Claire Tomalin, Britain\u2019s pre-eminent literary biographer, has authored books on Charles Dickens, Thomas\u00a0Hardy, Samuel Pepys and Jane Austen, among others. At the Sydney Writers\u2019 Festival, Tomalin discussed research, her subjects, and the value of working with Caroline Baum, current Directorial Editor of Booktopia.\r\n\r\nTomalin\u2019s work as a biographer didn\u2019t begin until she was in her forties, she said, when she discovered the letters of Mary Wollstonecraft while on maternity leave from the New Statesman, where she was deputy literary editor. Prior to literary journalism, she had previously worked in publishing, and when she studied at Cambridge she had even fancied herself a poet, a career that promptly ended with Sylvia Plath\u2019s arrival there.\r\n\r\nClaire Tomalin, critically acclaimed biographer. Image Credit: Angus Muir for The Arts Desk.\r\n\r\nAfter penning a one-page piece on Wollstonecraft for the New Statesman, publishers and literary agents urged Tomalin to write a book about, which was when Tomalin discovered the art of biography as her true calling. She has since spent the last four decades of her life (Tomalin is a sprightly 81) visiting writers\u2019 houses in Switzerland and France, and delving into the Royal Archives at Windsor in order to \u2018sink down into the mud\u2019 and immerse herself in the lives of her subjects, who she describes as being as close as family.\r\n\r\nAll her subjects have taught her \u2018lessons about how to live\u2019, Tomalin said, reflecting the theme of the festival. Austen for example, demonstrated that an ordinary girl could taken on the aristocratic classes and land-owning gentry; Dickens, Tomalin said, was an advocate for the \u2018little people\u2019 \u2014 for the disabled and marginalised; and Dorothea Jordan, mistress and companion of William IV, showed incredible dignity under pressure. Above all, Tomalin said that her subjects have taught her about the value of work: that one can come from a very poor background and through work live a valuable and interesting life. Austen, Dickens and Hardy worked until the very end.\r\n\r\nWhen asked about work ethic, Tomalin advised: \u2018You have to be determined \u2014 you have to search with determination.'\r\n***\r\nWriter\u2019s Edit would like to thank Sydney Writers\u2019 Festival for the array of wonderful events hosted, and for providing us with access to them. Looking forward to next year\u2019s already!