Paul Johnson rss

Shangri-La Hotel Opens In The Shard

Paul Johnson

10 May 2014

I feel an intense antipathy for Vladimir Putin. No one on the international scene has aroused in me such dislike since Stalin died. Though not a mass killer on the… Read more

The Tribes of Israel reunite round the Ark of the Covenant in the Sinai desert after the exodus from Egypt

(German School, 
17th century)

The Story of the Jews, by Simon Schama - review

21 September 2013
The Story of the Jews, Volume I: Finding the Words, 1000 BCE-1492 CE Simon Schama

Bodley Head, pp.496, £25, ISBN: 9781847921321

The recorder of early Jewish history has two sources of evidence. One is the Bible. Its centrality was brought home to me by David Ben-Gurion when I went to see… Read more

Cover illustration for the first edition of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Paul Johnson reviews 'C.S. Lewis: A Life', by Alister McGrath

20 April 2013
C.S. Lewis: A Life Alister McGrath

Hodder, pp.448, £20, ISBN: 9781444745559

C.S. Lewis became a celebrity but remains a mysterious figure. Several biographies have been written, not to much avail, and now Alister McGrath, a professor of historical theology, has compiled… Read more


Reason to believe

15 December 2012

My belief in God is not philosophical. It is not rooted in metaphysics or reason. It springs from the heart and the senses. It is practical. Every Sunday I attend… Read more

An Irish peasant girl with her family’s last few possessions after eviction for non-payment of rent (The Illustrated London News)

A deeply stricken country

1 December 2012
The Graves Are Walking John Kelly

Faber, pp.400, £16.99, ISBN: 9780571284412

The Famine Plot: England’s Role in Ireland’s Greatest Tragedy Tim Pat Cooga

Palgrave Macmillan, pp.288, £17.99, ISBN: 9780230109520

Atlas of the Great Irish Famine John Crowley et al (editors)

Cork University, pp.728, £55, ISBN: 9781859184790

When, many years ago, I finished reading Cecil Woodham-Smith’s fine and tragic The Great Hunger, I swore never to read another book about the Irish famine of 1845-9. But they… Read more


Apologia pro vita sua

17 November 2012
A Matter of Principle Conrad Black

Biteback, pp.508, £14.99, ISBN: 97818459543569

Any fair-minded person who has looked into the matter knows that Conrad Black was wrongly convicted. Indeed under English law he would not have been prosecuted at all, I believe,… Read more


A weakness for beauty

11 August 2012
The British as Art Collectors James Stourton and Charles Sebag-Montefiore

Scala, pp.352, 60, ISBN: 9781857597493

James Stourton is not only a successful auctioneer and chairman of Sotheby’s but also an accomplished writer, the author of the delightful Art Collectors of Our Time (2007). He has… Read more


Fearsome and devilish

30 June 2012
The Last Highlander: Scotland’s Most Notorious Clan Chief, Rebel and Double Agent Sarah Fraser

HarperPress, pp.402, 20, ISBN: 9780007229499

This life of the 11th Lord Lovat, executed on Tower Hill in 1747, in the aftermath of the ‘Forty-Five’ Rebellion of Bonnie Prince Charlie, is primarily a work of pietas.… Read more


Who are the losers now?

24 March 2012
Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II Keith Lowe

Viking, pp.460, 25

Keith Lowe’s horrifying book is a survey of the physical and moral breakdown of Europe in the closing months of the second world war and its immediate aftermath. It is… Read more

The age of achievement

21 January 2012

Doctors say it’s all downhill from 45. History suggests otherwise A study in the British Medical Journal suggests that our brains begin to deteriorate from the age of 45. Examining… Read more

Season’s greetings

17 December 2011

My recollections of Christmas Past are dominated by the fabrication of the family card. It was one of my father’s principles that Christmas was a family event and that any… Read more

A gimlet eye

10 December 2011
Jane Austen’s Letters edited by Deirdre Le Faye

OUP, pp.667, 25

We should be grateful to families which encourage the culture of writing letters, and equally vital, the keeping of them. Leopold Mozart, for instance, taught his son not only music… Read more


The meanest flowers that blow

19 November 2011
Wild Flowers Sarah Raven, with photographs by Jonathan Buckley

Bloomsbury, pp.500, 50

Sarah Raven comes of a botanising family. Her father John, a Cambridge classics don, travelled all over the British Isles studying wildflowers. Like his own father, Charles Raven, he was… Read more


When the going got tough

16 July 2011

The acute emotional pain caused by his first wife’s infidelity was of priceless service to Evelyn Waugh as a novelist, says Paul Johnson Evelyn Waugh died, aged 62, in 1966,… Read more

Sense and magnanimity

9 July 2011
Memoirs William Rees-Mogg

Harper Pres, pp.329, 30

People see William Rees-Mogg as an archetypal member of the Establishment. But this is not quite true. His father’s family had been modest landowners for centuries, but his mother was… Read more

Heroic long-suffering

25 June 2011
To End All Wars: How the First World War Divided Britain Adam Hochschild

Macmillan, pp.448, 20

English patriotism was still a force in 1914. On the first day of the war, my mother’s three brothers, and my father and his two brothers, all joined up together,… Read more


The power of a pocket

4 June 2011

In 1951, Winston Churchill, then leader of the opposition and aged 77, scored a humiliating Commons victory over the new chancellor of the exchequer, Hugh Gaitskell. Not for nothing did… Read more


Sins of the fathers

26 March 2011
The Popes: A History John Julius Norwich

Chatto, pp.506, 25

The Journey of the Popes Gerard Noel

Catholic Herald Ltd, pp.382, £15 UK, Euros 23, $24 US

The trouble about writing a history of the popes is that there are so many of them. Usually elderly when elected, most of them have only lasted a few years.… Read more


Failure of the feminists

12 March 2011

After 100 International Women’s Days, real achievement still trumps leftist ideology Nothing illustrates better the difference between political idealism and political realism than the campaign to advance women in power,… Read more


Dirty rotten scholars

26 February 2011

Who was the dirtiest don in history? There must be many claimants for this title, especially in the 17th century, when all dons (except heads of houses) were bachelors. The… Read more

The plum pudding trick

18 December 2010

Which was the best Christmas party ever? Perhaps it took place on Boxing Day, Tuesday 26 December 1843, at the home of Nina Macready, wife of the famous actor. It… Read more


A race against time

9 October 2010
Palmerston David Brown

Yale, pp.555, 25

Lord Palmerston poses severe quantitative problems to biographers. His public life covered a huge span. Born in 1784, the year Dr Johnson died, he was nine years younger than Jane… Read more


Welsh wizardry and venom

18 September 2010
The Great Outsider: David Lloyd George Roy Hattersley

Little Brown, pp.709, 25

Paul Johnson reviews Roy Hattersley’s life of David Lloyd George No politician’s life is so difficult to write as Lloyd George’s. All who have tried have failed, and wise heavyweight… Read more


Not every aspect pleases

2 June 2010
The Making of the British Landscape Francis Pryor

Allen Lane, pp.848, 30

Half a century ago I read W. G. Hoskins’s book, The Making of the English Landscape, when it first came out. It was for me an eye-opener, as it was… Read more


For true democracy, bring back ostracism

28 April 2010

Among the many complaints I have heard about this unsatisfactory election is this one: it is impossible for the general public to get rid of a thoroughly unpleasant, or corrupt,… Read more