Frances Wilson

Watercolour sketch of Jane Carlyle by Karl Hartmann (1850)

How Jane Carlyle survived a miserable marriage

11 March 2017 9:00 am

Jane Carlyle found comfort in her miserable marriage by ‘splashing off’ whatever was on her mind in letters to friends – which became famous in her own lifetime, says Frances Wilson

Rifling through Elena Ferrante’s writing desk

3 December 2016 9:00 am

Frantumaglia isn’t strictly a book by Elena Ferrante. Frantumaglia isn’t strictly a book at all. It’s a celebration of the…

Nancy Astor, photographed by Emil Otto Hoppé

How to suck up in society — with the Cunards, the Corrigans and the Colefaxes

10 September 2016 9:00 am

A more appropriate subtitle to this homage to the queen bees of the interwar years might have been ‘How to…

Benjamin Franklin in London, with the bust of Isaac Newton on his desk

Benjamin Franklin: from man about town to man on the run

27 February 2016 9:00 am

Just who was Benjamin Franklin? Apart, that is, from journalist, statesman, diplomat, founding father of the United States, inventor 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

What does it really mean to have a tyrannical father?

24 October 2015 9:00 am

What was it like, asks Jay Nordlinger, to have Mao as your father, or Pol Pot, or Papa Doc? The…

With rain threatening, Jane Bennet departs for Netherfield — with her mother’s approval. Illustration by Hugh Thomson for Pride and Prejudice (1894)

Rain, shine and the human imagination — from Adam and Eve to David Hockney

12 September 2015 9:00 am

‘Pray don’t talk to me about the weather, Mr Worthing,’ pleads Gwendolen in The Importance of Being Earnest. ‘Whenever people…

Harriet Howard, Duchess of Sutherland, by William Corden the Younger, after Franz Xavier Winterhalter. ‘What a hold the place has on one,’ she observed of Cliveden

Love nest or den of iniquity? Cliveden has always been shrouded in mystery and scandal

18 July 2015 9:00 am

Well, you can’t say he wasn’t warned. Swimming pools, Nancy Astor told her son, Bill, were ‘disgustin’. I don’t trust…

Portrait thought to be of Francis Barber by Sir Joshua Reynolds

Francis Barber: reluctant member of Dr Johnson’s mad ménage

23 May 2015 9:00 am

We know a great deal about Samuel Johnson and virtually nothing about his Jamaican servant, Francis Barber. The few facts…

Rex Whistler’s portrait of Edith Olivier on a day bed at Daye House, Wilton, 1942

When Rex met Edith: a meeting of minds in interwar England

4 April 2015 9:00 am

Rex Whistler — this book’s ‘bright young thing’ — was an artist of the 1920s and 1930s, and Edith Olivier,…

Muriel and Nellie: two radical Christians build Jerusalem in London’s East End

31 January 2015 9:00 am

This is the tale of Muriel Lester, once famous pacifist and social reformer, and Nellie Dowell, her invisible friend. Nellie…