Gyles Brandreth was born in a British Forces Hospital in
Germany, where, in the aftermath of the Second World War, his father, Charles
Brandreth, was serving as a legal officer with the Allied Control Commission and
counted among his colleagues, H Montgomery Hyde, who, in 1948, published the
first full account of the trials of Oscar Wilde. In 1974, at the Oxford Theatre
Festival, Brandreth produced the first stage version of The Trials of
Oscar Wilde, with Tom Baker as Wilde, and, in 2000, he edited the
transcripts of the trials for an audio production starring Martin Jarvis.
He was educated at the Lycée Français de Londres, at Betteshanger School in Kent, and at Bedales School in Hampshire. Like Robert Sherard, Brandreth went on to New College, Oxford, where he was a scholar, President of the Union and editor of the university magazine, and then, again like Sherard, embarked on a career as an author and journalist. His first book, Created in Captivity (1972), was a study of prison reform; his first biography, The Funniest Man on Earth (1974), was a portrait of the Victorian music-hall star, Dan Leno. More recently he has published a biography of the actor, Sir John Gielgud, as well as an acclaimed diary of his years as an MP and government whip (Breaking the Code: Westminster Diaries 1990-97) and two best-selling royal biographies: Philip & Elizabeth: Portrait of a Marriage and Charles & Camilla: Portrait of a Love Affair.
Robert Sherard's forebears included William Wordsworth. Gyles Brandreth's include the somewhat less eminent poet, George R Sims (1847-1922), who wrote the ballads Billy's dead and gone to glory and Christmas Day in the workhouse. Sims was also the first journalist to claim to know the true identity of 'Jack the Ripper'. Sims, a kinsman of the Empress Eugénie and an acquaintance of both Oscar Wilde and Arthur Conan Doyle, was arguably the first 'celebrity columnist' and well-known in his day for his endorsement of an 'infallible cure for baldness': 'Tatcho - The Geo R Sims Hair Restorer'.
As a broadcaster, Gyles Brandreth has presented numerous series for BBC Radio 4, including A Rhyme in Time, Sound Advice and Whispers - coincidentally the title of Robert Sherard's first collection of poetry. A regular guest on Just a Minute and Countdown, his television appearances have ranged from being the guest host of Have I Got News for You to being the subject of This Is Your Life. On stage he has starred in an award-winning revue in the West End and appeared as Malvolio in a musical version of Twelfth Night in Edinburgh. With Hinge & Bracket he scripted the TV series, Dear Ladies; with Julian Slade he wrote a play about A A Milne (featuring Aled Jones as Christopher Robin); and, with Susannah Pearse, he has written a new musical about Lewis Carroll, The Last Photograph.
He is married to the writer and publisher Michèle Brown. They have three children: a barrister, a writer and an environmental economist.
This biography was last updated on 08/05/2011.
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Gyles Brandreth Answers Questions about the Oscar Wilde Mysteries
How did the idea to write a murder mystery series, with Oscar Wilde as one of the main characters, come about?
How did it come about? It's a long story, so I'll try to keep it short.
Since I was a boy, I have been an avid admirer of both the works of Oscar Wilde and the adventures of Sherlock Holmes. (For the first ten years of my life I lived a stone's throw from Tite Street, the London home of Sherlock Holmes. When I was ten, my family moved to Baker Street and we lived on the block that includes 221B.)
Anyway...about ten years ago, in the late 1990s, by chance, I picked up a copy of Memories and Adventures, the autobiography of Arthur Conan Doyle, published in 1924, and discovered, on page 94, that Arthur Conan Doyle and Oscar Wilde were friends. I was amazed. It would be hard to imagine an odder couple.
They met in 1889, at the newly built Langham Hotel in Portland Place in London's West End. They were brought together by an American publisher, J. M. Stoddart, who happened to be in England commissioning material for Lippincott's Magazine. Evidently, Oscar, then thirty-five, was on song that night and Conan Doyle, thirty, was ...
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