Literary agent Felicity Bryan has died, aged 74. She died on Sunday (June 21st) at her home in Kidlington "as she had wished", according to a statement from her family.
Bryan, who founded her eponymous agency Felicity Bryan Associates 32 years ago, had announced earlier this month that she was stepping back from day-to-day involvement with the agency as she was being treated for stomach cancer.
Two days before she died she received an MBE, having been recognised in the New Year Honours for services to publishing over the last 48 years, and last week the Washington Post renamed the Laurence Stern Fellowship, now known as the Stern-Bryan Fellowship, in her honour.
Before her career as a literary agent, Bryan had been a reporter for the Financial Times and the Economist. She joined Curtis Brown in 1972, where she rose to the position of director, and went on to establish Felicity Bryan Associates in Oxford in 1988. Among the authors she worked with were Karen Armstrong, Rosamunde Pilcher, Edmund de Waal, Iain Pears, Diarmaid MacCulloch and Mary Berry.
Her family–husband Alex Duncan, and their sons Max and Ben–wrote in a statement: "In the last few months Felicity has shown more clearly than ever why so many have loved and admired her. Her courage and resilience that have been called on so many times in her life have been manifest in the calm and realism with which she faced her final illness, and in the happiness she said she felt in recent weeks.
"She showed her joy in life and sense of fun by the delight she has taken in so much since the diagnosis in summer 2019: travelling to Spain twice, to Sicily in November, to Dresden, and to the Jaipur Literary Festival in February; cooking much of the food for a late-summer party in the garden; the honour the Washington Post gave her by renaming the Laurence Stern Fellowship, from now on the Stern-Bryan Fellowship; looking over the summer garden from her bed in her last days; and, stylishly dressed, receiving her MBE on Friday, two days before she died, in a small ceremony at home.
"She has taken great care to ensure that her authors will be well looked after by her colleagues at Felicity Bryan Associates, and when already very ill she started a series of weekly emails about authors’ newly-published books whose launches were adversely affected by Covid. She took particular pleasure in the hundreds of messages of farewell, written from the heart by friends and colleagues."
Tributes have poured in from the trade.
Penguin Random House chair Gail Rebuck paid tribute to Felicity Bryan as a "literary agent extraordinaire" and "one of the greats. An effervescent bundle of energy [and] enthusiasm matched by deep intelligence [and] strategic insight," she said. "She cherished her authors, her family [and] adored her chosen career. How we shall miss her unique spirit. She was one of the greats."
Agent Jonny Geller said: "She was a force of nature, an agent with a great eye for non-fiction and was behind a great journalism fellowship with the Washington Post that launched many great careers. Condolences to her family and colleagues."
Karolina Sutton, agent, said she was "one of the greatest agents of her generation". She continued: "Her intelligence, her love of books and commitment to authors will be much missed. Sympathies to her friends, family, colleagues and authors."
Her family are planning to hold a memorial event in London "when conditions allow".