Park Honan, a Biographer of Authors, Is Dead at 86

Historians in the News
tags: obituary, Park Honan

Park Honan, an American biographer whose prodigious research opened new vistas on the family history of some of Britain’s greatest literary figures and reshaped modern views about their personalities, died on Sept. 27 in Leeds, England. He was 86.

The cause was liver cancer, his daughter, Corinna Honan, said.

Mr. Honan wrote five major biographies in the last four decades, including books on Jane Austen and Shakespeare. Most were considered high-water marks in scholarship about their subjects.

He was the co-author, with William Irvine, of a 1974 biography of Robert Browning that was described by Anthony Burgess in The New York Times Book Review as the best in the field, unlikely to be surpassed “for a decade at least.” He wrote the first major biography of Matthew Arnold, a poet and social critic chiefly famous for his foppishness until Mr. Honan’s 1981 “Matthew Arnold: A Life” recast him as one of the most influential progressive voices of Victorian England.

The renowned British Shakespeare scholar Stanley Wells reviewed Mr. Honan’s 1998 “Shakespeare: A Life” for The Observer and called it “the best available life of Shakespeare.” ...

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