|Headquarters||Somerset House, London, England, United Kingdom|
|Dame Marina Warner DBE|
|Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall|
The Royal Society of Literature (RSL) is a learned society founded in 1820, by King George IV, to "reward literary merit and excite literary talent". The society is a cultural tenant at London's Somerset House.
The Royal Society of Literature (RSL) was founded in 1820, with the patronage of George IV, to "reward literary merit and excite literary talent",and its first president was Thomas Burgess, Bishop of St David's (who was later translated as Bishop of Salisbury).
At the heart of the RSL is its Fellowship, "which encompasses the most distinguished writers working today", with the RSL Council, Chair and President, who are responsible for its direction and management, being drawn from the Fellowship. As an independent charity, the RSL receives no regular public or government funding, relying on the support of its Members, Patrons, Fellows and friends to continue its work. The RSL has about 600 Fellows, elected from among the best writers in any genre currently at work. Additionally, Honorary Fellows are chosen from those who have made a significant contribution to the advancement of literature, including publishers, agents, librarians, booksellers or producers, or who have rendered special service to the RSL.Paid membership is open to all and offers a variety of benefits.
The society publishes an annual magazine, The Royal Society of Literature Review,and administers a number of literary prizes and awards, including the RSL Ondaatje Prize, the RSL Jerwood Awards for Non-Fiction, the RSL Encore Award for best second novel of the year and the V. S. Pritchett Memorial Prize for short stories.
In 2020, the RSL celebrated its 200th anniversary with the announcement of RSL 200, "a five-year festival launched with a series of major new initiatives and 60 new appointments championing the great diversity of writing and writers in the UK".
The society maintains its current level of about 600 Fellows of the Royal Society of Literature: generally 14 new fellows are elected annually, who are accorded the privilege of using the post-nominal letters FRSL.
Past fellows include Samuel Taylor Coleridge, J. R. R. Tolkien, W. B. Yeats, Rudyard Kipling, Thomas Hardy, George Bernard Shaw, Arthur Koestler, Chinua Achebe, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Robert Ardrey, Sybille Bedford, Muriel Spark, P. J. Kavanagh, and Sir Roger Scruton. Present Fellows include Margaret Atwood, Bernardine Evaristo, David Hare, Kazuo Ishiguro, Hilary Mantel, Andrew Motion, Paul Muldoon, Zadie Smith, Nadeem Aslam, Sarah Waters, Geoffrey Ashe and J. K. Rowling. A newly created fellow inscribes his or her name on the society's official roll using either Byron's pen, T. S. Eliot's fountain pen, which replaced Dickens's quill in 2013,or (as of 2018) George Eliot's pen.
From time to time the RSL confers the honour and title of Companion of Literature to writers of particular note. Additionally the RSL can bestow its award of the Benson Medal for lifetime service in the field of literature.
The RSL runs a membership programme offering a variety of events to members and the general public. Membership of the RSL is open to all.
The RSL also runs an outreach programme, currently for young people and those in prison.
The RSL administers two annual prizes, two awards, and two honours. Through its prize programmes, the RSL supports new and established contemporary writers.
The Council of the Royal Society of Literature is central to the election of new fellows, and directs the RSL's activities through its monthly meetings. Council members serve for a fixed term of four years, with new members being elected by Council when members retire.
The Royal Society of Literature comprises over 600 Fellows who are entitled to use the post-nominal letters FRSL.
New fellows of the Royal Society of Literature are elected by its current fellows. To be nominated for fellowship, a writer must have published two works of literary merit, and nominations must be seconded by an RSL fellow. All nominations are presented to members of the Council of the Royal Society of Literature, who vote biannually to elect new fellows. Nominated candidates who have not been successful are reconsidered at every election for three years from the year in which they were proposed. Newly elected fellows are introduced at the Society's AGM and summer party. While the President reads a citation for each, they are invited to sign their names in the roll book which dates back to 1820, using either T. S. Eliot's fountain pen or Byron's pen. In 2013, Charles Dickens's quill was retired and replaced with Eliot's fountain pen,and in 2018 George Eliot's pen was offered as a choice, the first time in the RSL's history that a pen that belonged to a woman writer was an option. In 2018 the RSL honoured the achievements of Britain's younger writers through the initiative "40 Under 40", which saw the election of 40 new fellows aged under 40.
|*Julia Abel Smith DL||2008|
|*Melanie Abrahams FRSA||2020|
|Peter Ackroyd CBE||1984|
|Donald Adamson JP FSA FRHistS||1983|
|Fleur Adcock CNZM OBE||1984|
|Fergus Allen CB||2000|
|*Ellah Wakatama Allfrey OBE||2019|
|Kwame Anthony Appiah||2017|
|Lisa Appignanesi OBE||2015|
|Simon Armitage CBE||2004|
|Bruce Arnold OBE||1994|
|Rosemary Ashton OBE FBA||1999|
|Diana Athill OBE||2001|
|Kate Atkinson MBE||2010|
|Margaret Atwood CC FRSC C Lit||2010|
|Sir Alan Ayckbourn CBE||1991|
|Richard Barber FSA FRHistS||1971|
|Pat Barker CBE||1995|
|Correlli Barnett CBE||1964|
|Sir Jonathan Bate CBE FBA||2004|
|Dame Mary Beard||2019|
|Dame Gillian Beer DBE FBA||2006|
|Anne Olivier Bell MBE||1984|
|Anthea Bell OBE||2013|
|Malorie Blackman OBE||2009|
|Sir Quentin Blake CBE RDI||2013|
|Ronald Blythe, Benson Medallist||1970|
|* Mair Bosworth||2020|
|William Boyd CBE||1982|
|Melvyn Bragg (The Lord Bragg DL)||1971|
|Simon Brett OBE||2015|
|Raymond Briggs CBE||1993|
|Robin Briggs FBA FRHistS||1999|
|*Margaret Busby OBE, Benson Medallist||2017|
|A. S. Byatt (Dame Antonia Byatt DBE)||1983|
|David Cairns CBE||2001|
|Dame Carmen Callil DBE, Benson Medallist||2010|
|Sir David Cannadine FBA FSA FRHistS||1999|
|John Carey FBA||1982|
|Peter Carey AO||1989|
|David Caute JP FRHistS||1998|
|Anne Chisholm OBE||1989|
|*Michael Codron CBE||2019|
|J. M. Coetzee||1988|
|Linda Colley (Lady Cannadine CBE FBA FRHistS)||2004|
|P. J. Conrad||1974|
|Wendy Cope OBE||1992|
|Frank Cottrell Boyce||2012|
|William Dalrymple FRGS FRAS||1995|
|Richard Davenport-Hines FRHistS||2003|
|Norman Davies CMG FBA FRHistS||2013|
|Richard Dawkins FRS||1997|
|April De Angelis||2020|
|Louis de Bernières||2006|
|Alain de Botton||2011|
|Anita Desai, Benson Medallist||1978|
|David Dilks FRHistS||1986|
|Dame Margaret Drabble DBE||1973|
|Dame Carol Ann Duffy DBE||1999|
|Maureen Duffy FKC, Benson Medallist, Vice-President||1985|
|Douglas Dunn OBE||1981|
|Max Egremont (The Lord Egremont DL FSA)||2001|
|Sir Richard Evans FBA FRHistS FLSW||1999|
|Bernardine Evaristo MBE||2004|
|Sir Richard Eyre CBE||2011|
|Moris Farhi MBE||2001|
|Sebastian Faulks CBE||1994|
|James Fenton FSA||1983|
|Adam Fergusson MEP||2009|
|Maggie Fergusson MBE||2007|
|The Hon. William Fiennes||2009|
|Anne Fine OBE||2003|
|Aminatta Forna OBE||2012|
|Richard Fortey FRS||2009|
|Roy Foster FBA FRHistS||1992|
|Lady Antonia Fraser DBE||2003|
|Michael Frayn C Lit||1969|
|Jane Gardam OBE||2005|
|Alan Garner OBE||2011|
|Timothy Garton Ash CMG FRHistS||2005|
|Maggie Gee OBE, Vice-President||1994|
|Sir David Gilmour Bt||1990|
|Mark Girouard FSA Hon FRIBA||1994|
|The Hon. Victoria Glendinning CBE, Vice-President||1982|
|Grey Gowrie (The Earl of Gowrie PC)||2003|
|A. C. Grayling||2006|
|John Haffenden FBA||1986|
|The Lord Hague PC||2009|
|Christopher Hampton CBE||1976|
|Sir David Hare||1985|
|Richard Harries (The Rt Rev The Lord Harries of Pentregarth)||1996|
|Sir Wilson Harris||2007|
|Sir Ronald Harwood CBE, Vice-President||1974|
|Sir Max Hastings FRHistS||1996|
|Lady Selina Hastings||1994|
|Roy Hattersley (The Lord Hattersley PC)||2003|
|Cameron Hazlehurst FRHistS||1973|
|*Drue Heinz Hon DBE||2002|
|John Hemming CMG||2013|
|W. N. Herbert||2015|
|Richard Holmes OBE FBA||1975|
|Sir Michael Holroyd CBE FRHistS C Lit, President Emeritus||1968|
|Kathryn Hughes FRHistS||2006|
|Shirley Hughes OBE||2000|
|*Sir Nicholas Hytner||2019|
|Kazuo Ishiguro OBE||1989|
|Clive James CBE AM||2010|
|Sir Simon Jenkins FSA||2003|
|Linton Kwesi Johnson||2013|
|Steve Jones FRS||2011|
|Gabriel Josipovici FBA||1997|
|Margaret Jull Costa OBE||2013|
|Jackie Kay MBE||2002|
|Jonathan Keates FSA||1992|
|Thomas Keneally AO||1973|
|A. L. Kennedy||1999|
|*The Duke of Kent KG||1978|
|Hari Kunzru CBE||2014|
|Hanif Kureishi CBE||2008|
|Kwame Kwei-Armah OBE||2014|
|Robin Lane Fox||1974|
|Dame Hermione Lee DBE FBA||1992|
|Mike Leigh OBE||2008|
|Dame Penelope Lively DBE||1985|
|David Lodge CBE||1976|
|Michael Longley CBE||1988|
|Roger Lonsdale FBA||1989|
|Alexander McCall Smith||2014|
|Fiona MacCarthy OBE||1997|
|Ian McDonald AA||1970|
|Ian McEwan CBE||1983|
|Roger McGough CBE||2004|
|Sir Noel Malcolm FBA||1997|
|Dame Hilary Mantel DBE, Vice-President||1990|
|Allan Massie CBE||1982|
|Douglas Matthews MBE FCLIP, Benson Medallist||1998|
|Michael Millgate FRSC||1983|
|Julian Mitchell FSA||1985|
|Caroline Moorehead OBE||1993|
|Michael Morpurgo OBE||2004|
|Jan Morris CBE||1961|
|Kate Mosse OBE||2020|
|Sir Andrew Motion||1984|
|Sir Ferdinand Mount Bt||1991|
|Alice Munro C Lit||2002|
|V. S. Naipaul (Sir Vidia Naipaul C Lit)||1962|
|*Susheila Nasta MBE, Benson Medallist||2019|
|Adam Nicolson (The Lord Carnock FSA)||2005|
|The Hon. Gerard Noel||1999|
|John Julius Norwich (The Viscount Norwich CVO FSA)||1970|
|Ben Okri OBE||1997|
|*Sir Christopher Ondaatje OC CBE||2003|
|Michael Ondaatje OC||2012|
|Don Paterson OBE||2004|
|Jill Paton Walsh CBE||1996|
|Mike Phillips OBE||2000|
|Stephen Poliakoff CBE||1985|
|(Baron) David Profumo||1995|
|Philip Pullman CBE, Vice-President||2001|
|Ian Rankin OBE, DL, FRSE||2016|
|Piers Paul Read||1972|
|Sir Christopher Ricks FBA||1970|
|Professor The Hon. Jane Ridley||2007|
|The Viscount Ridley DL FMedSci||1999|
|Andrew Roberts FRSA||2001|
|J. K. Rowling OBE||2002|
|Anthony Rudolf FEA||2005|
|Sir Salman Rushdie||1983|
|Edward St Aubyn||2011|
|William St Clair FBA||1973|
|*Marina Salandy-Brown FRSA||2020|
|Fiona Sampson MBE||2010|
|Philippe Sands QC||2020|
|J. J. Scarisbrick MBE FRHistS||1969|
|Michael Schmidt OBE||1993|
|The Rev Professor M.A. Screech FBA||1989|
|Roger Scruton FBA||2003|
|Vikram Seth CBE||1994|
|Miranda Seymour FRSA||1996|
|Posy Simmonds MBE||2004|
|Andrew Sinclair FRSA||1972|
|Robert Skidelsky (The Lord Skidelsky of Tilton FBA FRHistS)||1978|
|Ali Smith CBE||2007|
|*John Saumarez Smith, Benson Medallist||1996|
|*Wole Soyinka, Benson Medallist||1983|
|Frances Spalding CBE||1984|
|Hilary Spurling CBE||2005|
|C. K. Stead ONZ CBE||1995|
|George Steiner FBA||1962|
|Rory Stewart OBE MP||2009|
|Sir Tom Stoppard OM CBE C Lit||1972|
|Sir Roy Strong FSA||1999|
|*David Sutton, Benson Medallist||2012|
|Meera Syal CBE||2017|
|Michael Symmons Roberts||2014|
|D. J. Taylor||1997|
|Colin Thubron CBE, President||1969|
|Anthony Thwaite OBE FSA||1978|
|(Count) Nikolai Tolstoy||1979|
|Claire Tomalin, Vice-President||1976|
|*Boyd Tonkin, Benson Medallist||2020|
|Rose Tremain CBE||1983|
|Jenny Uglow CBE FSA, Benson Medallist||1998|
|*The Prince of Wales KG OM||2002|
|James Walvin OBE||2006|
|Dame Marina Warner FBA||1984|
|Fay Weldon CBE||1986|
|Stanley Wells CBE||2013|
|Helen Wilcox FRSA FEA||1999|
|The Rt Revd The Lord Williams of Oystermouth PC FBA FLSW||2003|
|*Mary-Kay Wilmers, Benson Medallist||2017|
|A. N. Wilson||1982|
|Dame Jacqueline Wilson DBE||2005|
|Jeanette Winterson CBE||2016|
|Lewis Wolpert CBE FRS FMEdSci||1999|
|Ann Wroe FRHistS||2007|
|*Baroness Lola Young||2020|
|Adam Zamoyski FSA||2006|
|Theodore Zeldin CBE FBA FRHistS||1999|
|Philip Ziegler CVO FRHistS||1972|
The * before the name denotes an Honorary Fellow. The list is online at the RSL website.
Pascale Petit, is a French-born British poet of French/Welsh/Indian heritage. She was born in Paris and grew up in France and Wales. She trained as a sculptor at the Royal College of Art and was a visual artist for the first part of her life. She has travelled widely, particularly in the Peruvian and Venezuelan Amazon and India.
Sir Victor Sawdon Pritchett was a British writer and literary critic.
Dame Hermione Lee, is a British biographer, literary critic and academic. She is a former President of Wolfson College, Oxford, and a former Goldsmiths' Professor of English Literature in the University of Oxford and professorial fellow of New College. She is a fellow of the British Academy and of the Royal Society of Literature.
Dame Marina Sarah Warner,, is an English novelist, short story writer, historian and mythographer. She is known for her many non-fiction books relating to feminism and myth. She has written for many publications, including The London Review of Books, the New Statesman, Sunday Times, The Daily Telegraph and Vogue. She has been a visiting professor, given lectures and taught on the faculties of many universities.
Colin Gerald Dryden Thubron, FRAS is a British travel writer and novelist. In 2008, The Times ranked him among the 50 greatest postwar British writers. He is a contributor to The New York Review of Books, The Times, The Times Literary Supplement and The New York Times. His books have been translated into more than twenty languages. Thubron was appointed a CBE in the 2007 New Year Honours. He is a Fellow and, between 2009–2017, was President of the Royal Society of Literature.
John Burnside FRSL FRSE is a Scottish writer, born in Dunfermline. He is one of only three poets to have won both the T. S. Eliot Prize and the Forward Poetry Prize for the same book.
Helon Habila Ngalabak is a Nigerian novelist and poet, whose writing has won many prizes, including the Caine Prize in 2001. He worked as a lecturer and journalist in Nigeria before moving in 2002 to England, where he was a Chevening Scholar at the University of East Anglia, and now teaches creative writing at George Mason University, Washington, D.C.
Peter Kenrick Florence,, is a British festival director, most notable for founding the Hay Festival with his father and mother, Norman Florence and Rhoda Florence, funding the first festival with winnings from a poker game. In October 2020, he was suspended from his position as Director of Hay Festival due to allegations of bullying.
Bernardine Anne Mobolaji Evaristo, OBE, FRSL, FRSA, FEA, is a British author. Her eighth book, the novel, Girl, Woman, Other, won the Booker Prize in 2019, making her the first black woman and the first black British person to win it. In 2020 she won the British Book Awards: Fiction Book of the Year and Author of the Year, as well as the Indie Book Award for Fiction. The novel was one of Barack Obama's 19 Favourite Books of 2019 and Roxane Gay's Favourite Book of 2019. In June 2020 she became the first woman of colour and the first black British writer to get to number 1 in the UK paperback fiction charts, where she held the top spot for five weeks. The novel is currently being translated into 35 languages. Evaristo's writing also includes short fiction, drama, poetry, essays, literary criticism, and projects for stage and radio. Two of her books, The Emperor's Babe (2001) and Hello Mum (2010), have been adapted into BBC Radio 4 dramas.
Peter Ackroyd, is an English biographer, novelist and critic with a particular interest in the history and culture of London. For his novels about English history and culture and his biographies of, among others, William Blake, Charles Dickens, T. S. Eliot, Charles Chaplin and Sir Thomas More, he won the Somerset Maugham Award and two Whitbread Awards. He is noted for the volume of work he has produced, the range of styles therein, his skill at assuming different voices, and the depth of his research.
Wasafiri is a quarterly British literary magazine covering international contemporary writing. Founded in 1984, the magazine derives its name from a Swahili word meaning "travellers" that is etymologically linked with the Arabic word "safari". The magazine holds that many of those who created the literatures in which it is particularly interested "...have all in some sense been cultural travellers either through migration, transportation or else, in the more metaphorical sense of seeking an imagined cultural 'home'." Funded by the Arts Council England, Wasafiri is "a journal of post-colonial literature that pays attention to the wealth of Black and diasporic writers worldwide. It is Britain's only international magazine for Black British, African, Asian and Caribbean literatures.”
Ellah Wakatama, OBE, Hon. FRSL, is Editor-at-Large at Canongate Books, a senior Research Fellow at Manchester University and Chair of the AKO Caine Prize for African Writing. She was the founding Publishing Director of the Indigo Press. A London-based editor and critic, she was on the judging panel of the 2017 International Dublin Literary Award and the 2015 Man Booker Prize. In 2016, she was Visiting Professor & Global Intercultural Scholar at Goshen College, Indiana, and was Guest Master for the 2016 Gabriel Garcia Marquez Foundation international journalism fellowship in Cartagena, Colombia. The former deputy editor of Granta magazine, she was senior editor at Jonathan Cape, Random House and assistant editor at Penguin. She is series editor of the Kwani? Manuscript Project and the editor of the anthologies Africa39 and Safe House: Explorations in Creative Nonfiction.
Jacob Ross is a Grenada-born poet, playwright, journalist, novelist and creative writing tutor, based in the UK since 1984.
Diana Omo Evans FRSL is a British novelist, journalist and critic who was born and lives in London. Evans has written three full-length novels. Her first novel, 26a, published in 2005, won the Orange Award for New Writers, the Betty Trask Award and the deciBel Writer of the Year award. Her third novel Ordinary People was shortlisted for the 2019 Women's Prize for Fiction and won the 2019 South Bank Sky Arts Award for Literature.
Barbara Jenkins is a Trinidadian writer, whose work since 2010 has won several international prizes, including the Commonwealth Short Story Prize and the Wasafiri New Writing Prize.
Jay Bernard, FRSL, is a British writer, artist, film programmer, and activist from London, UK. Bernard has been a programmer at BFI Flare since 2014, co-editor of Oxford Poetry, and their fiction, non-fiction, and art has been published in many national and international magazines and newspapers. Bernard's work engages with LGBT identities and dialogues. They believe that celebrations such as LGBT History Month are great but there needs to be vigilance against those that use it for their own agendas.
Daisy Hay is Associate Professor in English Literature and Life Writing at the University of Exeter and an author of non-fiction. Hay was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2018.
Blonde Roots is a prose novel written by British-Nigerian author Bernardine Evaristo. Published by Penguin UK in 2009 and Penguin USA in 2010, this satirical novel reverts notions of transatlantic slavery, placing Africans as masters of European slaves. It 2009, it was the Orange Prize Youth Panel Choice and the Big Red Read Award.
Irenosen Okojie is a Nigerian-born short story and novel writer working in London. Her stories incorporate magic realism and also make use of her West African heritage. Her first novel, Butterfly Fish won a Betty Trask Award in 2016, and her story "Grace Jones" won the 2020 Caine Prize for African Writing. She was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2018.
Susheila Nasta, MBE, Hon. FRSL, is a British critic, editor, academic and literary activist. She is Professor of Modern and Contemporary Literatures at Queen Mary University of London, and founding editor of Wasafiri, the UK's leading magazine for international contemporary writing. She is a recipient of the Benson Medal from the Royal Society of Literature.