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Summary

Famous fans choose their favourite writers for BBC Radio 4's Great Lives.

For 20 years, Great Lives has been a cornerstone of the Radio 4 schedules, presented by Joan Bakewell, Humphrey Carpenter, Francine Stock and Matthew Parris. Each week, a well-known personality is invited to select someone who has inspired them. They then discuss the 'Great Life' with the presenter and a guest expert to decide whether their hero really merits the accolade. 

This special collection, celebrating the programme's 20th anniversary, contains the very best episodes featuring authors' lives - from novelists to poets, playwrights to food writers. The eclectic selections include Armando Iannucci on Charles Dickens, Caroline Criado Perez on Jane Austen, and Rich Hall on Tennessee Williams. Two prime ministers, John Major and Boris Johnson, discuss the lives of Rudyard Kipling and Samuel Johnson respectively, while MP Rory Stewart champions Sir Walter Scott and Andrew Motion, poet laureate, nominates Alfred, Lord Tennyson. 

From Fay Weldon on H. G. Wells, to Prue Leith on Elizabeth David, the lives of the guests themselves are revealed to be just as fascinating as those of their chosen candidates for greatness. 

Illuminating and insightful, these gripping Great Lives episodes track the highs and lows of some of the most illustrious characters in the world of literature, sifting fact from fiction to show why they achieved so much and how they have inspired and influenced so many. 

List of episodes and date of first broadcast on BBC Radio 4:
HG Wells 12.10.2001
George Eliot 7.6.2002
Lord Byron 19.7.2002
Charles Dickins 21.11.2003
Edith Wharton 14.5.2004
George Orwell 12.11.2004
Robert Burns 31.12.2004
Elizabeth Gaskell 20.5.2005
Robert Louis Stevenson 22.4.2005
George Sand 8.4.2005
Vasily Grossman 28.10.2005
Anton Chekhov 17.4.2007
George Bernard Shaw 29.5.2007
Elizabeth David 25.9.2007
Katherine Mansfield 22.1.2008
Charles Bukowski 8.4.2008
Dr Samuel Johnson 8.9.2009
Rudyard Kipling 29.9.2009
Alfred, Lord Tennyson 4.8.2009
Tennessee Williams 15.12.2009
Bertolt Brecht 06.04.2010
Michel de Montaigne 21.09.2010
Samuel Beckett 21.12.2010
DH Lawrence 14.12.2010
Lewis Carroll 3.5.2011
Simone de Beauvoir 19.04.2011
Hans Fallada 6.9.2011
William Shakespeare 30.08.2011
Sir Walter Scott 14.8.2012
John Updike 07.01.2014
Elie Wiesel 13.12.2016
CS Lewis 03.01.2017
Jane Austen 7.5.2019

Presented by Matthew Parris, Francine Stock and Humphrey Carpenter. 

Produced by Perminder Khatkar, Miles Warde, Jolyon Jenkins, John Byrne, Maggie Ayre, Toby Field, Alasdair Cross, Mary Ward Lowery, Peter Everett, Mark Smalley, Isobel Eaton, Jolyon Jenkins, Christine Hall, Lizz Pearson, Beth O'Dea, Paul Dodgson, Nicola Humphries, Chris Ledgard, Melvin Rickarby, Camellia Sinclair, Eliza Lomas and Beatrice Fenton.

©2021 BBC Studios Distribution Ltd (P)2021 BBC Studios Distribution Ltd

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