Vaughan Williams’s genius is now beyond dispute

Classical music plays hell with people’s posthumous reputations, as any admirer of the works of Ralph Vaughan Williams will tell you. In 1972, on the centenary of his birth, ample respects were shown. Not only were there special concerts of his music but the Post Office, which is now more focused on commemorating gay pride, issued a stamp. Since the composer’s death in 1958 he and his works had gone into an eclipse, not least because of the atonalists who controlled the Third Programme and many of our concert halls. These were people who believed the British music-loving public should be fed on a diet of what Kathleen Ferrier called

The real Dick Whittington and the folklore legend

In that dark world the air pulsed with the melancholy clangour of bells. If, as legend has it, the chimes of St Mary-le-Bow told Dick Whittington to turn again, then what were they saying to all the other medieval Londoners, dwelling in houses so crowded on fouled streets that the sun could not break through? In the shadow of implacable plague, even London’s super rich were piercingly aware of life’s fragility. Their homes were scented with lily, lavender and the smoke of applewood. They had to be. The city was a close maze of abattoirs and tanneries and streams sluggish with excrement. Yet here, too, were brightly ornamented religious houses

Vital, damning docudrama about the Sacklers: Disney+’s Dopesick reviewed

One of my first jobs in journalism was as the arts correspondent of the Daily Telegraph. I’d hop on my motorbike in my greasy leathers (which I used to wear around the office, much to my then editor Max Hastings’s consternation) and zoom off to all manner of exhibition and gallery openings, many of them somehow related to the name Sackler. The Sackler family at the time were the world’s greatest arts philanthropists, with galleries and museums and rooms named after them from New York, London and Paris to the Far East. Like almost everyone, I had no idea of the source of their apparently limitless wealth. But I knew

A power for good: the Sharp family were a model of vision and humanitarianism

Who would imagine that Johann Zoffany’s celebrated 1780 depiction of the extensive Sharp family happily making music on their pleasure barge could be parsed so deftly into a portrait of an age? Or that Hester Grant, embarking upon her research, could have foreseen how topical Granville Sharp’s determined champaign against slavery would seem at the present moment? Or that his surgeon brother William’s new-fangled passion for ‘variolation’ or vaccination (against smallpox in those days) should strike such a chord today? What a family, and what an age: the seven Sharp siblings not only helped refashion the 18th-century world around them, as the subtitle of Grant’s book suggests, but the causes

Science and philanthropy meet in the Royal Society of Arts

What does Jony Ive, the designer of Apple’s iPhone, have in common with Peter Perez Burdett, the first Englishman to produce aquatints, and Ann Williams, a postmistress who bred silkworms at her home in 18th-century Gravesend? The answer is that they all received awards from the institution known today as the Royal Society of Arts. Ive bagged a £500 travel bursary for creating a futuristic telephone nicknamed the Orator; Burdett earned £100 for a detailed map of Derbyshire; and Williams collected a 20-guinea prize for her observations about the lepidoptera she mistakenly called ‘dear little innocent reptiles’. As Anton Howes demonstrates in this lucid and scrupulously researched history, such bounty