Richard Mabey & Alexandra Harris: Lives of Naturalists

Part 1

In Part 1, celebrated nature writer Richard Mabey discusses the relationship between biography, nature, and place with literary critic Alexandra Harris. They delve into a life-writing classic, Richard's biography of the eighteenth-century naturalist Gilbert White, which won the Whitbread Biography Prize in 1986, and discuss what drew him to write about 'this quiet curate of Selbourne' and the ways in which a writer's sense of place may shape their writing. This episode is part of our flagship series of Weinrebe Lectures. It is the first instalment of an annual collaboration with the Arts of Place Network at the University of Birmingham, which promotes work on cultural histories of landscape, locality and environment.


Part 2

In Part 2, Richard Mabey, Alexandra Harris, and Katherine Collins discuss the connections between life-writing and place. They talk about the overlap between science and poetry as ways of exploring the world around us, how our senses shape our writing, Gilbert White's attempt to communicate with his pet tortoise, and Richard's ideas about the future of nature writing.


Find out more about

Richard Mabey: 

Alexandra Harris:

Arts of Place:


Works mentioned

Richard Mabey, Gilbert White: A biography of the author of The Natural History of Selbourne [1986] (Allen & Unwin, 2006).

Richard Mabey, Food for Free [1972] (Harper Collins, 2007).

Richard Mabey, Gilbert White: A biography of the author of The Natural History of Selbourne [1986] (Allen & Unwin, 2006).

Alice Oswald, ‘Tithonus, 46 minutes in the life of the dawn’ in Falling Awake (Johnathan Cape, 2016).

Annie Dillard, The Writing Life [1989] (Harper Collins, 2013).

Richard Powers, The Overstory (W.W. Norton and Company, 2018).

Verlyn Kinklenborg, Timothy, or Notes of an Abject Reptile (Alfred A. Knopf, 2006).


Artwork by Una.

Edited by Charles Pidgeon.


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