72 Quotes of Claire Tomalin About Journalism

” One of my most vivid memories of the mid-1950s is of crying into a washbasin full of soapy grey baby clothes – there were no washing machines – while my handsome and adored husband was off playing football in the park on Sunday morning with all the delightful young men who had been friends to both of us at Cambridge three years earlier. “
” I enjoyed the whole process of learning and was always happy when autumn came and school or college started up again. “
” I would like to have a more social life than I have. “
” Everyone finds their own version of Charles Dickens. The child-victim, the irrepressibly ambitious young man, the reporter, the demonic worker, the tireless walker. The radical, the protector of orphans, helper of the needy, man of good works, the republican. The hater and the lover of America. The giver of parties, the magician, the traveler. “
” I didn’t start writing my own books until I was 40. “
” Historians will handle a much wider range of sources than a biographer and will be covering a broader spectrum of events, time, peoples. “
” The thing I love about Rome is that is has so many layers. In it, you can follow anything that interests you: town planning, architecture, churches or culture. It’s a city rich in antiquity and early Christian treasures, and just endlessly fascinating. There’s nowhere else like it. “
” Why do we read biography? Why do we choose to write it? Because we are human beings, programmed to be curious about other human beings, and to experience something of their lives. This has always been so – look at the Bible, crammed with biographies, very popular reading. “
” Writers don’t make good spouses. When I am writing, I’m not a good wife. I shut myself away, and all my emotions are directed towards what I’m trying to write. “
” Writing Charles Dickens’ biography is like writing five biographies. “
” After Shakespeare, Dickens is the great creator of characters, multiple characters. “
” When dealing with a subject who is dead, you have this feeling of being God. You know who they’re going to marry, when they’re going to die. It’s strange to feel so omniscient. “
” Biographers use historians more than historians use biographers, although there can be two-way traffic – e.g., the ever-growing production of biographies of women is helping to change the general picture of the past presented by historians. “
” If I’m in a state about a book, I’ll get up at 6 A.M. and write before breakfast, but usually I’ll start afterwards and then work a full day with a break for lunch. “
” People who attack biography choose as their models vulgar and offensive biography. You could equally attack novels or poems by choosing bad poems or novels. “
” All the people I have written about remain with me – perhaps they are my closest friends. “
” Poetry was one of the things that interested me most as I was growing up. I used to write it in my head all the time. I still think the very greatest pleasure in life is to write a poem. “
” I continually get more information about a subject after the book has been published. “
” I think it’s about as likely Jane Austen was gay as that she was found out to be a man. “
” I always feel sad when I come to the end of a book. “
” The book doesn’t end when you finish writing it. “
” I sometimes think that, since I started writing biographies, I’ve had more of a life in books than I have had in my real life. “
” Writers often feel obliged to adopt some sort of public appearance. “
” Dickens was a part of how the whole celebration of Christmas as we know it today emerged during the 19th century. “
” In 1843, everybody was hungry, unemployed, and conditions were very bad. “
” Dickens had more energy than anyone in the world, and he expected his sons to be like him, and they couldn’t be. “
” Dickens belongs to the English people. “
” The whole world knows Dickens, his London and his characters. “
” As he approached his 28th birthday in February 1840, Dickens knew himself to be famous, successful and tired. He needed a rest, and he made up his mind to keep the year free of the pressure of producing monthly installments of yet another long novel. “
” By the time I went up to Cambridge, I was extremely quiet and well behaved, although I now meet people who remember me as not like that at all. “
” I’ve behaved badly in my life. I hope I haven’t behaved as badly as Dickens! In a way, if you’re a woman, you’re not in a position to behave as badly, because you don’t have the economic power. “
” I would perhaps like to go back to writing small books about obscure people. “
” Dickens is a lover of human beings; a relisher of human beings. “
” I was very priggish as a child. I saved up for a book on medieval English nunneries, for which I was despised by my friends. “
” When I kept a diary, I realised that it was all moanings and depression, and I think that is quite common. “
” Essentially, I spent most of my childhood with my mother and my older sister, and I suppose I had rather a romantic vision of how things might be if there were men around; I saw myself in a country house with six children and a garden. That has never been achieved – and I still regret it. “
” It’s a difficult thing to lose a child, a grown-up child. “
” You become more tolerant when you become older. You’re not interested in rapping people over the knuckles; you’re interested in understanding them. “
” I belong to the Richmond Concert Society, who put on very good concerts. “
” Simon Russell Beale is an incomparable speaker of Shakespeare and a superb all-round actor. “
” ‘Words and Music’ on Radio 3 is always a treat. Actors read passages of poetry and prose interspersed with music, and nobody tells you what it is. Later you can look it up online, but at the time you can’t cheat. “
” ‘Philomena’ was even better than I had expected. I was so pleased to see the evil Irish nuns thoroughly exposed, and I thought Judi Dench gave a flawless performance, as did everybody else. “
” I always try to travel light. “
” Dickens was very practical and sensible. “
” When you live with Dickens for years, reading him and trying to present him as faithfully as you can, you can’t fail to love the man – so the shock of his bad behaviour is considerable, even when you know it is coming. “
” It’s an odd situation: I could not write about someone for whom I felt no affection or admiration. “
” I have been fascinated by Dickens worshippers who strenuously deny that he did anything wrong in relation to his wife, even though the record is clear that he did. “
” Today’s children have very short attention spans because they are being reared on dreadful television programmes which are flickering away in the corner. “
” All writers behave badly. All people behave badly. “
” The young Dickens was so alive, so self-confident, so funny. “
” I think people are always saying things are ‘over.’ Fiction has been regularly ‘over’ since the 19th century. “
” I know it sounds pathetic, but I don’t know who I am. “
” I fell in love with Shakespeare when I was 12, and I read the whole works. Yes, I was precocious. “
” I think it’s quite normal for people to have love affairs. “
” I’m interested in history, in trying to relate the past to the present and to understand how people thought about their problems and pleasures. “
” I’m usually convinced that what I’m working on is a total disaster. “
” My life was a sort of series of random disasters. “
” In 2007, several musicologists contacted me at about the same time, expressing interest in the work of the mysterious Muriel Herbert, a few of whose songs they had come across. “
” I was working at the ‘Evening Standard’ when I heard that there was a job going as deputy literary editor on the ‘New Statesman.’ I remember thinking, ‘That’s perfect.’ It was three days a week, and I had children, but I could make that work – so I applied for it and got it. “
” I thought it was a glorious thing to be a critic and to be a literary editor, and one was really doing something that mattered: to keep up standards, to take books seriously. “
” When I wrote about Mary Wollstonecraft, I found that here she was, in the late 18th century, going to work for the ‘Analytical Review.’ What was the ‘Analytical Review?’ It was a magazine that dealt with politics and literature. “
” I have been left-wing always, from childhood. “
” Dickens is always full of surprises. “
” Throughout his life, Dickens cared passionately about orphans. “
” As a young man, Dickens worked as a reporter in the House of Commons and hated it. He felt that all politicians spoke with the same voice. “
” Dickens never joined a political party nor put forward a political programme. He was a writer who rightly saw his power as coming through his fiction. “
” Because my father is French, my first school was the Lycee Francais de Londres in Kensington. “
” ‘A Christmas Carol’ has been described as the most perfect of Dickens’s works and as a quintessential heart-warming story, and it is certainly the most popular. “
” Most writers can tell stories of how their books failed to be made into films. “
” I had forgotten until I looked up old notes that I sold the film rights of my first book, a life of Mary Wollstonecraft: there was a lunch, a contract, a small sum of money, then nothing. “
” Biographies are, in their nature, far more difficult to make into films than novels, because novels come with plots constructed and dialogue written, whereas I don’t invent dialogue for my subjects or plot their lives for them. “
” Biographers search for traces, for evidence of activity, for signs of movement, for letters, for diaries, for photographs. “