Biography

Taki: The truth about Ernest Hemingway

6 January 2018 9:00 am

Gstaad When the snow finally stopped, the sublime, silent stars above made for dramatic viewing. Against silhouetted Alpine peaks, starry…

A previously unpublished photograph of Dylan in 1981

Bob Dylan is a modern-day Odysseus

9 December 2017 9:00 am

‘There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.’…

The Godfather: Edward Garnett had a keen eye for talent, but was blind to modernism

Edward Garnett and his diligent blue pencil

9 December 2017 9:00 am

Edward Garnett, radical, pacifist, freethinker, Russophile man of letters, was from the 1890s onwards for many years the pre-eminent fixer…

Gerry Adams: from jail to the Dail

4 November 2017 9:00 am

When I recently asked a sardonic Northern Irish friend what historical figures Gerry Adams resembled, the tasteless reply came back:…

How pleasant to know Mr Lear

14 October 2017 9:00 am

Edward Lear liked to tell the story of how he was once sitting in a railway carriage with two women…

Princess Margaret at the races in Kingston, Jamaica in 1955

Princess Uppity

14 October 2017 9:00 am

Princess Margaret was everywhere on the bohemian scene of the 1960s and 1970s. She hung out with all the famous…

Richard Nixon in September 1968

His dark materials

14 October 2017 9:00 am

In this giant, prodigiously sourced and insightful biography, John A. Farrell shows how Richard Milhous Nixon was the nightmare of…

‘My witchcraft is going well’: The crazed Eva Rausing, photographed shortly before her death

Descent into hell

9 September 2017 9:00 am

It’s awful, but the surname Rausing (once synonymous only with the Tetrapak fortune) now summons up a terrible stench in…

A feminist trailblazer

12 August 2017 9:00 am

On the evening of 28 October 1908, two unremarkable middle-class women wearing heavy overcoats gained admission to the Ladies’ Gallery,…

General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck in 1917

The German Lion of Africa

12 August 2017 9:00 am

What’s going on with book reviews? Here is the Pulitizer prizewinning (for ‘criticism’) Michael Dirda in the Washington Post, on…

Self-portrait, with his wife Margaret

A dazzling vision

12 August 2017 9:00 am

There are a number of reports by his contemporaries of Thomas Gainsborough at work. They make you realise what a…

The maestro could hear if a single player was doing something wrong, even in the most noisy tutti

The morality of conducting

5 August 2017 9:00 am

Now he is the greatest figure for me, in the world. [Toscanini is] the last proud, noble, unbending representative (with…

… and an awesome beak

5 August 2017 9:00 am

The Enigma of Kidson is a quintessentially Etonian book: narcissistic, complacent, a bit silly and ultimately beguiling. It is the…

Portrait of Dante in Giotto’s fresco in the Podestà Chapel, the Bargello, Florence

The secrets of Dante’s marriage

21 May 2016 9:00 am

Unlike Shakespeare, who kept himself out of all his works, except the Sonnets, Dante was endlessly reworking his autobiography, even…

Emil Zátopek at the height of his powers

Emil Zátopek: a legend from athletics’ golden age of innocence

7 May 2016 9:00 am

The story of the Czechoslovak runner Emil Zátopek is a tale from athletics’ age of innocence. Without the aid of…

A portrait by Edward Savage of the Washingtons at home, with two of Martha’s grandchildren, adopted by her after the death of their parents

George and Martha Washington were an odd first First Couple

5 December 2015 9:00 am

Frances Wilson on America’s likeable, if unlikely, first First Couple

Guy Burgess

James Klugmann and Guy Burgess: the wasted lives of spies

5 December 2015 9:00 am

Geoff Andrews’s ‘Shadow Man’, James Klugmann, was the talent-spotter, recruiter and mentor of the Cambridge spy ring. From 1962, aged…

Ferdinand Porsche, the inventor of the Doodlebug and the Panzer tank, was treated with rare deference by Hitler, bordering on idolatry

Ferninand Porsche: from the Beetle to the Panzer tank

7 November 2015 9:00 am

The aggressive character of the famous German sports car, in a sort of sympathetic magic, often transfers itself to owner-drivers.…

Spies in the spotlight

7 November 2015 9:00 am

Spying is a branch of philosophy, although you would never guess it from that expression on Daniel Craig’s face. Its…

Rory McEwen: man of many talents — and among the greatest of all flower painters

25 July 2015 9:00 am

It seems odd that a singer, musician, television performer and sculptor who typified the 1960s as vividly as Rory McEwen…

Charles Moore’s notes: The anti-EU camp need to be sure what No means

20 June 2015 9:00 am

It is natural to assume that, if a majority votes No in the referendum on Britain’s EU membership, we shall…

'The Cuckoo Crying before Dawn’ (1943) is Edward’s largest known watercolour.

The world of Thessyros: an icky erotic fantasy

2 May 2015 9:00 am

Lore has it that those viewing naughty books in the British Museum could once do so only with the Archbishop…

King John at Runnymede: at odds with his barons, he came to rely on mercenaries whom he couldn’t afford

King John was not a good man: two distinguished historians echo A.A. Milne

11 April 2015 9:00 am

This being the 800th anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta, it is not surprising that there should be two…

Baiting the trap with CHEESE: how we fooled the Germans in the second world war

28 March 2015 9:00 am

Second world war deception operations are now widely known, particularly those which misled the Germans into thinking that the D-Day…

The lost words of John Aubrey, from apricate to scobberlotcher

21 March 2015 9:00 am

Hilary Spurling found a certain blunting of the irregularities of John Aubrey’s language in Ruth Scurr’s vicarious autobiography of the…