Frances Wilson

Contradictions are the bedrock of who she is: Germaine Greer photographed in 1993

Germaine Greer continues to shock and awe

3 November 2018 9:00 am

There is an African bird called the ox-pecker with which Germaine Greer, conversant as she is with the natural world,…

Portrait of Dante by Luca Signorelli

The perfect guide to a book everyone should read

11 August 2018 9:00 am

‘The Divine Comedy is a book that everyone ought to read,’ according to Jorge Luis Borges, and every Italian has…

Johnson has a plate of food sent to him behind a screen at his publisher’s office. Painting byHenry Wallis

The wit and wisdom of Dr Johnson is still of benefit to us all

16 June 2018 9:00 am

The most irritating of recent publishing trends must be the literary self-help guide, and Henry Hitchings’s contribution to the genre…

Ragged spectres, half sunk in mud, half lost in shadow: Joseph Gray’s unnerving ‘A Ration Party’

The disappearing acts of Joseph Gray, master of military camouflage

24 March 2018 9:00 am

On a night in Paris in 1914, Gertrude Stein was walking with Picasso when the first camouflaged trucks passed by.…

They shared a love of books, beekeeping, print-collecting, alchemy, geometry, music, astronomy and the English language: John Evelyn (left) and Samuel Pepys

Two enquiring minds

19 August 2017 9:00 am

Samuel Pepys, wrote John Evelyn, was ‘universally beloved, hospitable, generous, learned in many things’ and ‘skilled in music’. John Evelyn,…

Benjamin Franklin in London, with the bust of Isaac Newton on his desk

Benjamin Franklin: from man about town to man on the run

27 February 2016 9:00 am

Just who was Benjamin Franklin? Apart, that is, from journalist, statesman, diplomat, founding father of the United States, inventor of…

A portrait by Edward Savage of the Washingtons at home, with two of Martha’s grandchildren, adopted by her after the death of their parents

George and Martha Washington were an odd first First Couple

5 December 2015 9:00 am

‘Would Washington have ever been commander of the revolutionary army, or President of the United States, if he had not…

What does it really mean to have a tyrannical father?

24 October 2015 9:00 am

What was it like, asks Jay Nordlinger, to have Mao as your father, or Pol Pot, or Papa Doc? The…

With rain threatening, Jane Bennet departs for Netherfield — with her mother’s approval. Illustration by Hugh Thomson for Pride and Prejudice (1894)

Rain, shine and the human imagination — from Adam and Eve to David Hockney

12 September 2015 9:00 am

‘Pray don’t talk to me about the weather, Mr Worthing,’ pleads Gwendolen in The Importance of Being Earnest. ‘Whenever people…

Harriet Howard, Duchess of Sutherland, by William Corden the Younger, after Franz Xavier Winterhalter. ‘What a hold the place has on one,’ she observed of Cliveden

Love nest or den of iniquity? Cliveden has always been shrouded in mystery and scandal

18 July 2015 9:00 am

Well, you can’t say he wasn’t warned. Swimming pools, Nancy Astor told her son, Bill, were ‘disgustin’. I don’t trust…

Portrait thought to be of Francis Barber by Sir Joshua Reynolds

Francis Barber: reluctant member of Dr Johnson’s mad ménage

23 May 2015 9:00 am

We know a great deal about Samuel Johnson and virtually nothing about his Jamaican servant, Francis Barber. The few facts…

Rex Whistler’s portrait of Edith Olivier on a day bed at Daye House, Wilton, 1942

When Rex met Edith: a meeting of minds in interwar England

4 April 2015 9:00 am

Rex Whistler — this book’s ‘bright young thing’ — was an artist of the 1920s and 1930s, and Edith Olivier,…

Muriel and Nellie: two radical Christians build Jerusalem in London’s East End

31 January 2015 9:00 am

This is the tale of Muriel Lester, once famous pacifist and social reformer, and Nellie Dowell, her invisible friend. Nellie…