Melvyn Bragg examines why the literary studies of often long dead characters make such popular books and whether the role of the biographer is truthful chronicler or inevitably biased re-inventor.
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss biography which sells more books now than ever before; last year people in this country spent 115 million pounds on 12 and a half million copies of biographies. And it’s not just in Britain that life stories are popular; the United States Library of Congress found recently that in the previous six months more people had read a biography than any other kind of book. But what drives this fascination in the lives of others; lives which have often long since passed. Why do the literary studies of often long dead characters make such popular books? And what is the role of the biographer who provides that account? Truthful chronicler, or inevitably biased re-inventor?With Richard Holmes, writer, biographer and the author of Sidetracks:Explorations of a Romantic Biographer; Nigel Hamilton, biographer, Director of the British Institute of Biography and Professor of Biography, De Montfort University, Leicester; Amanda Foreman, biographer of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire.