Biography

Is Anna Wintour human?

21 May 2022 9:00 am

Apparently Anna Wintour wants to be seen as human, and Amy Odell’s biography goes some way to helping her achieve…

Friend of Elizabethan exiles: the colourful life of Jane Dormer

7 May 2022 9:00 am

Thomas Cromwell’s biographer Diarmaid MacCulloch once told me that my father’s family, the Dormers, had been servants of the great…

Gardening’s bad girl: the genius – and malice – of Ellen Willmott

7 May 2022 9:00 am

In October 1897, the grandees of the Royal Horticultural Society gathered to bestow their highest award, the Victoria Medal of…

Disregarded for decades, Jean Rhys stayed true to her vision of life

7 May 2022 9:00 am

Jean Rhys lived a vagabond life – but she wrote about gloom and squalor with luminous purity and a poet’s care, says Lucasta Miller

Is Mark Twain’s old age best forgotten?

7 May 2022 9:00 am

Mark Twain conquered almost every challenge that came his way except old age. Living well into his seventies, he was…

Boris Iofan – cunning apparatchik of a loathsome regime

30 April 2022 9:00 am

The invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces has rendered what might otherwise have seemed a fairly niche study of a…

The effortless magnetism of Marcel Duchamp

30 April 2022 9:00 am

One could compile a fat anthology of tributes to Marcel Duchamp’s charm – especially what one friend called the artist’s…

Nymphomaniac, fearless campaigner, alcoholic – Nancy Cunard was all this and more

23 April 2022 9:00 am

Nancy Cunard’s defiance of convention began early, fuelled by bitter resentment towards her mother, says Jane Ridley

Stewart Brand: man of ideas and infuriating contrarian

16 April 2022 9:00 am

In his 2005 book What The Dormouse Said John Markoff traced the roots of the personal computer industry to the…

Arnold Bennett’s success made him loathed by other writers

16 April 2022 9:00 am

Virginia Woolf admitted to her journal: ‘I haven’t that reality gift.’ Her contemporary Arnold Bennett had it in spades. He…

Four difficult women who fought to preserve the English countryside

16 April 2022 9:00 am

One thing that Covid lockdown made us appreciate was the importance of being outdoors. When we were finally allowed into…

Was Thomas Edison guilty of murder?

16 April 2022 9:00 am

In September 1890 a Frenchman called Louis Le Prince left his brother in Dijon and boarded a train to Paris,…

A pure original: the inventive genius of John Donne

16 April 2022 9:00 am

John Donne sounds like nobody else, and his poems invite us to feel that we might know him, says Daniel Swift

The Queen’s dedication to service was learnt at her father’s knee

9 April 2022 9:00 am

If you have ever thought that there cannot be anything new to say or to learn about the Queen, you…

AOC, America’s youngest congresswoman, has already been compared with FDR and JFK

9 April 2022 9:00 am

‘Who is AOC?’ the back cover of this book asks. ‘A wack job!’ says Donald Trump. ‘She needs to run…

History must at least be readable if we’re to learn anything from it

2 April 2022 9:00 am

Richard Cohen was once one of our foremost book editors as well as being an Olympic sabre champion. Since moving…

Homage to Joseph Johnson, the radical 18th-century publisher

2 April 2022 9:00 am

There’s no excuse for dullness, especially when writing about a life as eventful as Joseph Johnson’s, the publisher and bookseller…

Is the Virgin Mary being sidelined by Rome?

2 April 2022 9:00 am

The Catholic church has always venerated Mary (‘Mother of God’) above other saints. But in recent years there has been…

Pablo Picasso in love and war

2 April 2022 9:00 am

As Europe descended into chaos, the middle-aged Picasso remained as bullish as ever, says Craig Raine

When Oxford life resembled a great satirical novel

19 March 2022 9:00 am

Paula Byrne describes life at Oxford University in its eccentric heyday

Jesus’s female disciples remain women of mystery

12 March 2022 9:00 am

Is there a patron saint of conjecture? Perhaps it is a name known only to Bible scholars, who have rich…

The heartbreak left in the wake of the Terra Nova

12 March 2022 9:00 am

The story of the five women waiting at home for Captain Scott and his doomed polar party is naturally occluded…

The fuss over Mary Seacole’s statue has obscured the real person

5 March 2022 9:00 am

Mary Seacole may not have qualified as a nurse in the modern sense, but British troops benefited greatly from her healing skills, says Andrew Lycett

Masters of the opium trade: the fabulous wealth of the Sassoons

19 February 2022 9:00 am

David Abulafia admires the shrewdness, generosity and panache of the Sassoons over many generations

Playing until her fingers bled: the dedication of the pianist Maria Yudina

19 February 2022 9:00 am

The 20th century was an amazing time for Russian pianists, and the worse things got, politically and militarily, the more…