Life beyond the canvas

24 February 2010 12:00 am

Angela Thirlwell’s previous book was a double biography of William Rossetti (brother to the more famous Dante Gabriel) and his wife Lucy (daughter of the more famous Ford Madox Brown).

Not ‘a boy-crazed trollop’

17 February 2010 12:00 am

For someone who barely left the house, Emily Dickinson didn’t half cause a lot of trouble.

A dangerous fellow

10 February 2010 12:00 am

Do we need another huge life of Arthur Koestler? He wrote a great deal about himself, including three autobiographical works: Spanish Testament (1937), describing his experience as a death-row prisoner of General Franco, Arrow in the Blue (1952) and The Invisible Writing (1954).

The grandest of old men

27 January 2010 12:00 am

Mr Gladstone’s career in politics was titanic.

Celebration of old times

13 January 2010 12:00 am

Must You Go? My Life with Harold Pinter, by Antonia Fraser

Master of accretion

30 December 2009 12:00 am

Frank Auerbach (born 1931) is one of the most interesting artists working in Europe today, a philosophical painter of reality who works and re-works his pictures before he discovers something new, something worth saving.

Ignoble nobles

30 December 2009 12:00 am

Badly behaved toffs have been a gift to writers since ancient times, and in English from Chaucer to Waugh.

Enjoyer and endurer

14 December 2009 12:00 am

I approached the late David Nokes’s scholarly book with some trepidation, having heard that it had been criticised for its apparent dismissal of James Boswell.

The optimism of a suicide

9 December 2009 12:00 am

A postal strike would have been a disaster for Van Gogh.

Remembering a classicist

25 November 2009 12:00 am

Just as Alec Guinness resented being seen as Obi-Wan Kenobi for the rest of his life, Ian Richardson might have resented Francis Urquhart, the Machiavelli of Michael Dobbs’ House of Cards trilogy, whose catchphrase gives this book its title.

Adored friends

25 November 2009 12:00 am

Years ago the late ‘Brookie’ Warwick, 8th Earl, asked me to ghost his memoirs.

All Paris at her feet

25 November 2009 12:00 am

In what was intended as the opening line of a 1951 catalogue essay to an exhibition by the painter Leonor Fini, Jean Cocteau wrote: ‘There is always, at the margin of work by men, that luminous and capricious shadow of work by women.’ Not surprisingly, Fini excised it.

When words were scarce

11 November 2009 12:00 am

Most of us are brought up not badly, but wrongly.

A bland villain

4 November 2009 12:00 am

I’ve always thought of fraud as a relatively attractive form of crime — not, of course, in the sense that I daydream of committing it, but in the sense that it involves intelligence, imagination and nerve, rather than violence and damage.

Skeletons in the cupboard

4 November 2009 12:00 am

Freudian analysis, Soviet communism and the garment industry: what do all of these things have in common? If your answer has something to do with central and east European Jews born at the end of the 19th century, you wouldn’t be far off.

Cheering satanism

4 November 2009 12:00 am

‘For my generation of Essex teenagers, Dennis Wheatley’s novels represented the essential primer in diabolism,’ Ronald Hutton, the historian and expert on paganism, recalls.

Nothing succeeds like excess

4 November 2009 12:00 am

In 1975, admitted to an institution for inveterate alcoholics, John Cheever alarmed and scandalised the staff by what they called inappropriate laughter:

A conflict of wills

21 October 2009 12:00 am

It might seem odd that Eric Ives, the acclaimed biographer of Anne Boleyn, should turn his attention to another executed Tudor queen, Lady Jane Grey.

The Father of Scottish Tourism

7 October 2009 12:00 am

‘How do we make Scott more popular?’ The question ran round the table and none of us had an answer.

Give peace a chance

7 October 2009 12:00 am

Time was, back in the Renaissance, when barely a book would be published which did not feature some lavish hero-worship of Cicero.

All the Men’s Queen

30 September 2009 12:00 am

It is entirely possible that nobody, not even perhaps Queen Elizabeth herself, has ever known what she was really like, so great the charm, the smiling gaze, the gloved arm, the almost wistful voice, the lilting politeness, yet so strong the nerve, so dogged the spirit, so determined the trajectory.

A serious life

30 September 2009 12:00 am

White-haired, red-faced, cheerfully garrulous, outgoing, pugnacious when nec- essary, portly: in his last years Senator Ted Kennedy strikingly resembled the Irish-American politicos of old, particularly his maternal grandfather, John Fitzgerald, ‘Honey Fitz,’ twice mayor of Boston.

Was his diary his downfall?

30 September 2009 12:00 am

The audiotape of Alan Clark’s Diaries — barely mentioned in this rather Dr Watsonish, sensible shoe of a biography — is well worth hearing.

Concealing and revealing

30 September 2009 12:00 am

In 1837 The Quarterly Review’s anonymous critic — actually, one Abraham Hayward — turned his attention to Charles Dickens, then in the first flaring of his popularity as the author of Sketches by Boz, The Pickwick Papers and Oliver Twist.

Dancing in the dark

9 September 2009 12:00 am

Kenneth MacMillan was once described as ‘the Francis Bacon of ballet’ — not an analogy that gets one very far, but there’s something in it.