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Wealth is no guarantee of happiness. Look at the Sackville-Wests

When Robert Sackville-West was writing Inheritance (2010), his history of Knole and the Sackvilles, he was ‘struck’, as he recalls in his new book, by the way that Sackvilles have ‘tended to take Italian or Spanish dancers as mistresses’. The most notable of these was Josefa Duran, the flamenco dancer known as ‘Pepita’. A barber’s

The Italians who won the war – against us

Italy entered the second world war in circumstances very similar to those in which it signed up for the first. Its leaders waited for nine months after the outbreak until they thought they had identified the winner and extracted promises of territorial rewards. In 1915 they guessed rightly and attacked Austria, their formal ally for

Mid-life crisis, 13th-century style

The word delicate is seldom a compliment.  I once threw a saucepan of hot soup out of a fifth storey London window because a boyfriend said it had a delicate flavour, by which he meant none at all. This novel, though, is delicate in an entirely good way: it is fine, intricately wrought, understated. It

Judge a critic by the quality of his mistakes

What the title promises is not found inside. It is a tease. John Sutherland says he has ‘been paid one way or another, to read books all my life’, yet he does not regard himself as well read in the genre of novels. With two million languishing in the British Library vaults, nobody could be,

Exclamation marks, no; aertex shirts, yes!

Jonathan Meades, the architectural, food and cultural commentator, appears on television in a pair of retro shades and a trademark Blues Brother suit. He looks like a poseur, and indeed studied drama at Rada. Lynn Barber, the ‘celebrity interviewer’, is the self-acknowledged scourge of pomposity and pretension. (Melvyn Bragg, among others, has felt the lash