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Alexander Alexander (b. 1781/22) by Thomas Hodgetts, pubd 1830 (after Sir John Watson-Gordon) © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Alexander, Alexander (b. 1781/2), soldier and writer, was born in Dundonald, Ayrshire, the illegitimate son of a wealthy Scottish merchant. Almost everything known about him comes from his remarkable autobiography, published in Edinburgh in 1830. After what he recalled as an unhappy childhood marred by physical violence, at the age of eighteen he was sent to work as an overseer on slave plantations in ...

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See Mills, Sir John Lewis Ernest Watts

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Eric Arthur Blair [George Orwell] (1903–1950) by Felix H. Man, c. 1947 © Estate of Felix H. Man / National Portrait Gallery, London

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Blair, Eric Arthur [pseud. George Orwell] (1903–1950), political writer and essayist, was born in Motihari, Bengal, India, on 25 June 1903, the only son of Richard Walmesley Blair (1857–1938), a sub-deputy opium agent in the government of Bengal, and his wife, Ida Mabel Limouzin (1875–1943)...

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Burn [McBurney], James (1800x03–1889), autobiographer, was according to his own account born in Ireland at some point (he thought) between 1800 and 1803, the illegitimate son of an Irishman named McBurney. His father deserted the family at the time of his birth, and following this his mother, ...

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Cannan [married name Slater], May Wedderburn (1893–1973), writer, was born at 34 St Giles, Oxford, on 14 October 1893, the second daughter of Charles Cannan (1858–1919), Aristotelian scholar and publisher, and his wife, Mary Wedderburn (1857–1943). Her twin, Frances Keir Cannan, died in infancy. ...

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Thomas Carlyle (1795–1881) by George Frederic Watts, 1868 © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Carlyle, Thomas (1795–1881), author, biographer, and historian, was born on 4 December 1795 in the Arched House, Ecclefechan, Annandale, Dumfriesshire. He was the eldest son of James Carlyle (1757–1832), a hard-working stonemason whose father, Thomas (1722–1806), the husband of Mary Gillespie (1727–1797), had been a carpenter and tenant farmer; beyond that, the ...

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Carrington, (Mary) Leonora (1917–2011), artist and writer, was born on 6 April 1917 at Westwood House, Westwood, Clayton-le-Woods, Lancashire, the only daughter and second of four children of Harold Wylde Carrington (1880–1950), textile manufacturer, and his wife, Marie Humphreys, née Moorhead (b...

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Cole, Henry Alfred [Harry] (1930–2008), police constable and author, was born on 12 July 1930 at 48A Lower Road, Rotherhithe, Bermondsey, London, the son of Henry Alfred Cole, furrier, and his wife, Emma Elizabeth, née Shipgood. Born and raised in south London, he left school during the Second World War when he was fourteen and became in turn a cricket-bat maker, soldier, and stonemason. On 20 September 1952 he married ...

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Crosland [née Watson], Susan Barnes (1927–2011), journalist and author, was born on 23 January 1927 in Baltimore, Maryland, USA, the second daughter of Mark Skinner Watson (1887–1966) and his wife, Susan Elizabeth, née Owens (1890–1980), both American. She was bred to be a journalist. Her father was the doyen of defence correspondents on the ...

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(Charles) William Donaldson (1935–2005) by Sam Barker, 2005 Getty Images

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Donaldson, (Charles) William [Willie] [pseud. Henry Root] (1935–2005), writer and impresario, was born in Sunningdale, Berkshire, on 4 January 1935, the son of Charles Glen Donaldson (1904–1956), shipowner, and his wife, Elizabeth (Betty), née Stockley (d. 1955). His father was co-chairman of the ...

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Dutton [née Williams], Anne (1691x5–1765), writer and autobiographer, was born in Northampton of devout parents (in 1691/1692 according to her gravestone, in 1695 according to her memoirs). Reared in a religious climate of hyper-Calvinism, increasing missionary zeal, and heightened passion for religious liberty, ...

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Fermor, Sir Patrick Michael [Paddy] Leigh (1915–2011), special operations officer and author, was born on 11 February 1915 at 20 Endsleigh Gardens, Bloomsbury, London, the younger child and only son of Sir Lewis Leigh Fermor (1880–1954), geologist, and his first wife, Muriel Aileen (otherwise Eileen or Æileen), ...

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Sir Patrick Michael Leigh Fermor (1915–2011) by Joan Leigh Fermor, 1946 © Patrick Fermor Archive, Trustees of the National Library of Scotland

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Fowles, John Robert (1926–2005), author and museum curator, was born on 31 March 1926 at Waygate, 37 Fillebrook Avenue, Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex, the only son and elder child of Robert John Fowles and his wife, Gladys May, née Richards. While his father commuted into ...

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John Robert Fowles (1926–2005) by Tomas Watson, 2001 © National Portrait Gallery, London

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