Holden, Anthony 1947–

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Holden, Anthony 1947–

(Anthony Ivan Holden)


Born May 22, 1947, in Southport, England; son of John (a company director) and Margaret Lois Holden; married Amanda Juliet Warren (a musician), May 1, 1971 (marriage dissolved, 1988); married Cynthia Blake, July 21, 1990; children: (first marriage) Sam, Joe, Ben. Education: Merton College, Oxford, M.A. (with honors), 1970. Hobbies and other interests: Poker.


Agent—Rogers, Coleridge & White Ltd., 20 Powis Mews, London W11 1JN, England.


Journalist, biographer, editor, translator, and freelance writer. Evening Echo, Hemel Hempstead, England, reporter, 1970-73; London Sunday Times, London, England, general reporter, 1973-77, author of column, "Atticus," 1977-79; Observer, London, chief U.S. correspondent, 1979-81; Punch magazine, London, Transatlantic Cables columnist, 1979-81; Times, London, features editor and assistant editor, 1981-82; BBC Radio 4, presenter of "In the Air," 1982-84; freelance writer, 1982-85; Sunday Express magazine, author of "Holden at Large" column, 1982-85; Today, New York, NY, executive editor, 1985-86; writer, 1986—. Also created the television documentaries The Men Who Would Be King, 1982, Charles at Forty, 1988, Anthony Holden on Poker, 1992, and Who Killed Tchaikovsky?, 1993.


National Union of Journalists.


Young Journalist of the Year, National Council for Training of Journalists, 1973, for local newspaper work; News Reporter of the Year, British Press, 1977, for work in Ulster; Columnist of the Year, British Press, 1978, for "Atticus"; fellow, Center for Scholars and Writers, New York Public Library, 1999-2000.


(Editor and translator) Aeschylus' Agamemnon, Cambridge University Press (London, England), 1969.

(Editor, translator, and author of introduction) Greek Pastoral Poetry: Theocritus, Bion, Moschus, the Pattern Poems, Penguin (London, England), 1974.

The St. Albans Poisoner: The Life and Crimes of Graham Young, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 1974.

Prince Charles: A Biography, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1979, published as Charles, Prince of Wales, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (London, England), 1979.

Their Royal Highnesses: The Prince and Princess of Wales, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (London, England), 1981.

(Author of introduction) Great Royal Front Pages, Collins (London, England), 1983.

Anthony Holden's Royal Quiz: The Penguin Masterquiz, Penguin (London, England), 1983.

Of Presidents, Prime Ministers, and Princes: A Decade in Fleet Street, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1984.

(Translator, with first wife, Amanda Holden) Lorenzo da Ponte, Mozart's Don Giovanni (opera), A. Deutsch (London, England), 1987.

Laurence Olivier, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1988, published as Olivier, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (London, England), 1988.

King Charles III: A Biography, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (London, England), 1988.

Big Deal: A Year as a Professional Poker Player, Viking (New York, NY), 1990, republished with a new introduction as Big Deal: One Year as a Professional Poker Player, Abacus (London, England), 2002.

(Editor) The Last Paragraph: The Journalism of David Blundy, Heinemann (London, England), 1990.

A Princely Marriage: Charles and Diana, the First Ten Years, Bantam (New York, NY), 1991.

Behind the Oscar: The Secret History of the Academy Awards, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1993.

The Tarnished Crown: Princess Diana and the House of Windsor, Random House (New York, NY), 1993.

Tchaikovsky: A Biography, Random House (New York, NY), 1995.

Diana: A Life and a Legacy, Ebury Press (London, England), 1997.

Charles at Fifty, Random House (New York, NY), 1998.

Charles: A Biography, Bantam Press (New York, NY), 1998.

(Editor, with Frank Kermode) The Mind Has Mountains, Los Poetry Press (Cambridge, England), 1999.

(Editor, with Ursula Owen) There Are Kermodians: A Liber Amicorum for F. Kermode, Everyman (London, England), 1999.

William Shakespeare: His Life and His Work, Little, Brown (London, England), 1999, published as William Shakespeare: The Man behind the Genius, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2000, abridged edition published as William Shakespeare: An Illustrated Biography, Little, Brown (London, England), 2002.

The Drama of Love, Life and Death in Shakespeare, Mitchell Beazley (London, England), 2002.

The Wit in the Dungeon: The Remarkable Life of Leigh Hunt—Poet, Revolutionary, and the Last of the Romantics, Little, Brown (London, England), 2005.

The Man Who Wrote Mozart: The Extraordinary Life of Lorenzo da Ponte, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (London, England), 2006.

Bigger Deal: A Year inside the Poker Boom, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2007.

Also author of The Queen Mother, 1985, revised edition, 1993.

Contributor of articles to periodicals in the United States and England, including Punch, New Statesman, Spectator, and National Geographic.

Also translator, with Amanda Holden, of La Boheme for Opera North, 1986, and The Barber of Seville for English National Opera, 1987.


Anthony Holden ranks among the foremost authorities on the English royal family. Unlike many royal-watchers, however, Holden has not restricted himself merely to biographies on the House of Windsor; his varied works include a book about poker playing, an encyclopedic history of the Academy Awards, and highly regarded biographies of actor Laurence Olivier, composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, and playwright William Shakespeare. An accomplished journalist who has worked for press outlets on both sides of the Atlantic, Holden has been commended for both his reportage and his writing style.

Holden went to work as a newspaper reporter right after college and within three years had won a position—and a column—at the London Sunday Times. In 1979 he published his first book on the royals, Prince Charles: A Biography. Released to coincide with the Prince of Wales's thirtieth birthday, the book was soon overshadowed by a momentous event: the marriage of Charles to Lady Diana Spencer. Holden was one of many who wrote intimate biographies of Charles and Diana at the time of their engagement, but Holden's prior relationship with the prince allowed him a closer view of the couple than most other writers were afforded. Thus it was that Holden, with his wealth of background material on the couple, stood in a good position to assess the marriage as it began to disintegrate. Called upon to discuss the royals on television and radio, he also penned another biography of Charles on the prince's fortieth birthday and other books on the royal marriage and its impact on the House of Windsor.

Ironically, Holden's reputation rests less on his works about the royals than upon his other books. In 1988 he published a biography of noted actor Sir Laurence Oliv- ier that garnered favorable reviews even though the actor had been the subject of almost a half-dozen previous biographies. "Mr. Holden, to his everlasting credit, resists the spurious and gives us a scrupulously fair portrait of a great artist at war with himself," wrote Bryan Forbes in the New York Times Book Review. "Inevitably, he cannot avoid tracts of familiar ground in tracing Laurence Olivier's progress from childhood to glory, but marshals and presents his material in a way that compels the reader forward…. Here we have not just the fascinating details of an extraordinary career, but a compassionate stripping away of the public mask to reveal the face of insecurity." In a London Review of Books essay on Olivier, contributor Ronald Bryden commented: "Holden comes well-equipped. He has assembled all the facts available from previous biographies, as well as scores of entertaining new ones from his own researches and interviews with Olivier's friends and coworkers. It is the largest compilation between covers of what is known about the actor, and that is its value, a real one."

Reviewers responded with equal favor to Holden's biography of Tchaikovsky, the popular Russian composer whose works include The Nutcracker Suite. In the biography Holden reveals the musician's deep-seated self-loathing and fear of scandal, brought on by his homosexuality. As Ted Libbey put it in the Washington Post Book World, the work "is the chronicle of an artist who might have said, as Pushkin does in Eugene Onegin, ‘Love passed, the muse appeared, the weather of mind got clarity newfound; now free, I once more weave together emotion, thought, and magic sound.’ Only Tchaikovsky was never free. And while this book is about his life, its importance is in the story it tells of his death, by far the best treatment of that sad event yet to emerge." Spectator correspondent Fiona Maddocks maintained: "Anthony Holden's biography, acknowledging a debt to [other] scholars, is a noble attempt at a psychologically informed portrait of a neurotic, troubled genius. The author makes no pretence at unearthing new facts, which in itself will attract scorn from some circles. Rather, he draws together the latest findings into a readable … narrative which anyone with an interest in the composer, or in the Russian nineteenth-century landscape he inhabited, would do well to read."

After the tragic death of Princess Diana in 1997, Holden published Diana: A Life and Legacy, an emotional lament for the deceased princess. The royal family was unhappy with Holden's obvious sympathy for Diana's often turbulent life and refused to cooperate with him in gathering information for his next book, Charles at Fifty. An examination of another decade of Prince Charles's life, this royal biography is strikingly different from the others. On the Denver Post Online, reviewer Tom Walker commented: "The book covers familiar ground but is most fascinating when it examines how Buckingham Palace, horrified by the outpouring of grief that followed Diana's death in 1997, has been trying to give Charles the common touch." In Charles at Fifty, Holden portrays the prince as cold, arrogant, and comfortably estranged from his people—the way many people viewed him in younger years and even more so after the divorce and death of his publicly kind and generous wife, whom Holden "avoids deifying," according to Walker. "Once an admirer of an idealistic prince he called intelligent and compassionate, a disillusioned Holden now writes of a selfish and hypocritical man out of touch with the majority of his subjects," observed Library Journal contributor Elizabeth Mary Mellett, who also dubbed Charles at Fifty a "well-written, intelligent, and fascinating biography."

Popular critical opinion suggests that Holden's treatment of the royal family in Charles at Fifty stays above the level of malicious criticism, despite the dissolution of his personal relationship with them. Holden attempts to present the famous royal relationship from an honest perspective, not a vengeful one. The author "gives a painful portrait of a man and a woman who went from mutually dazzled to crushingly disillusioned almost overnight," remarked Salon.com reviewer Mary Elizabeth Williams. "Holden's sympathy for the princess is evident—it's obvious he enjoyed a friendly relationship with [Diana] long after Charles had huffily severed their friendship over displeasure at his biographies." Williams continued: "Holden doesn't shy away from presenting the warts-and-all sides of both their natures, as well as the brutally biased way in which their relationship played out in the press." Similarly, Brad Hooper writing in Booklist maintained: "Holden's is an excellently thorough and balanced evaluation of Charles's past, present, and likely future."

The following year Holden paid tribute to the most renowned playwright in English history with the publication of William Shakespeare: The Man behind the Genius. With little known about his personal life, Shakespeare has long been a mysterious figure in literature. Holden used a variety of methods to write the biography of the great bard. While he relies on such traditional historical sources as church records and legal documents, Holden also mines the playwright's own works for clues about his religious and political beliefs, possible romantic relationships, and business activities. "Conjecture fills in some gaps," Bryce Christensen admitted in Booklist, "but every speculation—just like every inherited legend—must pass the tests of plausibility and consistency." "With a story full of the characters of the age," wrote Neal Wyatt in Library Journal, "Holden crafts a lively and interesting Shakespeare anchored to his times. He brings a sense of immediacy to the best of his chapters and sometimes almost transports one to the Bard's time." While a critic for Publishers Weekly believed that "as Shakespeare's life progresses, Holden's guesswork becomes less convincing," Ralph Berry, writing in Contemporary Review, concluded: "Holden has written a smooth, professional, and undemanding life." Brian Bethune, in a review for Maclean's, stated: "What makes Holden's new life [of Shakespeare] both informative and engaging is his boundless enthusiasm, his thorough grasp of recent scholarly work and his pugnacious attitude."

In 2002, two years after its publication in the United States, William Shakespeare: The Man behind the Genius was republished in an abridged volume as William Shakespeare: An Illustrated Biography. In Library Journal, contributor Morris Hounion pointed out that the abridged and "lavishly illustrated volume is geared for a popular audience," commenting: "For those who want to know something about the author after reading or viewing his plays, this book is ideal." The year 2002 also saw the revival of another of Holden's works, one based on the author's favorite hobby-turned-passion: poker. Big Deal: One Year as a Professional Poker Player, reissued with a new introduction under a slightly altered title, revisits the author's journeys through the glamorous gambling worlds of Las Vegas, Morocco, and many places in between. Holden, an amateur poker player at the book's beginning and ranked professional at its close, shares nuggets of wisdom picked up en route, as well as anecdotes of various run-ins with poker celebrities. "Holden's rite of passage through this process is as fascinating as it is inspirational," wrote reviewer Graeme Maughan on the BBC Web site. "This is a book that knows when to go with the rush, and when to pause to consider the hand it's playing out," related Maughan, "a book, above all, not about gambling … but about psychology…. This is gonzo journalism with style."

Holden tackled the subject of Leigh Hunt's life in 2005's The Wit in the Dungeon: The Remarkable Life of Leigh Hunt—Poet, Revolutionary, and the Last of the Romantics. Born at Southgate, London, in 1784, Hunt was a poet, essayist, editor, critic, translator, political reformist, and author. He is considered by many as the primary force behind launching the careers of poets John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley, and his inner circle of friends included well-known poets and writers of that period such as Lord Byron, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Hazlitt, and Charles Lamb. What Hunt is perhaps most famous for, though, is his incarceration in 1812 for "libeling" the Prince of Wales, for which Byron dubbed him "the wit in the dungeon," the inspiration for the title of Holden's biography of Hunt.

This "splendid biography traces Hunt's life from his fiery youth … to his rise as a man of letters and a publisher," praised Henry L. Carrigan, Jr., in his review of the book for Library Journal. Roger Bishop, a critic for Book Page, also praised the book, noting that it "superbly chronicles Hunt's ambitions, literary feuds and chronic financial problems." "Holden does an excellent job of presenting a broader view of Hunt's true talent which was less as an author and more as a talent scout and mediator," remarked Monsters and Critics contributor Sandy Amazeen. "A vivid portrait of the British nineteenth-century literary world and one of its seminal figures," commended Booklist critic Bryce Christensen.

In his 2006 book, The Man Who Wrote Mozart: The Extraordinary Life of Lorenzo da Ponte, Holden again takes on a lesser known historical figure as a biographical subject. Lorenzo da Ponte was at different times over the course of his troubled life a priest, a gambler, a philanderer, an entrepreneur, a poet, a teacher, and a shopkeeper. He is best known, however, as the writer of the librettos for Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's three greatest operas. The London Observer's Rafael Behr maintained that in this "brilliant story," Holden "unravels the full nine decades of Da Ponte's picaresque life, eight of which did not involve his friend Wolfgang." According to a critic for the Spectator, The Man Who Wrote Mozart "provides a rattling good read, filled with vivid anecdotes."

Published in 2007, Bigger Deal: A Year inside the Poker Boom is the sequel to the highly successful Big Deal, which was first published nearly two decades earlier before poker had achieved the high level of popularity it enjoys today. Some observers cite the current poker boom as the primary reason that Bigger Deal will never be as successful as its predecessor. Despite this, many critics still had good things to say about the book: "It's Holden's effortless prose that makes Bigger Deal a triumph," observed a critic on the Inside Poker Web site. And New York Times Book Review contributor Susan Casey pointed out that "Holden has an endearing way of letting the reader into his head, turning descriptions of botched or brilliant poker hands into page-turning mini-narratives, discussing his mental demons and romantic travails in disarming detail…. It's unfair to criticize a good book because it happens to be the sequel to a great book, but Holden finds the new poker world depressing, and in Bigger Deal his voice is somewhat deflated."



Debrett's People of Today, Debrett's Peerage (London, England), 2004.

Writers Directory, 19th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2003.


Booklist, November 15, 1998, Brad Hooper, review of Charles at Fifty, p. 563; June 1, 2000, Bryce Christensen, review of William Shakespeare: The Man behind the Genius, p. 1836; September 15, 2005, Bryce Christensen, review of The Wit in the Dungeon: The Remarkable Life of Leigh Hunt—Poet, Revolutionary, and the Last of the Romantics, p. 20; April 1, 2007, Frank Sennett, review of Bigger Deal: A Year inside the Poker Boom, p. 15.

Books, autumn, 1998, review of Prince Charles: A Biography, p. 22; Christmas, 1999, review of William Shakespeare: His Life and His Work, p. 18.

Book World, January 17, 1999, review of Charles at Fifty, p. 3.

California Bookwatch, August 1, 2007, review of Bigger Deal.

Contemporary Review, July, 2000, Ralph Berry, review of William Shakespeare: His Life and His Work, p. 55.

Economist, November 13, 1999, review of The Mind Has Mountains, p. 11.

Entertainment Weekly, December 4, 1998, review of Charles at Fifty, p. 98.

Guardian (London, England), January 8, 2005, review of The Wit in the Dungeon.

Kirkus Reviews, October 1, 1998, review of Charles at Fifty, p. 1434; March 1, 2007, review of Bigger Deal, p. 207.

Library Journal, November 15, 1998, Elizabeth Mary Mellett, review of Charles at Fifty, p. 75; May 15, 2000, Neal Wyatt, review of William Shakespeare: The Man behind the Genius, p. 94; September 1, 2002, Morris Hounion, review of William Shakespeare: An Illustrated Biography, p. 175; November 15, 2005, Henry L. Carrigan, review of The Wit in the Dungeon, p. 67; April 1, 2007, Leigh Mihlrad, review of Bigger Deal, p. 106.

London Review of Books, September 1, 1988, Ronald Bryden, review of Laurence Olivier, pp. 4-6.

Maclean's, February 7, 2000, Brian Bethune, "Millennium Man: An Engaging Biography Recreates Shakespeare," p. 58.

New Criterion, February 1, 2006, "The Poet in His Dungeon," p. 10.

New Leader, July, 2000, Phoebe Pettingell, "In Love with Shakespeare," p. 29.

New Statesman, December 6, 1999, review of William Shakespeare: His Life and His Work, p. 71.

New York Times Book Review, October 23, 1988, Bryan Forbes, review of Laurence Olivier, p. 14; December 27, 1998, review of Charles at Fifty, p. 14; January 1, 2006, Megan Marshall, review of The Wit in the Dungeon; July 30, 2006, Megan Marshall, review of The Man Who Wrote Mozart: The Extraordinary Life of Lorenzo da Ponte; May 6, 2007, Susan Casey, review of Bigger Deal.

Observer (London, England), November 14, 1999, review of William Shakespeare: His Life and His Work, p. 13; February 5, 2006, Rafael Behr, review of The Man Who Wrote Mozart.

People, November 16, 1998, Kim Hubbard, review of Charles at Fifty, p. 47.

Publishers Weekly, October 26, 1998, review of Charles at Fifty, p. 49; June 12, 2000, review of William Shakespeare: The Man behind the Genius, p. 61; September 5, 2005, review of The Wit in the Dungeon, p. 44; March 5, 2007, review of Bigger Deal, p. 51.

Reference & Research Book News, November 1, 2007, review of The Man Who Wrote Mozart.

Spectator, December 30, 1995, Fiona Maddocks, review of Tchaikovsky: A Biography, p. 30; February 19, 2005, "Micawber with a Touch of Skimpole," p. 35; January 28, 2006, "The Composer and His Phoenix," p. 47; June 16, 2007, "Roll Over, Mozart."

Times Educational Supplement, November 26, 1999, review of William Shakespeare: His Life and His Work, p. 11.

Times Literary Supplement, September 25, 1998, review of Charles: A Biography, p. 31; December 10, 1999, review of William Shakespeare: His Life and His Work, p. 34.

Washington Post Book World, Ted Libbey, review of Tchaikovsky, p. 4.


Austin Chronicle Online, http://www.austinchronicle.com/ (July 21, 2000), Roger Gathman, review of William Shakespeare: The Man behind the Genius.

BBC Web site, http://www.bbc.co.uk/ (March 29, 2001), review of The Barber of Seville; (May 16, 2004), Graeme Maughan, review of Big Deal: One Year as a Professional Poker Player.

Bigger Deal Web site, http://www.biggerdeal.com/ (December 8, 2008).

BookLoons, http://www.bookloons.com/ (December 8, 2008), J.A. Kaszuba Locke, review of The Wit in the Dungeon.

Book Page Online, http://www.bookpage.com/ (December 8, 2008), Roger Bishop, review of The Wit in the Dungeon.

Denver Post Online, http://www.denverpost.com/ (January 14, 2003), Tom Walker, review of Charles at Fifty.

Gutshot.com, http://www.gutshot.com/ (December 8, 2008), Stephen Bartley, interview with Anthony Holden.

Inside Poker, http://www.inside-edge-mag.co.uk/ (December 8, 2008), review of Bigger Deal.

Monsters and Critics Web site, http://books.monstersandcritics.com/ (January 28, 2006), Sandy Amazeen, review of The Wit in the Dungeon.

Poker Forum, http://www.thepokerforum.com/ (December 8, 2008), Nick Christenson, review of Bigger Deal.

Poker News, http://www.pokernews.com/ (May 6, 2007), Tim Lavalli, review of Bigger Deal.

Salon.com, http://archive.salon.com/ (December 7, 1998), Mary Elizabeth Williams, review of Charles at Fifty.