Sam Leith

The Ingenious Hidalgo Don Quixote of La Mancha: engraving of a drawing by Gustave Dore (1833–1883)

Cervantes was a genius, yes – but the inventor of fiction?

18 June 2016 9:00 am

Sam Leith admires a smart, thoughtful book with a big idea at its heart – marred only, perhaps, by its ambitious claims for Don Quixote

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A dispatch from a family of fooshers

2 April 2016 9:00 am

I’d like this to have been one of those Spectator diaries that gives the ordinary reader a glimpse into the…

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Why would the whole world’s book industry gather in booze-free Sharjah?

2 January 2016 9:00 am

Who goes to the Sharjah International Book Fair? Sam Leith, for one

(Photo: Getty)

Worry less about what to call Isis, and more about how to fight them

28 November 2015 9:00 am

We should worry less about what to call Isis, and more about how to fight them

The city became cacophonous with bells: a detail of Claes Visscher’s famous early 17th-century panorama shows old London Bridge and some of the 114 church steeples that constantly tolled the death knells of plague victims

Shakespeare's London: where all the world really was a stage

26 September 2015 8:00 am

Sam Leith on the year 1606, when plague and panic were rife — and all the world really was a stage

The Merchant (left) and the Physician from the Ellesmere manuscript of the Canterbury Tales

A window on Chaucer’s cramped, scary, smelly world

17 January 2015 9:00 am

Sam Leith describes the frequently lonely, squalid and hapless life of the father of English poetry

Two small children dying together in the gutter in the Chinese famine of 1946

How Hitler's dreams came true in 1946

11 October 2014 9:00 am

In 1946, in the aftermath of a devastating war, the world seemed a very dark place indeed, says Sam Leith

Tenements in the Gorbals area of Glasgow — considered some of the worst slums in Britain — are replaced by high-rise flats, c. 1960

Corrie and ready-salted crisps: the years when modern Britain began

13 September 2014 9:00 am

The only thing really swinging in early Sixties Britain, says Sam Leith, was the wrecking-ball

Charles Scott Moncrieff (left) had a deep personal affinity with Proust (right). His rendering of 'À La Recherche du Temps Perdu' is considered one of the greatest literary translations of all time

Soldier, poet, lover, spy: just the man to translate Proust

16 August 2014 9:00 am

Sam Leith is astonished by how much the multi-talented Charles Scott Moncrieff achieved in his short lifetime

‘There is nothin’ like a dame’ — nice songs, shame about the lighting: Mitzi Gaynor in ‘South Pacific’, 1958

Why movie musicals matter – to this author anyway

19 July 2014 9:00 am

Sam Leith finds much to like in a companion to musical films, and concludes that they matter very much – to the author anyway

Aimé Tschiffely with Mancha and Gato. The strongest emotional bonds he formed on his epic journey were with his horses

A horse ride from Buenos Aires to New York? No problem!

14 June 2014 8:00 am

Sam Leith marvels at a lone horseman’s 10,000-mile ride, braving bandits, quicksands, vampire bats and revolution in search of ‘variety’

Odysseus and the Sirens

If you ever wanted a Homeric jump-start, this is your book

17 May 2014 9:00 am

Adam Nicolson plunges into Homer’s epic poetry and finds it inexhaustible. Sam Leith feels a touch of envy

Edward St Aubyn Photo: Getty

Shooting prize-dispensing fish in literary barrels

3 May 2014 9:00 am

Edward St Aubyn’s new novel is a jauntily malicious satire on literary prizes in general, the Man Booker Prize in…

Churchill reading in his library at Chartwell

Churchill was as mad as a badger. We should all be thankful

19 April 2014 9:00 am

The egotistical Churchill may have viewed the second world war as pure theatre, but that was exactly what was needed at the time, says Sam Leith

Orestes consults the oracle at Delphi (Roman, 1st century AD).

Management consultancy! Sculpture park! Sports stadium! The many faces of the Delphic Oracle

22 March 2014 9:00 am

Sam Leith finds the most sacred site of Ancient Greece still a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma

Self-portrait c.1872

The Artist Formerly Known As Whistler

22 February 2014 9:00 am

Sam Leith on the exasperating, charismatic painter who floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee

From left to right: Graham Greene, Muriel Spark and H.G. Wells

Reviewing reviews of reviews — where will it all end? 

25 January 2014 9:00 am

Sam Leith reviews the reviews of David Lodge — and wonders where it will all end

Two faces of Bernard Berenson

How honest was Bernard Berenson?

14 December 2013 9:00 am

Sam Leith suspects that even such a distinguished connoisseur as Bernard Berenson did not always play a straight bat

Top of the happiness scale: Chaucer’s Canterbury Pilgrims (English School, 15th century)

Look! Shakespeare! Wow! George Eliot! Criminy! Jane Austen!

16 November 2013 9:00 am

Among the precursors to this breezy little book are, in form, the likes of The Story of Art, Our Island…

Ullswater towards Helvellyn, where Wordsworth wandered lonely as a cloud

England’s 100 best Views, by Simon Jenkins - review

5 October 2013 9:00 am

Sam Leith is transported by the finest scenery in England

Signifying Rappers, by David Foster Wallace - review

14 September 2013 9:00 am

Since his suicide, David Foster Wallace has made the transition from major writer to major industry. Hence this UK issue…

Christoph Amberger’s portrait of the Emperor Charles V, whose jaw was so prominent he could not eat in public

Danubia, by Simon Winder - review

7 September 2013 9:00 am

The inbred Habsburg monarchs, who for centuries ruled without method over a vast, ramshackle empire, managed to leave an indelible mark on modern Europe, says Sam Leith

Portrait of Nikolai Rezanov painted just before he left Russia for the last time in July 1803.

Glorious Misadventures, by Owen Mathews - review

3 August 2013 9:00 am

The brutality and folly of Russia’s bid to conquer America has the makings of grand tragicomedy says Sam Leith

New-Dizzy

Disraeli, by Douglas Hurd; The Great Rivalry, by Dick Leonard - review

13 July 2013 9:00 am

Sam Leith finds shades of Jeffrey Archer and Boris Johnson in the 19th-century prime minister

‘Well, gentlemen, I think we all fought a good fight’(The Spectator, 16 October 1959)

The birth of modern Britain

15 June 2013 9:00 am

Sam Leith on the dawning of the consumer age in Britain, when Harold Macmillan reminded us that we’d never had it so good