Dickens

Joanna Lumley plays Mrs God in BBC Radio 4's new play Michael Frayn's Pocket Playhouse (Credit: ITV/ Rex/ Shutterstock)

Only Radio 4 would allow Ian McKellen and Joanna Lumley to play Mr and Mrs God

2 June 2018 9:00 am

One sphere that podcasts have so far not much penetrated is drama. Audible.co.uk is itching to develop its own brand…

The glorious history of Chatham Dockyard, as told through the eyes of artists

31 March 2018 9:00 am

‘Ding, Clash, Dong, BANG, Boom, Rattle, Clash, BANG, Clink, BANG, Dong, BANG, Clatter, BANG BANG BANG!’ is how Charles Dickens…

Laura Freeman reads her way out of anorexia

24 February 2018 9:00 am

It is hard to be honest about anorexia. The illness breeds deceit and distortion: ‘It thrives on looking-glass logic. It…

Togas, sandals, breastplates, ketchup and daggers, not guns: Julius Caesar at the Barbican

It’s impossible to muff the role of Scrooge – yet Rhys Ifans manages: A Christmas Carol reviewed

9 December 2017 9:00 am

Maximum Victoriana at the Old Vic for Matthew Warchus’s A Christmas Carol. Even before we reach our seats we’re accosted…

Spies, plots and a temple of doom

26 August 2017 9:00 am

A CIA agent, a naive young filmmaker, a dilettante heir and a lost Mayan temple form the basis of Ned…

Plywood at its most curvaceous, acceptable and collectible: Alvar Aalto armchair, 1930 (left), and moulded plywood chair by Grete Jalk, 1963

How plywood helped us win the second world war

8 July 2017 9:00 am

The V&A’s Plywood show has much to teach us about human nature, says Tanya Harrod

‘Little Dorrit and the Turnkey’, by Arthur A. Dixon

The best of times and the worst of times — in debtors' prison

29 October 2016 9:00 am

The Marshalsea was the best and worst place for a debtor to be imprisoned. From 1438 until its closure in…

A miserable day’s fishing from Southend Pier in the 1930s

The eerie power of the Thames Estuary

17 September 2016 9:00 am

You find it in the vistas of skeletal metal gangways, the abandoned 18th-century forts, the squat oil holders and rusted…

Money shot: banknote from the time of Kublai Khan, 13th century

From Kublai Khan to Charles Dickens: the birth and death of paper money

10 September 2016 9:00 am

As the Age of the Polymer dawns, Daisy Dunn looks back on the history of the banknote

In defence of suburbia

6 August 2016 9:00 am

The suburbs fuel creativity, says Philip Hensher. So why do writers and artists look down on them?

A bleak future — without cabbages or kings

7 May 2016 9:00 am

One happy aspect of Lionel Shriver’s peek into the near future (the novel opens in 2029) is the number of…

A butterfly-powered parachute gently ridicules the French obsession with flight in the late 18th century, illustrated in Gaston Tissandier’s Histoire des ballons et des aéronautes célèbres: 1783–1800

Steve Jones’s chaotic theory of history

7 May 2016 9:00 am

‘They fuck you up, your mum and dad.’ Philip Larkin’s most famous line has appeared in the Spectator repeatedly, and…

Christopher Hitchens (Photo: Getty)

Cultured — and combative — criticism from America

30 January 2016 9:00 am

Four years after his death, it is still faintly surprising to recall that Christopher Hitchens is no longer resident on…

Christmas-themed books — for children and adults

12 December 2015 9:00 am

There’s a moment in a child’s life where Christmas begins to lose its magic. Once lost it cannot be regained,…

The evil genius of Dr Fu Manchu

21 November 2015 9:00 am

In late Victorian south London a ‘lower-middle-class’ boy, Arthur Ward, is lingering over his copy of The Arabian Nights. The…

‘Nocturne in Grey and Gold’ by James McNeill Whistler, 1874

London fog: from the Big Smoke to the Big Choke

7 November 2015 9:00 am

‘A foggy day in London town,’ croons Fred Astaire in the 1937 musical comedy A Damsel in Distress, puffing nonchalantly…

Another ‘big book’ — with big problems — from Jonathan Franzen

29 August 2015 9:00 am

Jonathan Franzen’s latest novel, Purity, comes with great expectations. Its author’s awareness of this fact is signalled by a series…

Machado de Assis wasn’t the Dickens of Brazil— but he is one of the greats

15 August 2015 9:00 am

The surname is pronounced ‘M’shahdo j’Asseece’. There are also two Christian names — Joaquim Maria — which are usually dispensed…

London shouting: The Clash at the ICA, 1976

Why plotting a sound map of London is impossible

18 July 2015 9:00 am

It’s easy to tag the city’s terrain by writer. But what, wonders Philip Clark, might a map of its music look like?

Murder on Grub Street

18 April 2015 9:00 am

Historical fiction is sometimes accused of being remote from modern concerns, a flight towards nostalgia and fantasy. It’s not an…

Don’t sneer at I’m a Celebrity. The show is teaching us to become model citizens

29 November 2014 9:00 am

One of the great benefits of having teenage children is that they force you out of your fuddy-duddy comfort zone.…

This thriller is as good as anything by Hilary Mantel

30 August 2014 9:00 am

A few years ago, after a lifetime of wearing white shirts through which the straps of my white bra were…

The Little Mermaid, illustrated by Ivan Bilibin

The fairytale life of Hans Christian Andersen

24 May 2014 9:00 am

It has long been my habit, when approaching a new biography, to read the account of the subject’s childhood first,…

Look! Shakespeare! Wow! George Eliot! Criminy! Jane Austen!

16 November 2013 9:00 am

Among the precursors to this breezy little book are, in form, the likes of The Story of Art, Our Island…

What a coincidence

12 October 2013 9:00 am

If you are going to read a novel that plays with literary conventions you want it written with aplomb. In…