Ann Thwaite

Ann Thwaite is a British writer who is the author of five major biographies. A. A. Milne: His Life was the Whitbread Biography of the Year, 1990. Edmund Gosse: A Literary Landscape (Duff Cooper Prize, 1985) was described by John Carey as “magnificent—one of the finest literary biographies of our time.” Glimpses of the Wonderful about the life of Edmund’s father, Philip Henry Gosse, was picked out by D. J. Taylor in the Independent as one of the “Ten Best Biographies” ever. Frances Hodgson Burnett was originally published (1974) as Waiting for the Party and reissued in 2007 with the sub-title Beyond the Secret Garden. Emily Tennyson, The Poet’s Wife (1996) was reissued by Faber Finds for the Tennyson bicentenary in 2009.

Born in London, Ann spent the war years in New Zealand, returning to complete her education at Queen Elizabeth’s, Barnet, and St Hilda’s College, Oxford. She has lived in Tokyo, Benghazi, and Nashville, Tennessee. She has lectured in many countries, but most of her life has been spent as a writer, and she is now settled in Norfolk with her husband, the poet Anthony Thwaite. She is an Oxford DLitt, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. She is an Honorary Fellow of Roehampton University (National Centre for Research into Children’s Literature) and has an honorary doctorate from the University of East Anglia.

For forty years, Ann Thwaite wrote children’s books, including The Camelthorn Papers (1969), translated into Japanese and Greek, Tracks, a New Zealand story, and a much-loved picture book, Gilbert and the Birthday Cake. Jan Mark included her story Feeding the Cats in the Oxford Book of Children’s Stories (1993). She reviewed children’s books, mainly in The Times Literary Supplement, for many years, and ran a library for local children in her home.

The Brilliant Career of Winnie-the-Pooh, a scrapbook offshoot of her Milne biography, was published on both sides of the Atlantic in 1992. She edited (1968–75) Allsorts, an annual collection that included new work for children by such writers as Michael Frayn, James Fenton, Penelope Lively, and William Trevor. My Oxford (1977) contained memories of their time there by writers including John Mortimer, Antonia Fraser, and Martin Amis. Her edition of Portraits from Life is a collection (1991) of Edmund Gosse’s essays on his friends, including Henry James, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Thomas Hardy.

Ann Thwaite’s most recent book is a history of her own family: Passageways: The Story of a New Zealand Family (2009), and much praised on both sides of the world. All eight of her great-grandparents emigrated to New Zealand in the middle of the nineteenth century, and it was the realization that she knew so much more about the families of her biographical subjects that made her look into her own family history.