Thu, 23 Jun 2022 19:30 - 20:30

I Used To Live Here Once: The Haunted Life of Jean Rhys (In person)

Acclaimed biographer Miranda Seymour speaks with Dominique Heyse-Moore about the wild and complex life of novelist Jean Rhys. 

An obsessive and troubled genius, Jean Rhys was one of the most compelling and unnerving writers of the twentieth century. After a huge early success, she vanished from view for a quarter of a century, reappearing in the midst of the sex, drugs and rock n’ roll ‘cool’ of 1970s London. Memories of a conflicted and violent Caribbean childhood still haunted her and they pervade the four fictions that Rhys wrote during her extraordinary years as an exile in 1920s Paris and later in England, most famously in her Jane Eyre-inspired masterpiece, Wide Sargasso Sea. Yet, no biographer has researched the crucial first seventeen years of Rhys’ life spent living on the remote island of Dominica – until now. 

Luminous and penetrating, Miranda Seymour’s new biography reveals a proud and fiercely independent artist, one who experienced tragedy and extreme poverty, alcohol and drug dependency, romantic and sexual turmoil – and yet was never a victim. I Used to Live Here Once sees one of our most excitingly intuitive biographers uncover the hidden truth about a fascinatingly elusive woman, whose life and work was profoundly impacted by colonialism. The figure who emerges is cultured, self-mocking, self-absorbed, unpredictable and often darkly funny. In conversation with writer and curator Dominique Heyse-Moore, Seymour brings this cult figure to life as never before. 

Miranda Seymour is a biographer, novelist, memoirist and critic. She is the author of the award-winning memoir, In My Father’s House and her many acclaimed biographies include: A Ring of Conspirators, an innovative study of Henry James and his literary circle; Ottoline Morrell: Life on a Grand ScaleRobert Graves: Life on the EdgeMary Shelley: In Byron’s Wake and The Bugatti Queen. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. 

Dominique Heyse-Moore is a writer, artist and Senior Curator of British Contemporary Art, Tate Britain. As a current participant of The London Library’s Emerging Writers Programme, she is working on a triptych of graphic memoirs exploring the legacy of empire and her own family’s heritage, which spans Africa, China, the Caribbean, Australia and the Pacific Islands.

Miranda Seymour’s book, I Used To Live Here Once, is available to pre-order through our partner bookshop, Hatchards

N.B. This event will take place in person at The London Library in alignment with up-to-date government COVID recommendations. Please see our Event Access and COVID Guidelines before you arrive. Doors (and the bar) open at 7.00pm for a 7.30pm start.

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