AFTER developing a successful career as a literary agent in London, Felicity Bryan decided to start her own agency in Oxford.
She launched it in 1988 and it proved to be a good decision. After working with an assistant and a book-keeper for the first 13 years, Felicity Bryan Associates is now one of the largest literary agencies outside London.
From the office in North Parade Avenue Ms Bryan built a thriving business with a mission to promote literature throughout the globe.
Her first big sale was Karen Armstrong’s A History of God in 1993. Her next, An Instance of the Fingerpost by Oxford author Iain Pears, fetched $2m before the manuscript was delivered.
Notable authors who followed her from Curtis Brown include Mary Berry, Rosamunde Pilcher, Miriam Stoppard, Karen Armstrong and Matt Ridley, all of whom remain with the agency.
In the 1990s she matched the Royal Horticultural Society with the new and innovative Dorling Kindersley publisher at a time when other literary agents were doubtful about DK, and launched a highly successful series of RHS reference books
In 2010 Ms Bryan put in place a management buyout, adding shareholders (Catherine Clarke as MD and Caroline Wood as director), and became chairman. Her breakout global bestseller published in the same year was The Hare With Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal, which went on to sell in 29 languages.
Her authors ranged from historians, scientists and journalists to cooks, singers and ballet dancers, and some have been awarded the Wolfson Prize, the Costa Biography Prize, the Duff Cooper Prize and the James Tait Black Prize, among others.
She was a sponsor of the Oxford Literary Festival and a patron of Woodstock Literary Festival.
Felicity Anne Bryan was born in Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire, in 1945, the second of three daughters of Paul Bryan, who ran a clothing company, and his wife Betty (née Hoyle).
She was educated at Benenden in Kent before studying history of art at the Courtauld Institute, and then got a taste for journalism in the late 1960s, starting with a job on the Burlington Magazine, aimed at art connoisseurs.
The Financial Times then offered her a post in its Washington bureau with Joe Rogaly, the paper’s American correspondent. Soon after she arrived in 1968, Robert Kennedy was assassinated.
By 1972 she was working at The Economist in London when she was approached to join Curtis Brown.
She married Alasdair Clayre in 1974 but the marriage was dissolved.
Following her marriage in 1981 to the Oxford-based economist Alex Duncan, she initially resisted moving from London until having children changed her mind.
From Summertown the family moved to a house in Kidlington, with Ms Bryan commuting for five years to Curtis Brown before launching her own agency.
Their daughter Alice suffered bipolar disorder and took her own life aged 22.
The couple also have two sons, Maxim and Benjamin. Ms Bryan MBE died following a long struggle with cancer on June 21, aged 74.
She leaves her husband and two sons.