‘Exquisitely dressed and groomed, Stefan Zweig looks simply terrified’

Stefan Zweig: the tragedy of a great bad writer

22 November 2014 9:00 am

Stefan Zweig wasn’t, to be honest, a very good writer. This delicious fact was hugged to themselves by most of…

Outside Downing Street in June 1943. Ten years earlier, no one would have thought it remotely likely that Winston Churchill would be regarded as his country’s saviour

Does Boris Johnson really expect us to think he's Churchill?

25 October 2014 9:00 am

An eccentric, thoroughgoing genius, surfing every wave with a death-defying self-belief — Philip Hensher wonders who Boris Johnson can be thinking of

Scenes from a long life. Left to right: the vulnerable young queen, in thrall to Prince Albert; overcoming her demons with the help of John Brown — depicted in a popular souvenir cut-out; and the matriarch as Empress of India

Is there anything left to say about Queen Victoria? A.N. Wilson has found plenty

6 September 2014 9:00 am

A new, revisionist biography argues that it was only after her husband’s death that Queen Victoria found her true self. Jane Ridley is impressed

Peter Levi Photo: Getty

Peter Levi – poet, priest and life-enhancer

30 August 2014 9:00 am

Hilaire Belloc was once being discussed on some television programme. One of the panellists was Peter Levi. The other critics…

‘While some observers were impressed, others felt the depiction of a doddery Churchill propped up on a walking stick unbecoming’

The lost Victorian who sculpted Churchill

16 August 2014 9:00 am

Ivor Roberts-Jones was in many ways the right artist at the wrong time. Had the sculptor been born a few…

Chris Barber Photo: Redferns/Getty

Chris Barber should let someone meaner tell his story

16 August 2014 9:00 am

Chris Barber, still going strong with his big band, was born in 1930. He heard jazz as a schoolboy on…

Composer Sir Harrison Birtwistle Photo: Redferns

The yes-no-maybe world of Harrison Birtwistle

31 May 2014 9:00 am

For better or worse, we live in the age of the talking composer. Some talk well, some badly, a few…

Edgar Degas - Dancer slipping on her shoe (1874)

Ladies' hats were his waterlillies - the obsessive brilliance of Edgar Degas

19 April 2014 9:00 am

Lucian Freud once said that ‘being able to draw well is the hardest thing — far harder than painting, as…

The Wyndham Sisters, 1899, by John Singer Sargent. Left to right: Madeline, Pamela and Mary

My family's better days

18 January 2014 9:00 am

Simon Blow recalls the wealth, recklessness and beauty of his family’s better days

‘Grace Higgens in the Kitchen’ by Vanessa Bell

The Angel of Charleston, by Stewart MacKay - review

18 January 2014 9:00 am

Above the range in the kitchen at Charleston House is a painted inscription: ‘Grace Higgens worked here for 50 years…

The young Clarice Lispector was strikingly beautiful, with catlike green eyes and ‘very, very sexy’, remembered a friend

'She's the most important Jewish writer since Kafka!'

11 January 2014 9:00 am

Ian Thomson on the turbulent life of Clarice Lispector

Coloured photograph of Princess Louise dating from the early 1880s by the society photographer Alexander Bassano

What was the secret of Queen Victoria's rebel daughter?

11 January 2014 9:00 am

Princess Louise (1848–1939), Queen Victoria’s fourth daughter, was the prettiest and liveliest of the five princesses, and the only one…

Claire Bloom in Brideshead Revisited (Photo: ITV/REX)

The Roth of tenderness and of rage

4 January 2014 9:00 am

In the autumn of 2012, Philip Roth told a French magazine that his latest book, Nemesis, would be his last.…

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

Pulitzer Prize-winning American poet Marianne Moore Photo: Getty

The mad, mum-fixated maiden aunt of modernism

7 December 2013 9:00 am

Marianne Moore’s poems are notoriously ‘difficult’ but her personality and the circumstances of her life are as fascinating today as…

Desmond Fitzgerald, the 29th Knight of Glin, alongside his French wife Louise de la Falaise, 1966 Photo: Getty

The Last Knight, by Robert O’Byrne - review

30 November 2013 9:00 am

I have to declare an interest: for many years the Knight and I were the closest of friends until a…

David Bowie with Peter Cook and Dudley Moore in 1973 (Photo: Keystone/Getty)

One Leg Too Few may be one biography too many

16 November 2013 9:00 am

It’s no joke, writing about comedians. Their work is funny, their lives are not. Rightly honouring the former while accurately…

‘Swing’, acrylic and collage on canvas, 2003

The abstract art full of 'breasts and bottoms'

9 November 2013 9:00 am

Is there any such thing as abstract art? Narratives and coherent harmonies seem to me always to emerge from the…


The man who shared a bed with D.H. Lawrence and Dylan Thomas (though not together)

9 November 2013 9:00 am

Rhys Davies was a Welsh writer in English who lived most of his life in London, that Tir na nÓg…

Photograph courtesy of Tina and Terence dooley

Why did Penelope Fitzgerald start writing so late? 

2 November 2013 9:00 am

‘Experiences aren’t given us to be “got over”, otherwise they would hardly be experiences.’ The opening sentence of the first…


George Orwell's doublethink

26 October 2013 9:00 am

The inventor of ‘doublethink’ was consistently inconsistent  in his own political views, says A.N. Wilson. And no fun at all

J.S. Bach: more complex and human than 
the Haussmann portrait suggests

Was Bach as boring as this picture suggests?

26 October 2013 9:00 am

What, one wonders, will John Eliot Gardiner be chiefly remembered for? Perhaps, by many who have worked with him, for…

Landseer’s portrait of Queen Victoria riding in Windsor Home Park four years after the death of Prince Albert

Queen Victoria, by Matthew Dennison - review

12 October 2013 9:00 am

When Prince Albert died in 1861, aged 42, Queen Victoria, after briefly losing the use of her legs, ordered that…

Basil Bunting, 1980
(Photo: Jonathan Williams/
Basil Bunting Poetry Archive, Durham University Library)

A Strong Song Tows Us, by Richard Burton - review

12 October 2013 9:00 am

How minor is minor? ‘Rings a bell’ was more or less the response of two English literature graduates, now successful…

Mary Evans picture library

Music at Midnight, by John Drury - review

28 September 2013 9:00 am

When John Drury, himself an Anglican divine, told James Fenton (the son of a canon of Christ Church) that he…