Biography

Ragged spectres, half sunk in mud, half lost in shadow: Joseph Gray’s unnerving ‘A Ration Party’

The disappearing acts of Joseph Gray, master of military camouflage

24 March 2018 9:00 am

Frances Wilson goes in search of Joseph Gray, whose experiments in camouflage changed the landscape of the second world war

Saul Bellow (centre): ‘He said he felt like Valjean, pursued by Inspector Javert through the sewers of Paris,’ says James Atlas. Above and left: Graham Greene and Anthony Powell were both better biographers than biographees

Biography is a thoroughly reprehensible genre

3 March 2018 9:00 am

Why do biographers insist on making neat patterns of their subjects’ lives? Roger Lewis finds it rigid, invasive and wrong

Debussy appears to have had no real sympathy for, or interest in, other people

Debussy: the musical genius who erupted out of nowhere

24 February 2018 9:00 am

That was Debussy’s guiding principle – and his music has been a lifelong pleasure for Philip Hensher, too

‘The Illegal Act’: Roosevelt, in a boat named National Recovery, struggles to save Uncle Sam from the Depression. The cartoon appeared in 1935, when the United States Supreme Court declared the National Recovery Administration unconstitutional

What America needs is another Franklin D. Roosevelt

13 January 2018 9:00 am

What America needs is another Franklin D. Roosevelt

Taki: The truth about Ernest Hemingway

6 January 2018 9:00 am

Gstaad When the snow finally stopped, the sublime, silent stars above made for dramatic viewing. Against silhouetted Alpine peaks, starry…

A previously unpublished photograph of Dylan in 1981

Bob Dylan is a modern-day Odysseus

9 December 2017 9:00 am

‘There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.’…

The Godfather: Edward Garnett had a keen eye for talent, but was blind to modernism

Edward Garnett and his diligent blue pencil

9 December 2017 9:00 am

Edward Garnett, radical, pacifist, freethinker, Russophile man of letters, was from the 1890s onwards for many years the pre-eminent fixer…

Gerry Adams: from jail to the Dail

4 November 2017 9:00 am

When I recently asked a sardonic Northern Irish friend what historical figures Gerry Adams resembled, the tasteless reply came back:…

Blue and Yellow Macaw, c.1834

Edward Lear: where art and nonsense collide

14 October 2017 9:00 am

Peter Parker on the modest, melancholy and astonishingly gifted painter and author

Princess Margaret at the races in Kingston, Jamaica in 1955

Princess Margaret: a darkly glamorous tale

14 October 2017 9:00 am

Princess Margaret was everywhere on the bohemian scene of the 1960s and 1970s. She hung out with all the famous…

Richard Nixon in September 1968

Richard Nixon: the nightmare president of his age

14 October 2017 9:00 am

In this giant, prodigiously sourced and insightful biography, John A. Farrell shows how Richard Milhous Nixon was the nightmare of…

‘My witchcraft is going well’: The crazed Eva Rausing, photographed shortly before her death

All about Eva: Sigrid Rausing’s shocking portrait of her sister-in-law

9 September 2017 9:00 am

It’s awful, but the surname Rausing (once synonymous only with the Tetrapak fortune) now summons up a terrible stench in…

Self-portrait, with his wife Margaret

The dazzling vision of Thomas Gainsborough

12 August 2017 9:00 am

Working in semi-darkness, Thomas Gainsborough produced some of the airiest, most poetic paintings imaginable, says Philip Hensher

General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck in 1917

General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck: the Lion of German East Africa

12 August 2017 9:00 am

What’s going on with book reviews? Here is the Pulitizer prizewinning (for ‘criticism’) Michael Dirda in the Washington Post, on…

Miss Muriel Matters: fearless campaigner for female suffrage

12 August 2017 9:00 am

On the evening of 28 October 1908, two unremarkable middle-class women wearing heavy overcoats gained admission to the Ladies’ Gallery,…

The maestro could hear if a single player was doing something wrong, even in the most noisy tutti

Toscanini and the morality of conducting

5 August 2017 9:00 am

Toscanini’s simple set of values made him certain of the rights and wrongs of everything, says Michael Tanner – except regarding women

Michael Kidson — in a class of his own

5 August 2017 9:00 am

The Enigma of Kidson is a quintessentially Etonian book: narcissistic, complacent, a bit silly and ultimately beguiling. It is the…

The Brooklyn Bridge: a masterpiece of engineering and a unifying symbol after a divisive civil war

The Brooklyn Bridge — an engineering masterpiece and symbol of unity

10 June 2017 9:00 am

Before Brooklyn exceeded it in cool, Manhattanites spoke dismissively of BNTs. These were the Bridge ‘n’ Tunnel folk, the out-of-towners…

Indians are getting post-truth history about Winston Churchill

4 February 2017 9:00 am

Did Winston Churchill, like Donald Trump, also like to ‘grab them by the pussy?’ Last week at the Jaipur Literary…

Frank Buckland at home with his caged monkeys

Anyone for pickled horse tongue, boiled elephant’s trunk or rhinoceros pie?

10 December 2016 9:00 am

Forgotten? Though I can rarely attend their dinners (in Birmingham), I am a proud member of the Buckland Club (motto:…

Julie Harris in the 1963 film The Haunting, based on Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House

Shirley Jackson, high priestess of horror, finally gets the recognition she deserves

3 December 2016 9:00 am

A film critic friend, astonished that I had never heard of Shirley Jackson, told me to go and read her…

Before she was 40, Anne Barnard had had at least 20 serious suitors and 11 marriage proposals

Anne Barnard: a portrait of a very unusual lady

5 November 2016 9:00 am

Lady Anne Barnard is a name that means almost nothing today, but her story is a remarkable one. She defied…

Four men pay court to Mrs Thatcher

15 October 2016 9:00 am

This is a strange book. Peter Stothard, the editor of the TLS, is packing up his office. It is a…

Albert Camus photographed at home in 1947

The sheer strangeness of Albert Camus’s imagination

15 October 2016 9:00 am

Looking for the Outsider is the biography of a novel, from conception through publication to critical reception. Alice Kaplan’s life-story…

My eerie visit to Buckingham Palace in the 1830s

17 September 2016 9:00 am

The borderline between fact and fiction becomes ever hazier, I find. Last February, Daisy Goodwin — the author of the…