Famous British Biographers

Find out more about the greatest British Biographers, including Samuel Johnson, G. K. Chesterton, David Irving, Stefan Zweig and William Hague.

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

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 1 
Jane Hawking
(Writer)

Jane Hawking
4
Birthdate: March 29, 1944
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: St Albans, Hertfordshire, England

Jane Hawking is an English teacher and author. She is best known as the ex-wife of popular physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking. She was married to Hawking for 30 years, during which she doubled up as his caretaker. Jane Hawking took good care of Stephen Hawking despite struggling from depression, for which she is much-respected in the scientific community.

 2 

Samuel Johnson
4
Birthdate: September 18, 1709
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Lichfield, England
Died: December 13, 1784

Essayist, biographer, lexicographer, and literary critic Samuel Johnson, or Dr. Johnson, is remembered for his A Dictionary of the English Language and Lives of the Most Eminent English Poets. He was also a poet, a playwright, and a staunch Tory. His mannerisms indicated he had Tourette syndrome.

 3 
Mary Soames
(Youngest Child of Winston Churchill)

Mary Soames
4
Birthdate: September 15, 1922
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Chartwell
Died: May 31, 2014

Mary Soames was a British author and the youngest child of Winston Churchill and Clementine. From 1939 to 1941, Soames worked for several public organizations, such as the Women's Voluntary Service and Red Cross. She then joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service. In 1945, she was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE), in recognition of meritorious military services.

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 4 

Ricky Hatton
4
Birthdate: October 6, 1978
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Stockport, Greater Manchester, England

Known as British boxing’s golden boy, Ricky Hatton has been both a light-welterweight and welterweight world champion. His popularity has earned him nicknames such as The Manchester Mexican and The Hitman. He now owns a boxing promotion firm, contributes to children’s charitable causes, and has also been a successful trainer.

 5 
Nancy Mitford
(Novelist)

Nancy Mitford
3
Birthdate: November 28, 1904
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: London, England
Died: June 30, 1973

Born to the 2nd Baron Redesdale, Nancy Mitford and her siblings were all homeschooled. Known as one of the brightest of the Mitford sisters, she became famous for writing semi-autobiographical novels such as The Pursuit of Love. She pioneered the use of language to distinguish between social classes in books.

 6 
Janette Scott
(Actress)

Janette Scott
3
Birthdate: December 14, 1938
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Morecambe, Lancashire, England, UK

The daughter of actor Thora Hird, Janette Scott began her career as a child artist. She later appeared in films such as The Day of the Triffids. She penned her memoir at 14 and was the youngest actor to portray Peter Pan. She quit her career after marrying Mel Tormé.

Deborah Cavendish, dowager duchess of Devonshire
3
Birthdate: March 31, 1920
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Asthall Manor, England
Died: September 24, 2014

Deborah Cavendish, the duchess of Devonshire, was the youngest of the popular Mitford sisters. An aristocrat and a socialite, she was one of the rare people who had met both Adolf Hitler and John Kennedy. She played a key role in commercializing Chatsworth Estate and also wrote books on it.

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George Lascelles, 7th Earl of Harewood
4
Birthdate: February 7, 1923
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Chesterfield House, London, England
Died: July 11, 2011

George Lascelles, the 7th Earl of Harewood, was one of those British royalty members who gained more fame for their work than for their lineage. An art and music lover, he headed the English National Opera. An avid football fan, too, he was also the Leeds United president.

 9 

Margaret Drabble
3
Birthdate: June 5, 1939
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Sheffield, United Kingdom

English author Margaret Drabble mostly writes about women protagonists and their experiences through marriage, motherhood, and intellectual development. Her novels such as The Gates of Ivory and A Summer Bird-Cage have earned her honors such as the DBE. She is the younger sister of novelist A.S. Byatt.

 10 
Merlin Holland
(writer, editor, poet, journalist)

Merlin Holland
3
Birthdate: 1945 AD
Birthplace: London

Better known as legendary author Oscar Wilde’s grandson, Merlin Holland is also a renowned biographer and journalist. His research on his grandfather has resulted in numerous collections such as The Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde. He has also worked as a wine writer and a features writer.

 11 
Nasser Hussain
(Cricketer)

Nasser Hussain
3
Birthdate: March 28, 1968
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Madras, India

Born to an Indian Muslim father and a British mother in Madras, Nasser Hussain moved to England with his family, as a child. At 12, he was the youngest to join the Essex Under-15 cricket team. He grew up to become one of the best English Test cricket captains.

 12 

Lytton Strachey
3
Birthdate: March 1, 1880
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: London, England
Died: January 21, 1932

English biographer Lytton Strachey is best remembered for his masterpiece Eminent Victorians, which looks at the lives of Victorian figures such as Florence Nightingale and Thomas Arnold, using tools such as irony and paradox. He had also penned an award-winning biography of Queen Victoria. His short biographies discarded irrelevant details.

 13 

Peter Ackroyd
3
Birthdate: October 5, 1949
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: East Acton, West (London sub region) London, England, United Kingdom

English author and critic Peter Ackroyd is mostly known for his novels that depict the history of London. The Cambridge and Yale alumnus had initially worked at The Spectator. Apart from writing award-winning novels such as Hawksmoor, he has also penned biographies of T.S. Eliot and Dickens, among others.

 14 
Robert Peston
(Journalist)

Robert Peston
6
Birthdate: April 25, 1960
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: London, England

ITV News political editor and the host of Peston, journalist Robert Peston has also established the education non-profit Speakers for Schools. He has also worked for BBC and penned books such as WTF? and Who Runs Britain? He has also won numerous awards, including the RTS’s Journalist of the Year.

 15 
E. P. Thompson
(Historian)

E. P. Thompson
3
Birthdate: February 3, 1924
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Oxford, England
Died: August 28, 1993

British historian E. P. Thompson is best remembered for his iconic works such as The Making of the English Working Class. He was also a poet, a novelist, and a biographer. An anti-nuclear activist, too, he played a significant role in the formation of the New Left.  

 16 
Andrew Strauss
(Cricketer, Autobiographer)

Andrew Strauss
0
Birthdate: March 2, 1977
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Johannesburg, Transvaal Province, South Africa

 17 
Karl Pearson
(Mathematician, Historian of mathematics, Statistician, Historian, Philosopher, Biographer)

Karl Pearson
3
Birthdate: March 27, 1857
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: London
Died: April 27, 1936

One of the greatest statisticians of all time, Karl Pearson established the first university-level statistics department at UCL and also launched the statistics-oriented journal Biometrika. He was also well-versed in law and believed in eugenics. His The Grammar of Science later inspired Albert Einstein and other scientists.

 18 
Gitta Sereny
(Biographer and Investigative Journalist Known for Her Interviews and Profiles of Infamous Figures, Including 'Mary Bell')

Gitta Sereny
3
Birthdate: March 13, 1921
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Vienna, Austria
Died: June 14, 2012

Known for her persistent researches on some of history’s most reviled characters, Gitta Sereny was an investigative journalist and author of five biographical works that attempted to make sense of their crimes. Notable among her works are Albert Speer: His Battle with Truth and The Case of Mary Bell: A Portrait of a Child Who Murdered.  

 19 
Izaak Walton
(Writer)

Izaak Walton
3
Birthdate: August 9, 1593
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Stafford, England
Died: December 15, 1683

One of the greatest biographers of the 17th century, Izaak Walton was also a lover of fishing and had penned one of the most detailed treatises on fishing, The Compleat Angler. His notable works also include his biographies on John Donne and Henry Wotton. He was also a staunch Royalist.

 20 
Roy Jenkins
(Politician)

Roy Jenkins
3
Birthdate: November 11, 1920
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Abersychan, Monmouthshire (historic) Monmouthshire, Wales
Died: January 5, 2003

Born to an MP father who was also associated with the mine workers’ union, Roy Jenkins grew up to be Labour Party member and then became the first to lead the Social Democratic Party. An Oxford alumnus, he later led his alma as its chancellor.

 21 
Frank Muir
(Writer)

Frank Muir
3
Birthdate: February 5, 1920
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Ramsgate, England
Died: January 2, 1998

Veteran comedy writer and broadcast personality Frank Muir is best remembered for co-writing Take It from Here for BBC Radio and for appearing on the radio quiz My Word! with Denis Norden. His memoir, A Kentish Lad, mentioned that he had one of testicles removed for a medical condition.

 22 
E.F. Benson
(Novelist)

E.F. Benson
3
Birthdate: July 24, 1867
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Wellington College, England
Died: February 29, 1940

Chiefly known as a novelist, biographer, and memoirist, Edward Frederic Benson began his career with the British School of Archaeology in Athens, publishing his first successful novel, Dodo: A Detail of the Day, during this period. Its popularity encouraged him to continue publishing, the most significant works among them being Mapp and Lucia series, and the biography of Queen Victoria.

 23 

Margaret Forster
3
Birthdate: May 25, 1938
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Carlisle, England
Died: February 8, 2016

English author and freelance critic Margaret Forster is best remembered for her bestselling novel Georgy Girl, which was made into a film later. She also penned biographies and contributed to BBC Radio 4 programs. She had also been a Booker Prize judge but mostly remained away from book-signing events.

 24 
George Cohen
(Football player)

George Cohen
3
Birthdate: October 22, 1939
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Kensington, England

Part of the English football team that won the 1966 World Cup, George Cohen is a former football right-back who has played for Fulham for over a decade. He has also had a 14-year struggle with cancer, which he eventually won. He’s the uncle of English rugby player Ben Cohen.

 25 

Thomas De Quincey
3
Birthdate: August 15, 1785
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Manchester
Died: December 8, 1859

Essayist Thomas De Quincey is best remembered for his iconic book Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, which initially appeared in the London Magazine. The work was an autobiographical account of his own addiction to opium, which he had begun consuming to help him deal with the pain of his facial neuralgia.

 26 

Sir Leslie Stephen
3
Birthdate: November 28, 1832
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Kensington Gore, London, United Kingdom
Died: February 22, 1904

Sir Leslie Stephen was an English historian, biographer, author, critic, and mountaineer. Leslie Stephen also took an active part in the organized humanist movement, serving as the president of the West London Ethical Society on multiple occasions. He was the father of famous author, Virginia Woolf, and painter, Vanessa Bell.

 27 

Compton Mackenzie
3
Birthdate: January 17, 1883
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: West Hartlepool, County Durham, England
Died: November 30, 1972

Though born into a famous family of theater actors and managers, Compton Mackenzie turned to writing in his 20s. Known for works such as Greek Memories, he also gained fame as a Scottish nationalist and played a major role in the formation of the Scottish National Party.

 28 

Eleanor Farjeon
3
Birthdate: February 13, 1881
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: London, England
Died: June 5, 1965

Eleanor Farjeon was an English author who wrote children's stories, poetry, biography, and satire. During her illustrious career, Farjeon received several prestigious literary awards. The Eleanor Farjeon Award is presented every year by the Children's Book Circle to honor Eleanor Farjeon's life and career.

 29 

Andrew Motion
3
Birthdate: October 26, 1952
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: London, England

English Poet Laureate Andrew Motion, the first laureate to serve a fixed term, is best known for his narrative poetry and works such as The Pleasure Steamers. He has also penned biographies of John Keats and the Lambert family members. He has also been knighted for his achievements.

 30 
Harold Nicolson
(Diplomat)

Harold Nicolson
3
Birthdate: November 21, 1886
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Tehrān, Iran
Died: May 1, 1968
Born to a British diplomat father in Persia, Harold Nicolson was a well-traveled child, due to his father’s international postings. He grew up to be a diplomat and became famous for his travel accounts and novels. Diaries and Letters remains one of his most notable collections of essays and journals.

 31 

Quentin Claudian Stephen Bell
2
Birthdate: August 19, 1910
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: London, United Kingdom
Died: December 16, 1996

English art historian and writer Quentin Claudian Stephen Bell was the son of Bloomsbury Group art intellectuals Clive Bell and Vanessa Bell. An occasional ceramist, he focused on academics and became the first fine art professor at the University of Leeds. He also taught at Hull and Oxford.

 32 

Richard Aldington
3
Birthdate: July 8, 1892
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Hampshire, England
Died: July 27, 1962

Associated with early Imagist movement, Richard Aldington was an English writer and poet, known for his fierce attack on the hypocrisy prevalent in the modern industrial civilization. Among his best known novels are Death of a Hero and The Colonel’s Daughter. His best-known long poems are Dream in the Luxembourg and A Fool i’ the Forest.

 33 
Kevin Myers
(Journalist)

Kevin Myers
3
Birthdate: March 30, 1947
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Leicester, England

Best known for The Irish Times column An Irishman's Diary, journalist Kevin Myers was accused of misogyny after his controversial comment that stated equal pay was to be “earned.” He has reported from places such as Africa, Central America, and India, and penned books such as Watching the Door.

 34 

Sheridan Morley
2
Birthdate: December 5, 1941
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Ascot, England
Died: February 16, 2007

Born to actor Robert Morley, Sheridan Morley was named after a character his father played. He started as a BBC broadcaster and then worked with Punch and The Spectator, as a drama critic. He had also penned biographies of personalities such as Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe.

 35 
Robert Lacey
(Biographer, Historian)

Robert Lacey
3
Birthdate: January 3, 1944
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: England

Historian Robert Lacey has soared to fame with his biographies such as Majesty, which chronicled the life of Queen Elizabeth II. He has also been a historical consultant for the Netflix series The Crown. He has penned the history of Saudi Arabia and has also stayed in Jeddah for a while.

 36 

Edmund Gosse
2
Birthdate: September 21, 1849
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: London, England
Died: May 16, 1928

Edmund Gosse was an English author, poet, and critic. His book Father and Son inspired the popular TV play Where Adam Stood as well as Peter Carey's novel Oscar and Lucinda. Gosse also helped promote the works of Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen in England. He is also credited with helping James Joyce and W. B. Yeats establish themselves as writers.

 37 
Alistair Horne
(Journalist, Biographer and Historian of Europe)

Alistair Horne
2
Birthdate: November 9, 1925
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: London, England
Died: May 25, 2017

 38 

Aminatta Forna
2
Birthdate: November 9, 1925, 1964
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Bellshill, Lanarkshire, Scotland

Aminatta Forna is a writer whose novel The Memory of Love won the Commonwealth Writers' Prize in 2011. Forna was also honored with the prestigious Windham–Campbell Literature Prize in 2014. She also teaches creative writing at many universities and supports several young and aspiring writers. In the 2017 New Year Honours, Forna was appointed OBE for services to literature. 

 39 
Harold Acton
(Writer)

Harold Acton
3
Birthdate: July 5, 1904
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Villa La Pietra, Florence, Italy
Died: February 27, 1994

British author and scholar Harold Acton was educated at Eton and Oxford and became a prominent member of the Bright Young Things. He is believed to have inspired the character of Anthony Blanche in Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited. His notable works include The Last Medici and Memoirs of an Aesthete.

 40 

James Anthony Froude
2
Birthdate: April 23, 1818
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Dartington, England
Died: October 20, 1894

James Anthony Froude was an English novelist, biographer, and historian. He also contributed as an editor for Fraser's Magazine for Town and Country. Froude was often counted among the best-known historians of his time. A controversial personality, Froude's writings were often polemical which earned him many outspoken opponents.

 41 
Lord David Cecil
(Biographer)

Lord David Cecil
2
Birthdate: April 9, 1902
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: London, England, United Kingdom
Died: January 1, 1986

Lord David Cecil was a British biographer, scholar, and historian. He also served as a professor, teaching at universities like the University of Oxford. While working at New College, Cecil taught Kingsley Amis and John Bayley, who would go on to become respected writers themselves. Cecil is also credited with mentoring personalities like R. K. Sinha and Bidhu Bhusan Das.

 42 

Edward John Trelawny
2
Birthdate: November 13, 1792
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: London, England
Died: August 13, 1881

Edward John Trelawny was a British biographer, novelist and adventurer. He is famous for his friendship with Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron. Handsome and dashing, he joined the Royal Navy at the age of thirteen, later writing about his experiences in Adventures of a Younger Son. His other well-known work is Recollections of the Last Days of Shelley and Byron.

 43 

Mary Anne Clarke
2
Birthdate: April 3, 1776
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: London, England
Died: June 21, 1852

Mary Anne Clarke was Prince Frederick's mistress. Her memoirs, which documented her relationship with Prince Frederick, were published in 1809. Her life and career inspired the famous novel Mary Anne which was written by her great-great granddaughter Daphne du Maurier.

 44 
Michael Holroyd
(Biographer)

Michael Holroyd
2
Birthdate: August 27, 1935
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: London, England

Michael Holroyd is an English biographer whose two-volume work on the life of Lytton Strachey inspired the screenplay for the British biographical film Carrington. Over the course of his career, Holroyd has won several awards like the Heywood Hill Literary Prize, David Cohen Prize for literature, and Golden PEN Award. He was knighted in 2007 for services to English Literature.

 45 
Brigid Brophy
(Novelist)

Brigid Brophy
2
Birthdate: June 12, 1929
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Ealing, London, England
Died: August 7, 1995

Author, feminist, and social activist Brigid Brophy mostly dealt with themes such as sexual liberation in her works. One of the first to demand legalization of gay marriage in England, she was also against imposing monogamy. Her Fifty Works of English and American Literature We Could Do Without created furore.

 46 
John Forster
(Biographer)

John Forster
2
Birthdate: April 2, 1812
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Newcastle upon Tyne, England
Died: February 2, 1876

John Forster was an English critic and biographer who contributed to prominent publications like The Examiner, The Morning Chronicle, and The True Sun. He also contributed as an editor for the Foreign Quarterly Review and the Examiner. As he was a close friend of Charles Dickens, Forster's life is often covered extensively in the biographies of Charles Dickens.

 47 
Humphrey Carpenter
(Biographer)

Humphrey Carpenter
2
Birthdate: April 29, 1946
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Oxford, England
Died: January 4, 2005

Humphrey Carpenter was an English writer, biographer, and radio broadcaster whose work Charles Williams and their Friends won the 1978 Somerset Maugham Award. Carpenter was also a musician who played the piano, double-bass, and saxophone. In 1983, Humphrey Carpenter formed a band called Vile Bodies. He also founded a children's drama group called the Mushy Pea Theatre Group.

 48 

Thomas Jefferson Hogg
2
Birthdate: May 24, 1792
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Norton, England
Died: August 27, 1862

Thomas Jefferson Hogg was a British writer and barrister. He is remembered for his friendship and numerous collaborations with Percy Bysshe Shelley. While studying at the University College, Oxford, Hogg and Shelley worked on a controversial essay called The Necessity of Atheism which ultimately resulted in their expulsion from Oxford.

 49 

Hartley Coleridge
2
Birthdate: September 19, 1796
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Kingsdown, England
Died: January 6, 1849

The eldest son of Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Hartley Coleridge grew up spending most of his time reading and was closely associated with poets Robert Southey and William Wordworth. Though he gained a fellowship at Oriel, he later lost it due to his alcoholism and his inconsistency.

 50 

George Cavendish
2
Birthdate: 1497 AD
Birthplace: Suffolk, England
Died: 1562 AD

George Cavendish was an English writer best remembered for his biography of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey. Apart from describing in detail Thomas Wolsey's life, his biography Thomas Wolsey, Late Cardinall, his Lyffe and Deathe also describes the political events of the 1520s and early sixteenth-century court life.