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Great Writers' Lives by Joan Bakewell, Humphrey Carpenter, Francine Stock & Matthew Parris
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Great Writers' Lives

A BBC biography collection

$17.47

Get for $14.99 with membership
Length 15 hours 4 minutes
Language English
Narrators Matthew Parris, Fay Weldon, Prue Leith, Armando Iannucci, Caroline Criado Perez, Andrew Motion, Rich Hall, Joan Bakewell, Humphrey Carpenter & Francine Stock

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Famous fans choose their favourite writers for BBC Radio 4's Great Lives

For 20 years, Great Lives has been a cornerstone of the Radio 4 schedules, presented by Joan Bakewell, Humphrey Carpenter, Francine Stock and Matthew Parris. Each week, a well-known personality is invited to select someone who has inspired them. They then discuss the 'Great Life' with the presenter and a guest expert to decide whether their hero really merits the accolade.

This special collection, celebrating the programme's 20th anniversary, contains the very best episodes featuring authors' lives - from novelists to poets, playwrights to food writers. The eclectic selections include Armando Iannucci on Charles Dickens, Caroline Criado Perez on Jane Austen, and Rich Hall on Tennessee Williams. Two Prime Ministers, John Major and Boris Johnson, discuss the lives of Rudyard Kipling and Samuel Johnson respectively, while MP Rory Stewart champions Sir Walter Scott and Andrew Motion, Poet Laureate, nominates Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

From Fay Weldon on H. G. Wells, to Prue Leith on Elizabeth David, the lives of the guests themselves are revealed to be just as fascinating as those of their chosen candidates for greatness.

Illuminating and insightful, these gripping Great Lives episodes track the highs and lows of some of the most illustrious characters in the world of literature, sifting fact from fiction to show why they achieved so much and how they have inspired and influenced so many.

List of episodes and date of first broadcast on BBC Radio 4:
HG Wells 12.10.2001
George Eliot 7.6.2002
Lord Byron 19.7.2002
Charles Dickins 21.11.2003
Edith Wharton 14.5.2004
George Orwell 12.11.2004
Robert Burns 31.12.2004
Elizabeth Gaskell 20.5.2005
Robert Louis Stevenson 22.4.2005
George Sand 8.4.2005
Vasily Grossman 28.10.2005
Anton Chekhov 17.4.2007
George Bernard Shaw 29.5.2007
Elizabeth David 25.9.2007
Katherine Mansfield 22.1.2008
Charles Bukowski 8.4.2008
Dr Samuel Johnson 8.9.2009
Rudyard Kipling 29.9.2009
Alfred, Lord Tennyson 4.8.2009
Tennessee Williams 15.12.2009
Bertolt Brecht 06.04.2010
Michel de Montaigne 21.09.2010
Samuel Beckett 21.12.2010
DH Lawrence 14.12.2010
Lewis Carroll 3.5.2011
Simone de Beauvoir 19.04.2011
Hans Fallada 6.9.2011
William Shakespeare 30.08.2011
Sir Walter Scott 14.8.2012
John Updike 07.01.2014
Elie Wiesel 13.12.2016
CS Lewis 03.01.2017
Jane Austen 7.5.2019


Copyright © 2021 BBC Studios Distribution Ltd. (P) 2021 BBC Studios Distribution Ltd

Presented by Matthew Parris, Francine Stock and Humphrey Carpenter
Produced by Perminder Khatkar, Miles Warde, Jolyon Jenkins, John Byrne, Maggie Ayre, Toby Field, Alasdair Cross, Mary Ward Lowery, Peter Everett, Mark Smalley, Isobel Eaton, Jolyon Jenkins, Christine Hall, Lizz Pearson, Beth O'Dea, Paul Dodgson, Nicola Humphries, Chris Ledgard, Melvin Rickarby, Camellia Sinclair, Eliza Lomas, Beatrice Fenton

Humphrey Carpenter (1946-2005), the author and creator of Mr Majeika, was born and educated in Oxford. He went to a school called the Dragon School where exciting things often happened and there were some very odd teachers - you could even call it magical! He worked for the BBC then became a full-time writer in 1975, and he was the author of many award-winning biographies, including books about J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Benjamin Britten and Spike Milligan.
As well as the Mr Majeika titles, his children's books also included Shakespeare Without the Boring Bits and More Shakespeare Without the Boring Bits. He wrote plays for radio and theatre and founded the children's drama group The Mushy Pea Theatre Company. He played the tuba, double bass, bass saxophone and keyboard.
Humphrey once said, 'The nice thing about being a writer is that you can make magic happen without learning tricks. Words are the only tricks you need. I can write: "He floated up to the ceiling, and a baby rabbit came out of his pocket, grew wings and flew away." And you will believe that it really happened! That's magic, isn't it?'

After working in the Foreign Office then serving as a Conservative MP, Matthew Parris joined The Times in 1988. He writes two weekly columns for The Times and one for the Spectator, and in 2011 won the Best Columnist Award at the British Press awards. His acclaimed autobiography Chance Witness was published by Penguin in 2003. He is a frequent broadcaster.

Caroline Criado Perez is a writer, broadcaster and award-winning feminist campaigner. Her most notable campaigns have included co-founding The Women’s Room, getting a woman on Bank of England banknotes, forcing Twitter to revise its procedures for dealing with abuse and successfully campaigning for a statue of suffragist Millicent Fawcett to be erected in Parliament Square. She was the 2013 recipient of the Liberty Human Rights Campaigner of the Year Award, and was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2015. Invisible Women has won the FT & McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award, the Books Are My Bag Readers’ Choice Award and the Royal Society Science Book Prize. She lives in London.

Andrew Motion's most recent collection is New and Selected Poems 1977-2022 (2023). He was UK Poet Laureate from 1999 to 2009, is co-founder of The Poetry Archive and Poetry by Heart, and since 2015 has lived in Baltimore, where he is Homewood Professor of the Arts at Johns Hopkins University.

Humphrey Carpenter (1946-2005), the author and creator of Mr Majeika, was born and educated in Oxford. He went to a school called the Dragon School where exciting things often happened and there were some very odd teachers - you could even call it magical! He worked for the BBC then became a full-time writer in 1975, and he was the author of many award-winning biographies, including books about J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Benjamin Britten and Spike Milligan.
As well as the Mr Majeika titles, his children's books also included Shakespeare Without the Boring Bits and More Shakespeare Without the Boring Bits. He wrote plays for radio and theatre and founded the children's drama group The Mushy Pea Theatre Company. He played the tuba, double bass, bass saxophone and keyboard.
Humphrey once said, 'The nice thing about being a writer is that you can make magic happen without learning tricks. Words are the only tricks you need. I can write: "He floated up to the ceiling, and a baby rabbit came out of his pocket, grew wings and flew away." And you will believe that it really happened! That's magic, isn't it?'

Phone showing make the switch message

Limited-time offer

Get two free audiobooks when you make the switch!

Now’s a great time to shop indie. When you start a new membership supporting local bookstores with promo code SWITCH, we’ll give you two bonus audiobook credits at sign-up.

Make the switch
Libro.fm app with gift bow

Gift audiobook credit bundles

You pick the number of credits, your recipient picks the audiobooks, and your local bookstore is supported by your purchase.

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Get two free audiobooks AND support local bookstores Make the switch