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Under the volcano again

In 2003, Robert Harris published Pompeii: A Novel, which for vitality and entertainment and the atmosphere of the decadent Roman world around the Bay of Naples in the first century AD can hardly be beaten. The great eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79 and the destruction of the playground city of Pompeii is made even

Playing the marriage market | 3 September 2005

In November 1895 the most eligible bachelor in London society, the ninth Duke of Marlborough, married Consuelo Vanderbilt, the richest American heiress available. It is sometimes assumed that the British aristocracy crossed the Atlantic en masse in search of heiresses who might replenish fortunes devastated by falling rents during the agricultural depression of the late

Reliable friend, less reliable consul

The twin graves lie side-by-side in the Protestant cemetery in Rome, much visited, much photographed; one decorated with the lyre of the poet, the other with the palette of the painter. Beneath the first lie the remains of one of England’s greatest poets, who died at the age of 25. Beneath the second lies a

A devotee of Devon

The regional novel in England sounds like a dull and worthy research topic; investigating it might be entertaining at times, but I suspect that one would just end by concluding that it existed once, and does so no more. People still write novels about life in various regions, of course; some writers still specialise in

Frantic and fantastic

There is now an established tradition of busy stars not reading the books to which they put their names. It stretches from Hedy Lamarr, who 40 years ago sued the ghostwriters of Ecstasy and Me for misrepresentation some while after publication, to Victoria Beckham who claims never to have read a book, not even her

Tragical- comical- historical

After the Victorians opens with a coronation at which ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ is played, and an expedition to the Himalayas: King Edward VII took the throne, Younghusband and his Maxim guns took Lhasa. It closes with a coronation at which ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ is played, and an expedition to the Himalayas: