The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

February 29, 2016

February 29, 1948

We learn about the English scholar, Hermione Lee (February 29, 1948) from a Paris Review article:

Apart from her biographies, Lee has written book-length monographs on Woolf, Elizabeth Bowen, and Philip Roth. She has also written short books about life-writing, as well as countless reviews, essays, and introductions. From 1982 to 1986, she hosted a television show about books, Book Four, on British television’s Channel 4, and she is a frequent contributor to BBC Radio. After Lee graduated from Oxford, she taught at the College of William & Mary, the University of Liverpool, and, for twenty years, the University of York. In 1998, she was appointed to the Goldsmiths’ Chair of English Literature and Fellow of New College at the University of Oxford. In 2008, she was elected president of Wolfson College at Oxford.

Some of Lee's books include:

Philip Roth (1982)
Willa Cather: Double Lives (1989)
Virginia Woolf (1996)
Body Parts (2002)
Edith Wharton (2007)
Biography: A Very Short Introduction (2009)
Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life (2013)

Her biography of Penelope Fitzgerald includes these  details:

During the rough years when money was a constant concern, Fitzgerald with her husband and children, lived on a boat, one given to sinking. The potatoes at dinner had to be carefully divided. Lee adds the detail that they did have a "scrawny ship's cat, which lived in perpetual terror of the huge Thames water rats."

Penelope Fitzgerald, the niece of Ronald Knox, was one of the major 20th century writers. Hermione Lee sketches her own writing circumstances in the article we cited above:

We’ll go to Yorkshire for several weeks. [Her husband is scholar and editor John Barnard.] We go to a ramshackle old house, where you can just walk out of the house into the countryside. We will get up not too late, and we will have breakfast and we will both go to our desks and all day long, until about three o’clock in the afternoon, I will write my book, and then in the afternoon we will go for a walk. Then we’ll make supper, and then I’ll probably do a bit more writing in the evening. That is my writing day in the country. It’s very quiet and very concentrated. It’s the opposite of life at Wolfson College, which is chock-full of people and meetings and committees and events and decision making.

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