Apr 28, 2023·edited Apr 28, 2023Liked by Henry Oliver

I agree with so much of this, and with the point about over-long biographies. Waugh’s biography of Knox seems like the perfect length and amount of detail. Tristram Hunt’s biography of Engels had a frustrating non-linear/chronological structure but is perhaps the most enjoyable biography I’ve ever read, even though I care far less for Engels than I do about Knox, who is something of a literary hero of mine.

What do you think about invented dialogue in biographies? It drove me up the wall when reading Duncan Wu’s bio of Hazlitt. Terry Eagleton or someone else complained about it in a review of Clare Carlisle’s overrated book about Kierkegaard.

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Don’t know that Engels book but will look. Do you know The Knox Brothers by Penelope Fitzgerald? That’s a splendid book. I think it’s fine to invent if you are clear that you are doing it but almost no one can do it well and it’s probably not worth it. I mean, who are you to pretend to be better than your subject?

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