More from Books

Not tired of this life

Philip Hensher on Peter Martin’s biography of Samuel Johnson Thanks to Boswell’s inexhaustibly interesting biography, Samuel Johnson is deeply familiar to us, even in his most extreme eccentricities. It’s easy to forget how bizarre and alarming he must have seemed to most of his contemporaries. His involuntary movements were such that modern scholars have often wondered

The net result

Vermeer’s Hat turns on its head the conventional relationship between a history book and its illustrations. The seven paintings and one plate reproduced here are not intended to give us clues as to what the period and people in the narrative looked like, but are themselves the starting points for the web of narratives that

The world at bay

In Wild Mary, his biography of the irrepressible Mary Wesley, Patrick Marnham describes Cornwall in the 1930s as ‘a lost world, a world that had its own rules and customs and mysteries’. While Wesley was bed-hopping on the Lizard peninsula, around the Atlantic-battered rocks at Newquay, Emma Smith was enjoying a most peculiar childhood in

Glimpses of past happiness

Jonathan Mirsky on Nancy Kohner’s new book What could be more poignant than this? ‘You know nothing of what is happening here, and I can’t explain it to you. Just be glad that you’re as far away as you are. What is happiness? Happiness is what once was, once upon a time when we lived such a

Where statesmen and authors met

Blair Worden reviews Ophelia Field’s latest book What a wonderful subject Ophelia Field has found, and how adroitly she has handled it. In the Kit-Cat Club, the coterie of Whig writers and politicians that began in the last years of the 17th century and lasted into George I’s reign, she finds both a mirror and a source

The invisible muses

Philippa Stockley on the new book by Ruth Butler  Hortense Fiquet, Camille Doncieux, Rose Beuret. Who are they? The wives of Paul Cézanne, Claude Monet and Auguste Rodin.The third is the best known; the others have largely been omitted from history. Demonstrably, in Fiquet’s case. Cézanne’s first biographer, Georges Rivière, was Fiquet’s daughter-in-law’s father. Rivière

A country of ruins

Contributers to multi-volume national histories are usually straitjacketed, expected to keep to well-trodden paths. But Robert Gildea’s subtitle is ‘the French’, not France, and in the third volume of the New Penguin History of France to be published he wanders freely. Foreign policy, for example, gets short shrift. Instead, a chapter is devoted to the