Two years ago Victoria Glendinning announced that she was having to self-finance her new book, a biography of Stamford Raffles, because she was unable to find a publisher. ‘They want Victoria to do exactly the same as before,’ she explained to The Guardian, adding that when the publisher suggested that she should write yet another life of the Brontës, ‘I nearly fell off my chair.’ That Glendinning of all people should be forced to write a book without a commission struck chill into the hearts of many authors, and prompted much doom-laden speculation about the imminent death of biography. But for Glendinning, at least, the story has a happy ending. Raffles is published by Profile this month.
The life of Raffles, the self-made adventurer and founder of Singapore, is new territory for Glendinning, who achieved fame as the biographer of figures such as Vita Sackville-West, Anthony Trollope and Leonard Woolf. But Glendinning’s decision to break out of the publishing comfort zone of Bloomsbury and literary biography and