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Victoria Schofield
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Their lives in his hands [Michael Holroyd]

The Hill, March 2002

Excerpt:

‘A miracle of compression’ is how Michael Holroyd describes his epic work on George Bernard Shaw, which took him 17 years to complete. ‘Yes,’ he says agreeably, ‘what it took Shaw to do in his 95 year-long life, I absorbed in 17, and I presented it to the reader, who can get through it in a month.’

Michael Holroyd may be best known for his biography in ‘three and a half’ volumes of George Bernard Shaw, published between 1988 and 1992, but Shaw – author of 50 plays, 40 other volumes, a vast archival material including 10 letters which he wrote daily throughout his adult life’ – was only one phase in Holroyd’s career as a biographer. In the late 1960s and mid 1970s, he had already explored the lives of Lytton Strachey and Augustus John as well as a lesser-known figure, Hugh Kingsmill. He has also been acclaimed as a lecturer and literary journalist. His latest book, Works on Paper, is a selection of lectures, essays, reviews on biography and autobiography which he has written over the past 25 years, ever since he has lived in Notting Hill.

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