Biography

Julie Harris in the 1963 film The Haunting, based on Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House

Shirley Jackson, high priestess of horror, finally gets the recognition she deserves

3 December 2016 9:00 am

A film critic friend, astonished that I had never heard of Shirley Jackson, told me to go and read her…

Before she was 40, Anne Barnard had had at least 20 serious suitors and 11 marriage proposals

Anne Barnard: a portrait of a very unusual lady

5 November 2016 9:00 am

Lady Anne Barnard is a name that means almost nothing today, but her story is a remarkable one. She defied…

Margaret Thatcher with husband Dennis and Cecil Parkinson at the window of No 10 Downing Street in1985. Photo: Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis

Four men pay court to Mrs Thatcher

15 October 2016 9:00 am

This is a strange book. Peter Stothard, the editor of the TLS, is packing up his office. It is a…

Albert Camus photographed at home in 1947

The sheer strangeness of Albert Camus’s imagination

15 October 2016 9:00 am

Looking for the Outsider is the biography of a novel, from conception through publication to critical reception. Alice Kaplan’s life-story…

Jenna Coleman as Victoria and Tom Hughes as Albert in Victoria (Photo: Getty)

My eerie visit to Buckingham Palace in the 1830s

17 September 2016 9:00 am

The borderline between fact and fiction becomes ever hazier, I find. Last February, Daisy Goodwin — the author of the…

Julie Christie as Lara in David Lean’s 1965 film

The true story of Dr Zhivago’s Lara

27 August 2016 9:00 am

Between agreeing to review this book and receiving it, I got worried. Like many, I adore Doctor Zhivago with its…

Spy Chief at Buckingham Palace (Photo: Getty)

Sir Maurice Oldfield: a spymaster smeared

27 August 2016 9:00 am

In March 1981 Margaret Thatcher went to the hospital bedside of Maurice Oldfield, the former head of the Secret Intelligence…

‘Stack building, Malvern Hills’, by Laura Knight

A.E. Housman: the laureate of repression

2 July 2016 9:00 am

A.E. Housman’s poems leave us with the impression of fire that has been carefully wrapped in ice, says Robert Douglas-Fairhurst

Portrait of Marie Antoinette by Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun

How a Swiss banker’s bungling led to the French Revolution

2 July 2016 9:00 am

France’s problems today should lessen the condescension of posterity towards Louis XVI. Presidents of the Republic have proved just as…

The waggle-dance of the honeybees

Bees, Nazis and the Nobel prize: the amazing life of Karl von Frisch

25 June 2016 8:00 am

The Dancing Bees is a romantic title, evoking fantasy and fairy tale rather than scientific rigour, but actually this book…

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.…

Hugh Trevor-Roper (Photo: Getty)

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…

floral

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…

David Cameron Meets With Angela Merkel In Berlin

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…

'Warning! Someone is listening' Photo: Getty

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…

(Photo: Getty)

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…

John Galliano at Paris Fashion Week 2010

Drink, drugs and dressing-up: behind the scenes of the fashion industry

7 February 2015 9:00 am

Philip Hensher explores a dangerously intoxicating world, and discovers just how quickly famous designers can become an irrelevance

English knight and Earl of Pembroke, William Marshall Photo: Getty

William Marshal: kingmaker — or just king of the joust?

17 January 2015 9:00 am

In February 1861 a 21-year-old French medievalist called Paul Meyer walked into Sotheby’s auction house near Covent Garden. He had…

Composer Franz Schubert Photo: Getty

This Winter Journey goes far beyond expectation

10 January 2015 9:00 am

You can tell a lot about a book from its bibliography. It’s the non-fiction equivalent of skipping to the final…