Hilary Spurling

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(Susan) Hilary Spurling (née Forrest),[1] CBE, FRSL (born 25 December 1940), is a British writer, known for her work as a journalist and biographer.

Early life and education[edit]

Born at Stockport, Cheshire,[2] to circuit judge Gilbert Alexander Forrest (1912–1977)[3] and teacher Emily Maureen, daughter of Joseph Armstrong, of Fivemiletown, County Tyrone,[4][5] Spurling was educated at Clifton High School, an independent school in Bristol in South West England, followed by Somerville College, Oxford.[6]


She won the Whitbread Prize for the second volume of her biography of Henri Matisse in January 2006. Burying The Bones: Pearl Buck in China was published in March 2010.

Personal life[edit]

In 1961, she married playwright John Spurling;[1] they have three children (Amy, Nathaniel and Gilbert) and six grandchildren.[7]


  • Ivy When Young: The Early Life of Ivy Compton-Burnett 1884–1919 (1974)
  • Mervyn Peake: Drawings (1974) editor
  • Invitation to the Dance, A Handbook to Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time (1977)
  • Secrets of a Woman's Heart: The Later Life of Ivy Compton-Burnett 1920–1969 (1984)
  • Elinor Fettiplace's Receipt Book: Elizabethan Country House Cooking (1986)
  • Paul Scott: A Life (1990)
  • Paper Spirits. Collage Portraits by Vladimir Sulyagin (1992) introduction
  • Ivy: The Life of I. Compton-Burnett (1995; combines two volumes originally published separately in 1974 and 1984)
  • The Unknown Matisse: Volume 1 – A Life of Henri Matisse 1869–1908 (1998)
  • La Grande Thérèse: The Greatest Swindle of the Century (1999) on Thérèse Humbert
  • The Girl from the Fiction Department: A Portrait of Sonia Orwell (2002)
  • Matisse the Master: The Conquest of Colour 1909–1954 (2005)
  • Ann Stokes: Artists' Potter (contributor) (2009)
  • Matisse: The Life (abridged version of two earlier works) (2009)
  • Pearl Buck in China (also published as Burying the Bones: Pearl Buck) (2010)
  • Anthony Powell: Dancing to the Music of Time (2017)



  1. ^ a b International Who's Who of Writers and Authors, 23rd edition, Europa Publications, Taylor & Francis Group, 2008, p. 685.
  2. ^ World Authors, 1985–1990, ed. Vineta Colby, H. W. Wilson Ltd, 1995, p. 842.
  3. ^ Who was Who: A Cumulated Index 1897–2000, A. & C. Black, 2002, p. 289.
  4. ^ The Solicitors' Journal, vol. 121, 1977, p. 648.
  5. ^ Kelly's Handbook to the Titled, Landed and Official Classes, 95th edition, Kelly's Directories Ltd, 1969, p. 764.
  6. ^ Biography of Hilary Spurling from The Guardian.
  7. ^ Kirkpatrick, Kirk; Vinson, James, eds. (1988). "Spurling, John". Contemporary Dramatists (Fourth ed.). Chicago and London: St. James Press. p. 500. ISBN 0912289627.
  8. ^ "Dazzling tale of Ms Saigon takes top award". The Scotsman. 20 August 2011.

External links[edit]

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Winifred Gérin
Rose Mary Crawshay Prize
Succeeded by
Christine Alexander
Gillian Beer