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Find out about Friday's exciting programme... 


11.15am – 12.30pm

Tom Stoppard begins our celebration by setting out the aims and ideals of the Library at its foundation on 3rd May 1841. This whirlwind hour and a quarter then features a series of snapshots of life at the time. David Kynaston (The City of London) takes us on a tour of what was happening around the world on that particular day; Diane Atkinson (The Criminal Conversation of Mrs Norton) reveals the scandal that lay behind the Prime Minister’s resignation; Jerry White (London in the Nineteenth Century: A Human Awful Wonder of God) looks at the St. James’s area; and Lucy Lethbridge (Servants) goes both upstairs and downstairs to sniff out what was going on in London’s finer houses. Private Eye’s Ian Hislop talks us through the motivation for Victorian philanthropy and Claire Tomalin (Charles Dickens: A Life) provides an insight into Dickens’s working habits, friendships, family, health and interests at the time.  

Ian HislopDavid KynastonLucy LethbridgeJerry White

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St Jamess


1pm – 2pm

A traditional “classical education” has gone out of fashion in the last hundred years and is sometimes seen as an outdated, elitist luxury. But in this challenging conversation, Charlotte Higgins (Under Another Sky: Journeys in Roman Britain), Tom Holland (Dynasty: The Rise and Fall of the House of Caesar; Rubicon) and Bettany Hughes (The Hemlock Cup: Socrates, Athens and the Search for the Good Life; Helen of Troy: Goddess, Princess, Whore) reveal how a close study of classical culture can help us appreciate western art, philosophy and literature both past and present. It provides a telling perspective on the clash of civilisations, the rise and fall of religion, the nature of modern war and the precariousness of democracy. Are we living in our own “end of Empire” entertained only by “bread and circuses”? And is it now time for a reassessment of the benefits of a classical education? Sarah Dunant (Blood and Beauty) asks the questions. 

Sarah Dunant(photo: Charlie Hopkinson)Charlotte HigginsTom HollandBettany Hughes

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2.30pm – 3.30pm

Science & Miscellaneous is the most celebrated and beguiling section of The London Library. Topics range from Conjuring and Colour-Blindness to Human Sacrifice and Hypnotism; from Laughter and Lotteries to Pain and Poultry, not forgetting of course Vinegar and Vivisection. Open shelving means that anyone looking through the stacks can make the most surprising and suggestive discoveries. Such serendipitous browsing often mirrors the process of research, whereby the writer remains open to a radical change of direction when a new direction presents itself. Rick Stroud (The Book of the Moon) introduces three writers from different fields to talk about their working methods and the consequences of chance: the scientist Susan Greenfield (Mind Change; The Private Life of the Brain), the surgeon and professor of surgical education Roger Kneebone and the historian and biographer Jenny Uglow (In These Times; The Lunar Men; Elizabeth Gaskell).

 Susan GreenfieldRoger KneeboneRick StroudJenny Uglow (Photo: Johnny Ring)


4pm – 5pm

Antony Beevor has won a deserved reputation as one of the world’s finest military historians. Stalingrad; Berlin: The Downfall 1945; The Battle for Spain; D-Day and most recently Ardennes 1944: Hitler’s Last Gamble are all classics of the genre, combining scrupulous research with narrative power and formidable understanding. In this important and timely lecture, he gives us his unique overview of how warfare has changed during the last three-quarters of a century. As military technology becomes ever more complex and sophisticated, where does the role of human agency now lie? Tolstoy famously described generals as “the most enslaved and involuntary” of “all the blind instruments of history”. Was that once really the case? And is it the case in 2016?

Anthony Beevor (Photo: John E Fry)

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5.30pm – 6.30pm

What keeps writers of fiction going? Is it an overwhelming need to tell a story; the urge to make sense of the world; or a desire for political and social change? Is it the inability to hold down “a proper job”, the hope of riches, a neurotic need for attention, passion, urgency, confusion, self-obsession, or even, perhaps, all of the above? James Runcie asks Victoria Hislop (The Sunrise; The Island), Nick Hornby (Funny Girl; High Fidelity; Fever Pitch), Elif Shafak (The Architect’s Apprentice; Honour; Forty Rules of Love) and Joanna Trollope (Balancing Act; A Passionate Man; Sense and Sensibility) questions that get to the heart of the creative process.

Victoria Hislop (Photo: Loanna Tzetzoumi)Nick Hornby (Photo: Sigrid Estrada)Elif Shafak (Photo: Zenel Abidin)Joanna Trollope (Photo: Barker Evans) 

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Gala event in support of The London Library

7pm - 8.30pm

“Biography is the worst possible excuse for getting people wrong”, states a character in Indian Ink by Tom Stoppard, many of whose works play with the problem of biography, the tricks of memory, and the truths and travesties involved in reconstructing the past.

After resisting more than one proposed biography, Tom Stoppard has authorised one of our finest biographers, Hermione Lee (Penelope Fitzgerald; Edith Wharton; Virginia Woolf), to write his life. In their first public conversation Tom and Hermione discuss the challenges involved in writing about real people.  What duty of care does the writer have to the person they are writing about? How does one edit the life and achievements of a living person into a book which author, subject, and reader all feel is an honest and enlightening account?

This very rare opportunity to hear from Tom and Hermione is also a special fundraiser for The London Library, of which Tom has been a member since 1972 and President since 2002.  Tickets include complimentary refreshments.

 Tom Stoppard HeadshotHermione Lee (Photo: Jean Jottard)

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DianeAtkinsonT LaraFeigelT JulietGardinerT IanHislopT EmmaJohnT DavidKynastonT HermioneLeeT LucyLethbridgeT DeborahLevyT JohnOFarrellT JamesRuncieT ElifShafakT KateSummerscaleT JoannaTrollopeT JennyUglowT WilliamWaldegraveT HarrietWalterT JerryWhiteT



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