Biography

John Galliano at Paris Fashion Week 2010

Drink, drugs and dressing-up: behind the scenes of the fashion industry

7 February 2015 9:00 am

Philip Hensher explores a dangerously intoxicating world, and discovers just how quickly famous designers can become an irrelevance

William Marshal: kingmaker — or just king of the joust?

17 January 2015 9:00 am

In February 1861 a 21-year-old French medievalist called Paul Meyer walked into Sotheby’s auction house near Covent Garden. He had…

This Winter Journey goes far beyond expectation

10 January 2015 9:00 am

You can tell a lot about a book from its bibliography. It’s the non-fiction equivalent of skipping to the final…

Benjamin Robert Haydon’s portrait of William Wordsworth

Sunday roasts and beaded bubbles: dining with the poets

3 January 2015 9:00 am

In December 1817 Benjamin Robert Haydon — vivid diarist and painter of huge but inferior canvases of historic events —…

Deng Xiaoping: following in Mao’s footsteps

6 December 2014 9:00 am

Much has been written about Deng Xiao-ping (1904–1997), most recently by Ezra Vogel in Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of…

‘Exquisitely dressed and groomed, Stefan Zweig looks simply terrified’

Stefan Zweig: the tragedy of a great bad writer

22 November 2014 9:00 am

Stefan Zweig wasn’t, to be honest, a very good writer. This delicious fact was hugged to themselves by most of…

Outside Downing Street in June 1943. Ten years earlier, no one would have thought it remotely likely that Winston Churchill would be regarded as his country’s saviour

Does Boris Johnson really expect us to think he's Churchill?

25 October 2014 9:00 am

An eccentric, thoroughgoing genius, surfing every wave with a death-defying self-belief — Philip Hensher wonders who Boris Johnson can be thinking of

Scenes from a long life. Left to right: the vulnerable young queen, in thrall to Prince Albert; overcoming her demons with the help of John Brown — depicted in a popular souvenir cut-out; and the matriarch as Empress of India

Is there anything left to say about Queen Victoria? A.N. Wilson has found plenty

6 September 2014 9:00 am

A new, revisionist biography argues that it was only after her husband’s death that Queen Victoria found her true self. Jane Ridley is impressed

Peter Levi – poet, priest and life-enhancer

30 August 2014 9:00 am

Hilaire Belloc was once being discussed on some television programme. One of the panellists was Peter Levi. The other critics…

‘While some observers were impressed, others felt the depiction of a doddery Churchill propped up on a walking stick unbecoming’

The lost Victorian who sculpted Churchill

16 August 2014 9:00 am

Ivor Roberts-Jones was in many ways the right artist at the wrong time. Had the sculptor been born a few…

Chris Barber should let someone meaner tell his story

16 August 2014 9:00 am

Chris Barber, still going strong with his big band, was born in 1930. He heard jazz as a schoolboy on…

The yes-no-maybe world of Harrison Birtwistle

31 May 2014 9:00 am

For better or worse, we live in the age of the talking composer. Some talk well, some badly, a few…

Edgar Degas - Dancer slipping on her shoe (1874)

Ladies' hats were his waterlillies - the obsessive brilliance of Edgar Degas

19 April 2014 9:00 am

Lucian Freud once said that ‘being able to draw well is the hardest thing — far harder than painting, as…

My family's better days

18 January 2014 9:00 am

Simon Blow recalls the wealth, recklessness and beauty of his family’s better days

‘Grace Higgens in the Kitchen’ by Vanessa Bell

The Angel of Charleston, by Stewart MacKay - review

18 January 2014 9:00 am

Above the range in the kitchen at Charleston House is a painted inscription: ‘Grace Higgens worked here for 50 years…

'She's the most important Jewish writer since Kafka!'

11 January 2014 9:00 am

Ian Thomson on the turbulent life of Clarice Lispector

What was the secret of Queen Victoria's rebel daughter?

11 January 2014 9:00 am

Princess Louise (1848–1939), Queen Victoria’s fourth daughter, was the prettiest and liveliest of the five princesses, and the only one…

The Roth of tenderness and of rage

4 January 2014 9:00 am

In the autumn of 2012, Philip Roth told a French magazine that his latest book, Nemesis, would be his last.…

How honest was Bernard Berenson?

14 December 2013 9:00 am

Sam Leith suspects that even such a distinguished connoisseur as Bernard Berenson did not always play a straight bat

The mad, mum-fixated maiden aunt of modernism

7 December 2013 9:00 am

Marianne Moore’s poems are notoriously ‘difficult’ but her personality and the circumstances of her life are as fascinating today as…

The Last Knight, by Robert O’Byrne - review

30 November 2013 9:00 am

I have to declare an interest: for many years the Knight and I were the closest of friends until a…

One Leg Too Few may be one biography too many

16 November 2013 9:00 am

It’s no joke, writing about comedians. Their work is funny, their lives are not. Rightly honouring the former while accurately…

The abstract art full of 'breasts and bottoms'

9 November 2013 9:00 am

Is there any such thing as abstract art? Narratives and coherent harmonies seem to me always to emerge from the…

The man who shared a bed with D.H. Lawrence and Dylan Thomas (though not together)

9 November 2013 9:00 am

Rhys Davies was a Welsh writer in English who lived most of his life in London, that Tir na nÓg…

Photograph courtesy of Tina and Terence dooley

Why did Penelope Fitzgerald start writing so late? 

2 November 2013 9:00 am

‘Experiences aren’t given us to be “got over”, otherwise they would hardly be experiences.’ The opening sentence of the first…