literary history

Stuck for something to read? Pick up a Penguin Classic

15 December 2018 9:00 am

In 1956, after Penguin Classics had published 60 titles, the editor-in-chief of Penguin Books, William Emrys Williams, wondered: ‘How many…

The Finnish-American actress Maila Nurmi, who created the 1950s character Vampira.

The vampire’s role in Marxist philosophy

3 November 2018 9:00 am

‘What!’, railed Voltaire in his Dictionnaire Philosophique of 1764. ‘Is it in our 18th century that vampires still exist?’ Hadn’t…

Robinson Crusoe — with more company than Alexander Selkirk enjoyed

The story behind the story of Robinson Crusoe

10 September 2016 9:00 am

Some years ago, when I stepped from an unstable boat onto Juan Fernández island, a friendly man took my bag…

A study of female street walkers is disappointingly pedestrian

27 August 2016 9:00 am

On 8 June 1920 an old beggar woman sat against a wall in Kingsway holding a mongrel in her arms…

‘Stack building, Malvern Hills’, by Laura Knight

A.E. Housman: the laureate of repression

2 July 2016 9:00 am

A.E. Housman’s poems leave us with the impression of fire that has been carefully wrapped in ice, says Robert Douglas-Fairhurst

Iain Sinclair

Iain Sinclair and me — Michael Moorcock meets his semi-mythical version

20 June 2015 9:00 am

In the late 1980s Peter Ackroyd invited me to meet Iain Sinclair, whose first novel, White Chappell, Scarlet Tracings, I…

The Merchant (left) and the Physician from the Ellesmere manuscript of the Canterbury Tales

A window on Chaucer’s cramped, scary, smelly world

17 January 2015 9:00 am

Sam Leith describes the frequently lonely, squalid and hapless life of the father of English poetry

Three of the best: Edward Thomas (left), Wilfred Owen (above right) and Edmund Blunden

Look again – the first world war poets weren't pacifists

10 May 2014 9:00 am

The patriotism of the Great War’s finest poets was neither narrow nor triumphalist but reflected an intense devotion to an endangered country and to a way of life worth dying for, says David Crane

What! Has John Sutherland really not read Don Quixote from cover to cover?

Judge a critic by the quality of his mistakes

10 May 2014 9:00 am

What the title promises is not found inside. It is a tease. John Sutherland says he has ‘been paid one…

The cover of a popular late-19th-century edition of Mary Shelley’s novel. Frankenstein confronts the monster he has created

How the Romantics ruined lives

16 November 2013 9:00 am

It is perhaps the most celebrated house-party in the history of literary tittle-tattle: a two-house-party to be precise. Byron and…

Paul Bowles

Tangier, by Josh Shoemake - review

24 August 2013 9:00 am

This may sound a little orientalist, but Tangier has some claim to being the most foreign city in the world.…

A Trip to Echo Spring, by Olivia Laing - review

10 August 2013 9:00 am

The boozer’s life is one of low self-esteem and squalid self-denial. It was memorably evoked by Charles Jackson in his…

'The Shakespeare of the lunatic asylum' - review of The Dostoevsky Archive by Peter Sekirin

22 June 2013 9:00 am

After you decapitate someone, might their severed head continue thinking? Prince Myshkin holds his audience spellbound with this macabre inquiry…