Hermione Lee


Born
in Winchester, The United Kingdom
February 29, 1948

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Hermione Lee grew up in London and was educated at Oxford. She began her academic career as a lecturer at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va (Instructor, 1970-1971) and at Liverpool University (Lecturer, 1971-1977). She taught at the University of York from 1977, where over twenty years she was Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, Reader, and Professor of English Literature. From 1998-2008 she was the Goldsmiths' Chair of English Literature and Fellow of New College at the University of Oxford. In 2008 Lee was elected President of Wolfson College, University of Oxford.

Lee is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, a Fellow of the British Academy and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and an Honorary Fellow of St Hil
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“A self that goes on changing is a self that goes on living': so too with the biography of that self. And just as lives don't stay still, so life-writing can't be fixed and finalised. Our ideas are shifting about what can be said, our knowledge of human character is changing. The biographer has to pioneer, going 'ahead of the rest of us, like the miner's canary, testing the atmosphere, detecting falsity, unreality, and the presence of obsolete conventions'. So, 'There are some stories which have to be retold by each generation'. She is talking about the story of Shelley, but she could be talking about her own life-story. (Virginia Woolf, p. 11)”
Hermione Lee, Virginia Woolf

“Johnson argued that the most truthful life-writing is when ‘the writer tells his own story’, since only he knows the whole truth about himself. (He does not use the word ‘autobiography’, which only came into circulation in the early 19th century.) Those who write about another may want to over-praise him or ‘aggravate his infamy’; those who write about themselves, he says – optimistically – have no ‘motive to falsehood’ except ‘self-love’, and we are all on the watch for that.”
Hermione Lee, Biography: A Very Short Introduction

“In Downhill All the Way, Leonard remembers them returning from an evening spent with Vanessa in her studio in Fitzroy Street. (This was in 1930.)A drunk woman was being abused by two passers-by and was then accosted by a policeman who seemed to Leonard to be ‘deliberately trying to goad her into doing something which would justify an arrest’. He lost his temper, challenged the policeman in front of a small crowd, and made him let the woman go. What Leonard omitted to mention in his reminiscence was that he and Virginia had been to a fancy-dress party for Angelica’s eleventh birthday. Virginia was dressed as a (‘mad’) March Hare, with a pair of hare’s ears and paws. Roger Fry, at the party, had been a wonderfully characterful White Knight. And Leonard was ‘wearing a green baize apron and a pair of chisels as the Carpenter’. But as he tackled the policeman (‘Why dont you go for the men who began it? My name’s Woolf, and I can take my oath the woman’s not to blame’), ‘holding his apron and chisel in one hand’,114 he forgot all about his comical fancy-dress in his anger and his determination to see justice done.”
Hermione Lee, Virginia Woolf

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