Featured articles


Gimme shelter

How we love our homes: we make them cosy and secure, protected from the outside world, defended by locks, bolts and burglar alarms. But we haven’t always had our own private dwellings, and under the invasive influence of the internet, home, as we’ve come to understand it, may well soon be a thing of the

The ‘Stop Trump’ blimps

Last summer, the crowds in the fields at Glastonbury Festival filmed themselves chanting ‘Oh Jeremy Corbyn’. It was the fashionable political statement of the summer. This year, there’s no Glastonbury — those fields lie fallow — and Corbyn-mania suddenly feels very 2017. Britain’s Instagram-addled middle classes are eager for a substitute form of mass entertainment

You can say that

‘There. I said it.’ That phrase, and the attitude it strikes, says something pretty specific. It doesn’t just say: here’s what I think. It says: ‘Here’s what I think, and, you know what? It’s what nobody except me dares to say in public.’ It says: I’m brave. It says: I speak truth to power. It

Keep off the grass

The autumn squill, Scilla autumnalis, has bright bluebell-coloured starry flowers. It is rare in the British Isles. It is also tiny, so small that most people could easily clodhop straight over it without noticing how lovely it is. I nearly did just that when I went looking for it in Surrey last summer until a

False start | 5 July 2018

I was worried that going to the autonomous vehicle exhibition in Stuttgart would be tantamount to an atheist walking into St Peter’s while the Pope was conducting a mass. There is something religious about the fervour with which adherents to the driverless credo practise their faith and promise us a new kingdom. Their proselytising has

Football, not rugby, is now the gentleman’s game

Most British sports fans are familiar with the maxim that ‘football is a game for gentlemen played by hooligans, and rugby union is a game for hooligans played by gentlemen’. It was coined more than half a century ago by Arthur Tedder, then chancellor of Cambridge University, and for decades the saying stood the test

More features

Ideas in the cinema

190 years of The Spectator   19 November 1937 Not even the newspapers can claim so large a public as the films: they make the circulation figures of the Daily Express look insignificant. The voice of Mr Paul Muni [who stars in The Life of Emile Zola] has been heard by more people than the

The honour of the Brigade

190 years of The Spectator   11 December 1915   The road was full of troops. Columns of infantry slogged along at the side. Guns and ammunition-wagons thundered down the paved centre. Motor despatch riders flew past with fresh orders for those in rear. The men sucked their pebbles in grim silence. It was no

The Spectator’s Mission

190 years of The Spectator   5 July 1828   The principal object of a Newspaper is to convey intelligence. It is proposed in The Spectator to give this, the first and most prominent place, to a report of all the leading occurrences of the week. In this department, the reader may always expect a summary

The awful rise of ‘virtue signalling’

190 years of The Spectator   18 April 2015 Go to a branch of Whole Foods, the American-owned grocery shop, and you will see huge posters advertising Whole Foods, of course, but — more precisely — advertising how virtuous Whole Foods is: ‘We are part of a growing consciousness that is bigger than food —

Spice girls back sceptics on Europe

190 years of The Spectator   14 December 1996   The Spice Girls were at the time the biggest girl group in the world, their debut album selling 23 million copies. The interview brought the magazine its highest sales figure for a generation Interview the Spice Girls, I thought. But the Spice Girls are interviewed

The new club of rich young men

190 years of The Spectator   15 March 1986   It is difficult to estimate the number of young investment bankers, stockbrokers and commodity brokers earning £100,000 a year. Perhaps there are only a couple of thousand, but they are so mobile and noisy that they give the impression of being far more numerous. Most

Out – and into the World

190 years of The Spectator   4 June 1975   At no time during the campaign have the opponents of our membership of the EEC been remotely as unbalanced, as hysterical or as deliberately personally insulting as those in the opposite camp. Naturally, as in any vigorously fought campaign, there have been some fibs and

Sweeping the streets

190 years of The Spectator   6 September 1957 There are two ways of looking at sexual immorality. One is to regard all illicit intercourse as a crime; the other is to regard it as a sin but not as something which concerns the State unless it has obvious anti-social consequences. The first has been

Review: Mr Oscar Wilde’s poems

190 years of The Spectator   13 August 1881 The reading of this book fills us with alarm. It is evidently the work of a clever man, as well as of an educated man, but it is not only a book containing poems which ought never to have been conceived, still less published, but it

The duty of England and the American crisis

190 years of The Spectator   1 June 1861 The time has arrived when the national will on the American quarrel ought to be expressed. A party, numerous in Parliament and powerful in the press, is beginning to intrigue for the recognition of the South. They are aided by the fears of the cotton dealers,

The country gentleman and the Corn Laws

190 years of The Spectator   14 January 1843   The country gentlemen of England never committed a greater blunder than when they passed the Corn Law of 1815. If they would but allow themselves to examine dispassionately their own objects, they could scarcely fail to discover this, and also the necessity of retreating as

To our non-political readers

190 years of The Spectator   21 May 1831   Lucretius tells us, in some famous lines, that it is a pleasant thing to watch the sea in a tempest, from the shore: it is a far more gratifying employment to be throwing out Manby’s lifesaving apparatus, and saving the sinking mariners from the wreck.

No mere Spectator

Although The Spectator (literally) defined ‘The Establishment’, it has never been its organ. In fact, it was founded as a vehicle for root-and-branch reform that sought from the outset to upend the establishment. Its first editor, the Scottish firebrand Robert Stephen Rintoul, argued that, in spite of the magazine’s pointedly chosen title, ‘It is difficult

Notes on...

Being the perfect guest

Come to our house in France, say generous friends, come to Italy, come fishing. ‘How wonderful, what shall we bring?’ Nothing, they reply. They are lying, obviously. Bring cash, a thoughtful present for the house — pillowcases, new books — and your biggest smile. You don’t want the hosts rolling their eyes and punching the