Nicholls, C(hristine) S(tephanie) 1943-

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NICHOLLS, C(hristine) S(tephanie) 1943-

PERSONAL: Born January 23, 1943, in Bury, Lancashire, England; daughter of Christopher James (a headmaster) and Olive (a headmistress; maiden name, Kennedy) Metcalfe; married Anthony James Nicholls (a university lecturer), March 12, 1966; children: Alexander, Caroline, Isabel. Education: Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, B.A., 1964, M.A., 1968; St. Antony's College, Oxford, Ph.D., 1968. Hobbies and other interests: Reading novels, playing the flute.

ADDRESSES: Home—27 Davenant Rd., Oxford OX2 8BU, England. Office—c/o Dictionary of National Biography, Clarendon Building, Bodleian Library, Oxford University, Broad St., Oxford OX1 3BG, England. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER: University of London, London, England, Henry Charles Chapman research fellow at Institute of Commonwealth Studies, 1968-69; British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), freelance media commentator, 1970-74, research assistant, 1975-76; Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, joint editor, 1977-89, editor, 1989-95, "Sutton Pocket Biographies," editor, 1996—. St. Antony's College, Oxford University, associate fellow, 1990—.

WRITINGS:

The Swahili Coast, Allen & Unwin (London, England), 1971.

David Livingstone, Sutton (Stroud, Gloucestershire, England), 1998.

The History of St. Antony's College, Oxford, 1950-2000, Macmillan Press (Oxford, England), 2000.

Elspeth Huxley: A Biography, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2002.

EDITOR

(With E. T. Williams) The Dictionary of National Biography, 1961-1970, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1981.

(With Robert Blake) The Dictionary of National Biography, 9th Supplement, 1971-1980, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1986.

(With Robert Blake) The Dictionary of National Biography, 1981-1985, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1990.

Power: A Political History of the Twentieth Century, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1990.

(With consultant editor G. H. L. Le May and others) The Dictionary of National Biography: Missing Persons, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1994.

(With consultant editor Sir Keith Thomas) The Dictionary of National Biography, 1986-1990: With an Index Covering the Years 1901-1990 in One Alphabetical Series, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1996.

Encyclopedia of Biography, Helicon (Oxford, England), 1996, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1997.

SIDELIGHTS: C. S. Nicholls, British writer, researcher, and editor of the acclaimed Dictionary of National Biography (DNB), spent part of her youth in Kenya, Africa, and has written biographies of two British citizens who were devoted to Africa, missionary Dr. David Livingstone and writer Elspeth Huxley. Nicholls also wrote The Swahili Coast in 1971 and is the author of a book about St. Antony's College, Oxford, where she received her Ph.D.

Nicholls's work first as joint editor and then editor of the DNB earned her praise from readers and reviewers. First published in 1901, the classic reference work was updated every ten years until 1981, when, under Nicholls, it began updating every five years, to keep the publication more current and include more individuals. The DNB contains biographies of well-known—both famous and infamous—British (and other) citizens who died within the time period covered by each supplement. Those included are from all professions, from royalty and politicians to entertainers and athletes. It begins with the period of early history and continues to the present.

In 1994 Oxford published a special issue of the DNB, Missing Persons. It contains biographies of more than one thousand persons, from throughout history to 1985, who were, according the preface, "unjustly omitted" from previous supplements. The DNB is noted for its excellent writing—some of the authors are candidates for inclusion themselves—and for its humor and liveliness. It is considered an invaluable reference work for writers, teachers, and other professionals.

P. F. Clarke, in a review of the DNB: 1981-1985 for the English Historical Review, called the five-year updating "a wholly welcome change since it gives us more manageable and up-to-date volumes." In a later review of Missing Persons, Clarke described the supplement as "a handsome acknowledgment of the fallibility of British justice in the court of historical reputations, now rectified through an appeal procedure which involved the editors in sifting through over one hundred thousand suggestions." Clarke praised the "fourfold increase in the number of entries for women," who had only a three percent inclusion in the original DNB. Some of the missing persons included are Sylvia Plath, Wilfred Owen, Stan Laurel, Bram Stoker, Joseph Merrick ("the Elephant Man"), and Guy Burgess.

The DNB: 1986-1990 was the last volume for which Nicholls served as editor. Brian Harrison, in the English Historical Review, noted that some categories, such as armed services and law, had fewer inclusions, while others, such as first- and second-generation immigrants, had more. There is also a new "secret service" category containing both friends and enemies of Britain. Harrison praised the coverage of scientists and intellectuals, the "trend against inflated entries for monarchs and statesmen," and the "inconsequential but intriguing detail" offered about many of those included.

In addition to the biography of David Livingstone, written for the Sutton "Pocket Biographies" series, which she edited, Nicholls began to write biographies of her own. Robert Pearce, writing in the History Review, commented on Nicholls's "shrewd critical judgements," which spice up her biography. He concluded that the book gives enough information and detail to entice readers to learn more about Livingstone.

Elspeth Huxley is Nicholls's first full-length biography. In it, she returns to her love of Africa to write about the journalist, broadcaster, and prolific author who is best known for her memoir The Flame Trees of Thika, about her girlhood in Kenya, published in 1959. Huxley was the daughter of British colonists to East Africa, and her mother's journals provide much of the interesting detail in the first part of the biography, according to reviewers. Elspeth married Gervus Huxley, a cousin of Aldous and Julian Huxley, and they had one son, but Elspeth kept working throughout her life. Her permanent home was in England after 1924, but she often returned to Africa to research her books and journalistic pieces and to visit her parents.

Huxley was a liberal who opposed colonialism. As Justin Willis pointed out in a review for the Times Literary Supplement, Nicholls shows that "Huxley, as the chronicler of the colonial experience, wrote with extraordinary understanding of both Africans and whites." Huxley served on the Monckton Commission of 1960, which dismantled the white-established Central African Federation. Willis observed, however, that Huxley's writings "are filled with the contradictions of colonialism, as well as its unbearable hubris: a belief in 'civilization' as the mission of whites in Africa combined with a contrary longing for Africa as an unspoilt place of refuge from the complex demands of modern life." A contributor to the Contemporary Review stated that Huxley "embodied the transposition from the colonial empire to the self-governing states of modern Africa."

Anne Chisholm, in a review for the Spectator, described Nicholls's book as "a thorough, quietly humorous, slightly over-extended biography" that is "full of wonderful stories about people with names like Cockie and Tuppence and Hookie, let alone glimpses of familiar characters like Karen Blixen . . . and Denys Finch Hatton, the Leakeys, Lord Dunsany and Evelyn Waugh." Chisholm also acknowledged that the book is truly about both Elspeth and her mother, Nellie. Kathryn Hughes, in the New Statesman, pointed out that Nicholls is "a wonderfully well-informed authority about the externals of the life—the dates, the events, the who and the where of it all" and "sees the landscape as Huxley would have seen it." Yet, Hughes noted, Nicholls is "less good" in "entering into Huxley's interior life," perhaps because there is a lack of good resources, since her mother threw away her letters a week after she read them.

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Albion, spring, 1994, review of The Dictionary of National Biography: Missing Persons, p. 113.

American Reference Books Annual, 1994, review of The Dictionary of National Biography: Missing Persons, p. 8; 1999, review of Encyclopedia of Biography, p. 11.

Booklist, September 1, 1998, review of Encyclopedia of Biography, p. 164.

Choice, October, 1993, review of The Dictionary of National Biography: Missing Persons, p. 265.

Christian Science Monitor, November 21, 1996, review of The Dictionary of National Biography, 1986-1990, p. B2.

Contemporary Review, September, 2002, review of Elspeth Huxley: A Biography, p. 187.

Economist, February 13, 1993, review of The Dictionary of National Biography: Missing Persons, p. 91.

English Historical Review, October, 1993, P. F. Clarke, review of The Dictionary of National Biography: 1981-1985, p. 1089; June, 1994, P. F. Clarke, review of The Dictionary of National Biography: Missing Persons, p. 671; April, 1998, Brian Harrison, review of The Dictionary of National Biography, 1986-1990, p. 546.

English Literature in Transition, 1880-1920, April, 1994, review of The Dictionary of National Biography: Missing Persons, p. 534.

History Review, December, 1999, Robert Pearce, review of David Livingstone, p. 48.

History: Reviews of New Books, summer, 1991, review of Power: A Political History of the Twentieth Century, p. 188.

History Today, January, 1994, review of The Dictionary of National Biography: Missing Persons, p. 50.

Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2003, review of Elspeth Huxley, p. 663.

Libraries & Culture, fall, 1999, review of Encyclopedia of Biography, p. 433.

London Review of Books, April 22, 1993, review of The Dictionary of National Biography: Missing Persons, p. 13; August 22, 1996, review of The Dictionary of National Biography, 1986-1990, p. 21.

New Criterion, October, 2003, "A Return to BEA," pp. 67-72.

New Statesman, May 6, 2002, Kathryn Hughes, "Left of Right," review of Elspeth Huxley, p. 50.

New York Times Book Review, October 5, 2003, review of Elspeth Huxley, p. 24.

Observer (London, England), November 28, 1993, review of The Dictionary of National Biography: Missing Persons, p. 4; July 7, 1996, review of The Dictionary of National Biography, 1986-1990, p. 15.

Reference & Research Book News, September, 1993, review of The Dictionary of National Biography: Missing Persons, p. 6; February, 1997, review of The Dictionary of National Biography, 1986-1990, p. 14; August, 1998, review of Encyclopedia of Biography, p. 17.

Rettig on Reference, July, 1998, review of Encyclopedia of Biography.

Spectator, July 6, 1996, review of The Dictionary of National Biography, 1986-1990, p. 30; June 8, 2002, Anne Chisholm, "A Lifelong Passion for Africa," review of Elspeth Huxley, p. 50.

Times Educational Supplement, March 12, 1993, review of The Dictionary of National Biography: Missing Persons, p. 10.

Times Literary Supplement, October 2, 1981; November 14, 1986; April 27, 1990; February 5, 1993, review of Dictionary of National Biography: Missing Persons, p. 21; August 16, 1996, review of The Dictionary of National Biography, 1986-1990, p. 5; November 19, 1996, review of The Dictionary of National Biography, 1986-1990, p. 14; May 29, 1998, review of David Livingstone, p. 36; August 16, 2002, "Of Mice and Mints," review of Elspeth Huxley, pp. 4-5.

Wilson Library Bulletin, September, 1993, review of The Dictionary of National Biography: Missing Persons, p. 116.

ONLINE

Oxford University Press Web site,http://www.oup-usa.org/ (March 18, 2003).*

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