Francis Wheen

How did Robert Maxwell fool most of the people most of the time?

‘Everyone’s heard of Ghislaine Maxwell,’ says the blurb for Power: The Maxwells, a podcast series launched last month. ‘But there’s a shadowy figure who hangs above her who you likely don’t know: her father, media tycoon Robert Maxwell.’ Blimey. I know that 30 years have passed since his soggy demise, and time like an ever-rolling

Please Mr President

President George Washington received about five letters a day and answered them all himself. By the end of the 19th century President William McKinley was so overwhelmed by the volume of mail — 100 letters a day — that he hired someone to manage the flow. Thus began what is now called the Office of

Overs and outs

E.W. Swanton’s first published article appeared in All Sports Weekly in July 1926, soon after his 19th birthday. Thence, swiftly, into Fleet Street, covering public-school sports for the London Evening Standard and ‘rugger’ for the Times. In the summer of 1930 he made his Test debut, reporting the Ashes match at Lord’s in which young

Swine fever

‘Rightly is they called pigs,’ says a farmworker in Aldous Huxley’s Crome Yellow as he watches porkers grunt and squelch. Pía Spry-Marqués has no time for such nominative determinism. ‘Pigs,’ she points out, ‘are in fact quite clean animals.’ Wallowing in mud isn’t nostalgie de la boue, merely the only way of keeping cool if

How scheming ratbags spread lies on social media

It’s a safe bet that any post starting ‘What the mainstream media won’t tell you’, or words to that effect, will refer to something that has in fact been extensively reported in the ‘MSM’. And so it is here. I’m reproducing this Anonymous meme because a lovely Facebook friend of mine posted it, and it

Gin and boiled cabbage with George Orwell

The Orwellian past is a foreign country; smells are different there. Pipe smoke and carbolic, side notes of horse dung and camphor — and that most inescapable odour, the ‘melancholy smell of boiled cabbage and dishwater’ seeping under a parishioner’s front door in A Clergyman’s Daughter. In Nineteen Eighty-Four, too, the hallway of Victory Mansions