Claudia Renton’s book about the influential Wyndham sisters has been awarded this year’s £3,500 Slightly Foxed Best First Biography Prize.
Her win for Those Wild Wyndhams: Three Sisters at the Heart of Power (Collins) was announced at the Biographers' Club dinner on Friday 21st November.
Lucy Hughes-Hallett, who judged the prize with Jane Ridley and Anthony Sattin, said: "Claudia Renton chose a richly interesting subject and in Those Wild Wyndhams she has done it proud. Mary, Madeline and Pamela Wyndham's connections – familial, sexual and social – place them at the heart of a Britain which was brought to an end by the First World War.”
She added: “Biography has been called the 'higher gossip' - this book, ingeniously structured and written with fluency and wit, demonstrates how enjoyable, and how historically illuminating, high gossip can be."
Polly Clark won the £2,000 Tony Lothian Prize, for a proposal by a first-time biographer, for Thank You So Much for Writing. Lara Feigel, Allan Massie and Adam Sisman judged the award. Thank You So Much For Writing is an “experimental memoir”, in which Clark combines letters from the father who abandoned her before her birth with imagined episodes from her parents’ lives, her memories and her own journey towards marriage and family.
Richard Holmes received the Lifetime Services to Biography award. He was introduced by old friend Michael Holroyd, who was the inaugural winner of the same award in 2009.
Holmes is best known for his biographical studies of major figures of British and French Romanticism, with works including: Shelley: The Pursuit (HarperPerennial), which received the 1974 Somerset Maugham Award; Coleridge: Early Visions (HarperPerennial), which was awarded the 1989 Whitbread Book of the Year Prize; Coleridge: Darker Reflections (HarperPerennial), which won the Duff Cooper Prize and the Heinemann Award; and Dr Johnson and Mr Savage (HarperPerennial), which received the James Tait Black Prize. Holmes is also the editor of the Harper Perennial series Classic Biographies, launched in 2004.