St. Clair, William 1937- (William Linn St. Clair)
St. Clair, William 1937- (William Linn St. Clair)
Home—London, England. Office—Trinity College, University of Cambridge, CB2 1TQ England. E-mail—[email protected]
Writer. Employed by British Ministry of Defence, 1960-66, Foreign Office, first secretary, 1966-69, and Her Majesty's Treasury, secretary, 1969-c. 1974, assistant secretary, 1974-78, head of Industrial Policy Division, 1979, head of Overseas Aid Division, 1979-82, head of Superannuation Division, 1982-85, deputy head of Cabinet Office/Treasury Joint Management Unit, 1985-88, grade 4, 1988-90, grade 3 (undersecretary), beginning 1990; Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), consultant, 1991-98; Trinity College, Cambridge, England, fellow, visiting fellow, 1997-98, senior research fellow, 1998—. Also All Souls College Oxford, visiting fellow, 1981-82, fellow, 1992-96; Huntington Library, CA, visiting fellow, 1985.
Byron Society (joint chair, 1978—).
Heinemann Award from Royal Society of Literature, 1973, for That Greece Might Still Be Free; Heinemann Prize for Literature, 1973; Time Life Award for British Non-Fiction, 1990; Thalassa Forum Award for Culture, 2000.
(Editor) Trelawny's Adventures of a Younger Son, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1974.
Trelawny: The Incurable Romancer, J. Murray (London, England), 1977, Vanguard (New York, NY), 1978.
The Godwins and the Shelleys: The Biography of a Family, Norton (New York, NY), 1989.
(Editor, with Irmgard Maasen) Conduct Literature for Women, 1500 to 1640, Pickering & Chatto (London, England), 2000.
(Editor, with Irmgard Maasen) Conduct Literature for Women, 1640 to 1710, Pickering & Chatto (London, England), 2002.
(Editor and contributor, with Peter France) Mapping Lives: The Uses of Biography, Oxford University Press for the British Academy (New York, NY), 2002.
The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 2004.
The Grand Slave Emporium: Cape Coast Castle and the British Slave Trade, Profile Books (London, England), 2006, printed as The Door of No Return: The History of Cape Coast Castle and the Atlantic Slave Trade, BlueBridge (New York, NY), 2007.
Contributor to books, including The Parthenon and Its Sculpture, edited by Michael Cosmopoulos, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 2004, and Imperialism, Art, and Restitution, edited by John Henry Merryman, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 2006. Contributing editor, Shelley and His Circle.
William St. Clair's Lord Elgin and the Marbles is a biography of the British aristocrat who is perhaps best remembered for bringing an extensive collection of ancient Greek sculpture to the British Museum. Elgin is considered to be a controversial figure by some observers for the methods he employed to gain possession of these artworks. St. Clair's account focuses on Elgin's later years and his reactions to the criticisms he received. A contributor the Times Literary Supplement called Lord Elgin and the Marbles "a measured, well-founded, wise, witty, and intensely interesting vindication." K.D. Matthews in Classical World noted that St. Clair's "account cannot help but evoke pity for Lord Elgin." Matthews went on to write: "St. Clair's style is precise, factual, and most pleasing [and] the book altogether is quite enjoyable and very informative."
In That Greece Might Still Be Free: The Philhellenes in the War of Independence, St. Clair examines the over one thousand foreign volunteers who helped Greece fight for its independence from Turkey. M.H. Ridgeway, reviewing the book for Library Journal, found that "St. Clair recounts the philhellenes' futile history with clarity and intelligence" and noted that the volume is "a readable and scholarly contribution to modern Greek history." Mervyn Jones of New Statesman described St. Clair's account as "thoroughly researched, written with elegance and trenchancy, and altogether fascinating to read."
In The Godwins and the Shelleys: The Biography of a Family, St. Clair recounts the story of William Godwin, an outspoken political theorist of the late eighteenth century, his wife Mary Wollstonecraft, a leading feminist, their daughter Mary Wollstonecroft Godwin, the author of Frankenstein, and their son-in-law, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. In most accounts of these figures, Godwin is depicted as a money-hungry man who frequently borrowed from the wealthy Shelley and who, hypocritically, changed his views on marriage to suit his own changing circumstances. "St. Clair," according to Leslie A. Marchand in the New York Times Book Review, "has stressed certain details which give a slightly different slant to the familiar story, generally in Godwin's favor." Marchand also wrote in the same review: "St. Clair does not deny any of the biographical facts but sees them as far as possible from Godwin's point of view." Marchand found that St. Clair's book "is much more than the biography of a family. It is in large measure the biography of an era, with multifaceted sidelights on men and women and manners." The reviewer went on to write: "With consummate skill, fortified by his well-digested knowledge of the history and personalities of the period, he fills in the background with no flagging of narrative interest." Marchand added: "In the end the reader comes away with the feeling that he has witnessed a panorama of intellectual history which transcends the records of individual failures and weaknesses."
St. Clair, along with Peter France, served as coeditor of and contributor to Mapping Lives: The Uses of Biography. The book includes eighteen essays by biographers who examine the history and development of the art of biography. Martin Stannard in Modern Language Review called Mapping Lives "one of the best contributions to the life-writing critical industry of the last decade," adding that it "has much to say about biography generally." Jeremy Black, writing in the Journal of European Studies, referred to the book as "an interesting collection, literary in concern and tone rather than historical."
The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period was called "one of the most important scholarly books I have ever read" by Philological Quarterly contributor Robert D. Hume. The book examines Great Britain's and Europe's national culture via the books that people read at the time. Focusing on the Romantic period in the English-speaking world, the author discusses the forces that determined how ideas were carried into a wide society via print. St. Clair includes details on prices, print runs, intellectual property, and readerships.
"This is an astonishing book," wrote Richard Cronin in Modern Language Review. Cronin went on to note: "Instead of asking what books were written in the period, he asks what books were read, and the results are dramatic." Victorian Studies contributor Andrew Elfenbein commented: "William St. Clair's The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period is the kind of book that few academics are able to write anymore: a massive compilation of material, based on years of archival work, that thoroughly transforms knowledge about a topic of widespread interest."
The Door of No Return: The History of Cape Coast Castle and the Atlantic Slave Trade is, according to New York Times Book Review contributor Caroline Elkins, "a readable and detailed account of Britain's role in the slave trade between West Africa and the United States, Brazil and the Caribbean." Published in England as The Grand Slave Emporium: Cape Coast Castle and the British Slave Trade, the book examines the many people and organizations that were involved in or contributed to the slave trade, from financiers and government and religious officials to the average person and Britain's royalty. "There have been many books written on the slave trade, of course, but St. Clair has a new angle," noted Elkins. "He relates the history of a single building, Cape Coast Castle, where Britain had its headquarters … for the slave trade on Africa's Gold Coast." It was through this location that many Africans passed through on their way to becoming slaves. Vanessa Bush, writing in Booklist, called The Door of No Return "thoroughly fascinating."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Historical Review, April, 1968, review of Lord Elgin and the Marbles, p. 1153.
Atlantis, Revista de la Asociacin Española de Estudios Anglo-Norteamericanos, December, 2005, Ricardo Miguel Alfonso, review of The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period, p. 227.
Biography, summer, 2004, Kenneth Silverman, review of Mapping Lives: The Uses of Biography.
Booklist, February 1, 2007, Vanessa Bush, review of The Door of No Return: The History of Cape Coast Castle and the Atlantic Slave Trade, p. 28.
Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, February, 2005, J.K. Bracken, review of The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period, p. 1008.
Classical World, February, 1968, K.D. Matthews, review of Lord Elgin and the Marbles, p. 256.
Economist, August 12, 1967, review of Lord Elgin and the Marbles, p. 580; June 3, 1972, review of That Greece Might Still Be Free: The Philhellenes in the War of Independence, p. 61.
Huntington Library Quarterly, winter-spring, 2001, Arthur F. Kinney, "Constructing Proper Womanly Conduct," p. 261.
Journal of European Studies, March, 2003, Jeremy Black, review of Mapping Lives, p. 56.
Journal of Folklore Research, January, 2006, Mary Ellen Brown, review of The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period, p. 82.
Journal of Historical Geography, January, 2005, Robert J. Mayhew, review of The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period, p. 198.
Legal Information Management, summer, 2005, Ronald Mackay, review of The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period.
Library Journal, July, 1972, M.H. Ridgeway, review of That Greece Might Still Be Free, p. 2394.
London Review of Books, January 20, 2005, Ian Gilmour, "Out of Bounds," review of The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period, p. 26.
Modern Language Review, July, 2004, Martin Stannard, review of Mapping Lives, p. 727; July, 2006, Richard Cronin, review of The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period, p. 830.
New Statesman, June 2, 1972, Mervyn Jones, review of That Greece Might Still Be Free, p. 753.
New York Times Book Review, Leslie A. Marchand, November 5, 1989, review of The Godwins and the Shelleys: The Biography of a Family, p. 38; May 20, 2007, Caroline Elkins, "The Gates of Hell," review of The Door of No Return.
Nineteenth-Century Literature, September, 2005, Diego Saglia, review of The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period, p. 237.
Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, March, 2006, Leslie Howsam, review of The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period, p. 152.
Philological Quarterly, summer, 2004, Robert D. Hume, review of The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period.
Sixteenth Century Journal, summer, 2005, Kathryn Brammall, review of Conduct Literature for Women, 1500-1640.
Times Higher Education Supplement, June 24, 2005, Asa Briggs, "A Few Words, Patient Reader, on the Object of Your Affection," review of The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period, p. 24.
Times Literary Supplement, July 13, 1967, review of Lord Elgin and the Marbles, p. 620; September 1, 1972, review of That Greece Might Still Be Free, p. 1024; September 22, 2006, Adam Hochschild, "Apart from Selling People," review of The Door of No Return, p. 24.
Victorian Studies, spring, 2005, Andrew Elfenbein, review of The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period.
Bookbag,http://www.thebookbag.co.uk/ (September 25, 2007), Jacqueline Kay, review of The Grand Slave Emporium: Cape Coast Castle and the British Slave Trade.
Trinity College Cambridge Web site,http://www.trin.cam.ac.uk/ (September 25, 2007), faculty profile of author.