and they had three daughters and two sons.[7] 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.[1] She married the novelist and playwright Michael Frayn in 1993.[8] They live in Petersham, London.[9]

Awards and honours[edit]


  • 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).


  1. ^ a b c Cooke, Rachel (24 September 2011). "Claire Tomalin: 'Writing induces melancholy...'". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 May 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d "Tomalin, Claire, (born 20 June 1933), writer", Who's Who, Oxford University Press, 1 December 2007, doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.u37831, ISBN 978-0-19-954088-4, retrieved 6 December 2019
  3. ^ a b c "The Fitzwilliam Museum - Biography - Claire Tomalin FRSL (b. 1933)". Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. 2008. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  4. ^ London SE1 website team (4 July 2004). "Mary Wollstonecraft blue plaque unveiled". London SE1. Retrieved 6 May 2018.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  5. ^ "APS Member History". Retrieved 29 March 2021.
  6. ^ search on Tomalin marriages post 1953
  7. ^ search on Tomalin/Delavenay births post 1955
  8. ^ "Claire Tomalin: A life in words". BBC News. 2 July 2018. Retrieved 13 December 2022.
  9. ^ Adams, Tim (16 August 2009). "The interview: Michael Frayn". The Observer. Retrieved 13 December 2022.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Awards and achievements
Preceded by Rose Mary Crawshay Prize
Jane Stabler
Succeeded by