Book review – literary history

Millions of copies of Stalin’s works were printed,but few survive

From Stalin’s poetry to Saddam’s romances: the terrible prose of tyrants

28 April 2018 9:00 am

‘Reading makes the world better. It is how humans merge. How minds connect… Reading is love in action.’ Those are…

The Fact and Fiction Bookshop in New Delhi, once a favourite of Pankaj Mishra

Browsing in bookshops: one of life’s great pleasures

8 October 2016 9:00 am

It is not uncommon for writers to be obsessed by bookshops. Some even find their writing feet through loving a…

Left to right: Wolcott Gibbs, Dorothy Parker and James Thurber.

America’s greatest magazine — at its greatest

2 January 2016 9:00 am

The New Yorker has always been revered for the supreme quality of its writing, says Philip Hensher

From dressing-gown drudge to Man Booker winner

2 January 2016 9:00 am

John Gross’s The Rise and Fall of the Man of Letters: English Literary Life since 1800, a standard text for…

With rain threatening, Jane Bennet departs for Netherfield — with her mother’s approval. Illustration by Hugh Thomson for Pride and Prejudice (1894)

Rain, shine and the human imagination — from Adam and Eve to David Hockney

12 September 2015 9:00 am

‘Pray don’t talk to me about the weather, Mr Worthing,’ pleads Gwendolen in The Importance of Being Earnest. ‘Whenever people…

The road to Lolita: why Nabokov’s literary talent finally blossomed in America

22 August 2015 9:00 am

Speak, Memory, Vladimir Nabokov’s nostalgic memoir, reflects on his life from the age of three to 41, taking us from…

Anxious young mother — Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby

The opposite of a self-help book

25 July 2015 9:00 am

At last, a snappy pop philosophy book which offers to sort out absolutely none of your personal issues. If anything,…

‘The Duel after the Masquerade’ by Jean-Léon Gerome was exhibited to great acclaim in Paris in 1857, and a year later in London. The art historian Francis Haskell has suggested that the mysterious duelling figures from the commmedia dell’arte are characters in a story by Jules Champfleury

Crossed swords and pistols at dawn: the duel in literature

20 June 2015 9:00 am

Earlier this century I was a guest at a fine dinner, held in a citadel of aristocratic Catholicism, for youngish…

Poirot won’t be drawn

The sad demise of the amateur sleuth: it’s all the fault of better policing

16 May 2015 9:00 am

‘The crime novel,’ said Bertolt Brecht, ‘like the world itself, is ruled by the English.’ He was thinking of the…

Oscar Wilde and the marvellous boy

9 May 2015 9:00 am

The prodigious brilliance, blaring public ruin, dismal martyrdom and posthumous glory of Oscar Wilde’s reputation are almost too familiar. The…

Sorbet with Rimbaud

23 August 2014 9:00 am

The Bloomsbury of the title refers to the place, not the group. The group didn’t have a poet. ‘I would…

‘Lorna Doone’s bower’. An illustration from R.D. Blackmore’s ‘Romance of Exmoor’, 1869

A pork-pie and Capri-Sun fuelled hike around England’s moors

14 June 2014 8:00 am

‘No, no’ I said, when The Spectator’s literary editor rang up, ‘I’m sure you must be able to find someone…

‘Harmony and order were what Jane Austen sought in her life and work’. Chawton House, in Hampshire (above), was inherited by Jane’s brother, Edward.

Brains with green fingers

5 April 2014 9:00 am

‘Life is bristling with thorns,’ Voltaire observed in 1769, ‘and I know no other remedy than to cultivate one’s garden.’…