Tim Jeal

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Tim Jeal
Publicity picture for Dulwich Festival 2006
Born (1945-01-27) 27 January 1945 (age 74)
Occupationnovelist, biographer
Genrefiction; biography
Subjectnotable Victorian men
Notable works Baden-Powell (book)

John Julian Timothy Jeal but known as Tim Jeal (born 27 January 1945 in London, England) is a British biographer of notable Victorians and is also a novelist. His publications include a memoir and biographies of David Livingstone (1973), Robert Baden-Powell (1989), and Henry Morton Stanley (2007). Jeal was formally educated in London and Oxford, and lives in north London. He has a wife and three daughters.



Tim Jeal's father, Clifford Jeal, about whom Jeal published a memoir in 2004, was a Christian mystic and follower of the Anglican Order Of The Cross fellowship and as such practised pacifism and vegetarianism. Jeal's mother was Norah Pasley, daughter of Sir Thomas Pasley Bt, and Constance Wilmot Annie Hastings, who is the daughter of the 14th Earl of Huntingdon. [1] Jeal was educated at Westminster School, London, and Christ Church, Oxford.

From 1966 to 1970, he worked for BBC Television in the features group. [2] Jeal is married to Joyce Jeal and they have three daughters. [3]


Jeal has been writing books since the 1960s, for London and New York-based publishers. Although most of his works are fictional, he is best known for his biographies. [3]

His biography, Livingstone (1973) based on private letters, diaries and archives was the first to describe the explorer/missionary's faults and failings and to reveal the man behind the icon. It became the basis for a BBC TV documentary and a film for the Discovery Channel. [4] Livingstone has never been out of print since first publication in 1973 and in 2013 was reissued in a revised and expanded edition by Yale University Press.

In Baden-Powell (1989), Jeal offers a revisionist account of Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts, restoring his reputation which had deteriorated during the 20th century. [5] However, Jeal also speculated that Powell was a homosexual, even a repressed one, and this sparked a great deal of attention in the popular press culminating in scouting organizations reissuing an earlier biography of Powell by William Hillcourt to dilute attention and sales of Jeal's book. [6] In 1995 Jeal's book was the basis for a TV documentary in the Channel 4 series "Secret Lives" entitled Lord Baden-Powell: The Boy Man.

The 2007 biography of Henry Morton Stanley was a revisionist account that showed Stanley in a more sympathetic light. [7] Professor John Carey in The Sunday Times accepted that Jeal's 'ardent, intricate defence of a man history has damned' had been successful, and concluded: 'Anyone who, after reading this book, imagines they would have behaved better than Stanley, if faced with the same dangers, must have a vivid imagination.' [8]

Tim Gardam said in The Observer that Jeal had 'fulfilled a mission to rehabilitate one of the most complex heroes of Victorian Britain'. [9] Kevin Rushby in The Guardian said he was 'aware of the dangers of revisionism' and doubted that Stanley was as innocent as Jeal argued. While calling Stanley 'an awesome piece of scholarship executed with page-turning brio,' he expressed doubt that it would be the 'last word on Henry Morton Stanley.' [10] In the Washington Post Jason Roberts wrote of '...this commanding, definitive biography' being 'an unalloyed triumph...'; [11] and in the New York Times Book Review Paul Theroux described it as 'the most felicitous, the best informed, the most complete and readable [biography of Stanley]'. [12]

Tim Jeal had unique access to the massive Stanley collection in the Royal Museum of Central Africa in Brussels and saw many letters, diaries and other documents (including correspondence between Stanley and King Leopold II of Belgium) unseen by previous biographers. The book had its detractors. Kenyan law professor Makau Mutua said "If Jeal's attempt was the resurrection of a humane Stanley, then I must judge him a complete failure," going on to suggest that "the author should have set aside any biased personal agendas and let history speak for itself. Instead, Jeal writes a political book in defence of a historical monster." [13]

Explorers of the Nile: The Triumph and Tragedy of a Great Victorian Adventure (2011) is about the search for the source of the Nile by John Hanning Speke, James Augustus Grant, Richard Francis Burton, Samuel White Baker, Henry Morton Stanley, David Livingstone and many others from 1856-1878. It is particularly focused on John Hanning Speke, seeking to restore his reputation, who is credited with unraveling the mystery of the source. Jeal has pitched the book as an update to Alan Moorehead's The White Nile. [14]




Awards and honours

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  1. Jeal, Swimming with my Father, 2004
  2. Author details to Baden-Powell, Pimlico edition, 1991
  3. 1 2 Steiner, Zara (1 April 1990). "There is a brotherhood of boys, review of Jeal's Baden-Powell book". New York Times . Retrieved 25 August 2006.
  4. "Tim Jeal". faber.co.uk. Retrieved 13 March 2015.
  5. Steiner, Zara (1 April 1990). "There Is a Brotherhood of Boys". The New York Times.
  6. Robert Campbell (1993) Origins of the Scouts, Sydney, Australia
  7. Porter, Bernard (5 May 2007). "Did he puff his crimes to please a bloodthirsty readership?, review of Jeal's Stanley". London Review of Books . Retrieved 18 June 2007.
  8. Carey, John (18 March 2007). "Sunday Times". A Good Man in Africa.
  9. Gardam, Tim (1 April 2007). "Observer". Livingstone was just the beginning...
  10. Rushby, Kevin (23 March 2007). "A plinth for the fallen idol". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 September 2012.
  11. Roberts, Jason (23 December 2007). "Washington Post". The Great Opportunist.
  12. Theroux, Paul (30 September 2007). "New York Times Book Review". Stanley, I Presume.
  13. Mutua, Makau (August 2009). "An Apology for a Pathological Brute". Human Rights Quarterly . 31 (3): 806–809. doi:10.1353/hrq.0.0089.
  14. Brian H. Murray (Winter 2013). "Explorers of the Nile: The Triumph and Tragedy of a Great Victorian Adventure, by Tim Jeal". Victorian Studies . 55 (2): 369–371. doi:10.2979/victorianstudies.55.2.369. JSTOR   10.2979/victorianstudies.55.2.369.
  15. "The Mail on Sunday/John Llewllyn Rhys Prize". Archived from the original on 4 December 2005. Retrieved 9 July 2009.
  16. "The National Book Critics Circle Award" (no date), NBCC. Retrieved 7 March 2008.