Brenda Maddox, Biographer Who Revealed Joyce’s Muse, Dies at 87


Deciding to go into journalism, she was hired by The Patriot Ledger of Quincy, Mass., in 1957, “parlaying a single freshman semester of Harvard geology — the introductory course known fondly as ‘Rocks for Jocks’ — into a position as science correspondent,” as her son put it.

In 1958, at a science conference in Geneva, she met John Maddox, the science correspondent for the British newspaper The Manchester Guardian, who would later edit the journal Nature. They married two years later, and Ms. Maddox relocated to southwest London and became a freelance correspondent for The Economist. She later became its home affairs editor. Still later she worked for The Sunday Telegraph and The Times of London.

Mr. Maddox, who died in 2009, had two children from a previous marriage, and in 1975 Ms. Maddox published a book about stepparenting, “The Half-Parent.” She tried her first biography in 1977, a portrait of Elizabeth Taylor, but the experience was off-putting.

“I thought Taylor would be pleased to have the attentions of a serious journalist,” Ms. Maddox wrote in a 1999 essay in The New York Times. “She was not.”

An aide to Ms. Taylor raised the possibility of legal headaches, she said, and people connected to the actress uniformly declined to talk. The experience, she wrote, left her “resolving never again to write the biography of a living person.”

Her next biography was “Nora.”

“Nora Barnacle is a reporter’s dream,” Ms. Maddox wrote in the book’s introduction, “an unexplored corner of the Joyce story. She has a legion of admirers, people, like me, who always wanted to know more.”


In the 1999 Times essay, she expanded on the project’s origins.

“There were tantalizing glimpses in Richard Ellmann’s great biography of Joyce, but no more,” she wrote. “Ellmann tried to ward me off. She was an uninteresting woman, he said, about whom there was little to say; besides, all her friends were dead, so the chances of getting new information were minimal.

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