The enlightenment

The Georgians feel closer to us now than the Victorians

‘The two most fascinating subjects in the universe are sex and the 18th century,’ declared the novelist Brigid Brophy when the ban on Fanny Hill was lifted in 1963. Penelope Corfield’s big, handsome, enjoyable book goes a good way to illustrating Brophy’s assertion. Part source book, part interpretive history of the long 18th century (1688-1837), it is also a guide and gazetteer to the continuing presence of Georgian England in our towns and minds. The world before 1688 is largely unfamiliar to us. The 18th century, however, with its lovable rogues, its introduction of constitutional monarchy, its rights of man and its sexual libertines, is akin to ours. Despite recent

There’s nothing a white person can do about racism, says Dr Kehinde Andrews

After the death of George Floyd last year, and the subsequent Black Lives Matter protests around the world, racism is one of the hot-button issues of our time. And, according to Kehinde Andrews’s new book, The New Age of Empire: How Racism and Colonialism Still Rule the World, it is embedded deeply in the West: A central thesis of this book is that White supremacy, and therefore anti-Blackness, is the fundamental basis of the political and economic system and therefore infects all interactions, institutions and ideas. Andrews maintains this uncompromising tone throughout. The book is partly a historical account of the transatlantic slave trade and European colonialism; it is also

Mozart the infant prodigy was also a child of the Enlightenment

‘My dear young man: don’t take it too hard,’ Joseph II counsels a puppyish Mozart, the colour of his hair unknown in nature. ‘Your work is ingenious. It’s quality work. And there are simply too many notes, that’s all. Just cut a few and it will be perfect.’ ‘Which few did you have in mind, your majesty?’, Mozart enquires, the sinisterly oleaginous F. Murray Abraham as Salieri quietly registering the subtle brilliance of Mozart’s grinning lèse-majesté. Those interested in the subject of Miloš Forman’s 1984 film Amadeus are today faced with a not dissimilar predicament: which of the millions of words written about Mozart should we cut? And would they