Hilary Spurling CBE

Honorary Fellow

Hilary Spurling is a biographer and critic.

After graduating from Somerville, she became arts editor, theatre critic and subsequently literary editor for The Spectator. She continues to write reviewsfor The Observer and the Daily Telegraph.

Her first biography took the novelist Ivy Compton-Burnett as its subject, and was published in two volumes in 1974 and 1984. Her other works include biographies of the novelist Paul Scott, Sonia Orwell (George Orwell’s wife and literary executor), Pearl Buck, and the painter Henri Matisse. She won the Whitbread Book of the Year Award in 2005 for Matisse the Master: The Conquest of Colour 1909-1954.


Ivy When Young: The Early Life of Ivy Compton-Burnett 1884–1919 (1974)

Mervyn Peake: Drawings (1974) editor

Invitation to the Dance, A Handbook to Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time (1977)

Secrets of a Woman’s Heart: The Later Life of Ivy Compton-Burnett 1920–1969 (1984)

Elinor Fettiplace’s Receipt Book: Elizabethan Country House Cooking (1986)

Paul Scott: A Life (1990)

Paper Spirits. Collage Portraits by Vladimir Sulyagin (1992) introduction

Ivy: The Life of I. Compton-Burnett (1995; combines two volumes originally published separately in 1974 and 1984)

The Unknown Matisse: Volume 1 – A Life of Henri Matisse 1869–1908 (1998)

La Grande Thérèse: The Greatest Swindle of the Century (1999) on Thérèse Humbert

The Girl from the Fiction Department: A Portrait of Sonia Orwell (2002)

Matisse the Master: The Conquest of Colour 1909–1954 (2005)

Ann Stokes: Artists’ Potter (contributor) (2009)

Matisse: The Life (abridged version of two earlier works) (2009)

Pearl Buck in China (also published as Burying the Bones: Pearl Buck) (2010)

Anthony Powell: Dancing to the Music of Time (2017)

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