Lord Byron had many faults, but writing dull letters wasn’t one of them

In 1814, at the height of his fame, the poet, libertine and freedom fighter Lord Byron had his head examined. Not by a proto-psychiatrist but by the German phrenologist and physician Johann Spurzheim, who, after making a detailed study of the no doubt amused Byron’s cranium, pronounced the brain to be ‘very antithetical’ and said that it was an organ in which ‘good and evil are at perpetual war’. Two centuries after Byron’s death, this dichotomy is as pronounced as ever when it comes to analyses of the poet. His defenders point to his wit, his poetic genius, his heroic efforts in defence of Greek liberty and his personal flair;

Do all MI6 men wear such quirky cufflinks?

‘You’re late. About four years too late.’ The lady in the car-hire office gave a casual shrug and turned her gaze towards the perpetual traffic jam in the street outside. Mercedes squeezing past BMWs squeezing past customised 4×4 Jeeps. There’s plenty of wealth in Albania if you go to the right places. Or the wrong ones. ‘It’s all mafia money,’ she went on. ‘This is where they come to spend their money in the summer. It wasn’t like this a few years ago. Now the prices here have gone crazy.’ Put it down to poor research but this wasn’t what we were expecting. The phrase ‘Albanian Riviera’ had a rather

The rotten legacy of communism in Albania

Our heavily laden taxi turned off the main highway from Tirana and started to negotiate the rough, one-track road. The road wound its way around the edges of the mountains until we reached the ruins of Spaç prison, once a slave labour camp in the communist era of Albania. Two three-storey buildings housed the large cells where 54 men at a time had lived and slept. They were required to work gruelling shifts, filling metal wagons with copper ore and pushing the along uneven rails, some of which were under water. If they failed to fulfil their quota, they would have to do a second shift. And if they failed