Biography

Murder most casual: why Patricia Highsmith’s thrillers are so chilling

16 January 2021 9:00 am

Patricia Highsmith’s life was filled with more eccentric, disturbing brilliance than most readers can normally handle; and so the chief…

Dolly Parton represents all that’s best about America

16 January 2021 9:00 am

Dolly Parton is the living embodiment of America’s best values, says Philip Hensher

The life and loves of Mary Wollstonecraft

9 January 2021 9:00 am

Ruth Scurr reveals what an impulsive, life-loving individual Mary Wollstonecraft was

The only man who didn’t want to be Cary Grant was Cary Grant himself

19 December 2020 9:00 am

Cary Grant was a hoax so sublime his creator struggled to escape him. He was a metaphor, too, for the…

Mozart the infant prodigy was also a child of the Enlightenment

19 December 2020 9:00 am

‘My dear young man: don’t take it too hard,’ Joseph II counsels a puppyish Mozart, the colour of his hair…

Joseph Ratzinger’s coat of many colours

12 December 2020 9:00 am

A common but flawed assumption about Joseph Ratzinger is that he is simply an ardent conservative. That’s the figure we…

War was never Sir Edward Grey’s métier

12 December 2020 9:00 am

This meaty but easily digested biography pivots around the events either side of that fateful evening of 4 August 1914…

Why I stopped reading novels

5 December 2020 9:00 am

New York I received a letter from a long-time Spectatorreader, James Hackett, enquiring about books I am reading. It is…

No writer was better suited to chronicle the Depression than John Steinbeck

28 November 2020 9:00 am

John Steinbeck didn’t believe in God — but he didn’t believe much in humanity either. When push came to shove,…

Four German-speaking philosophers in search of a theme

28 November 2020 9:00 am

How do you write a group biography of people who never actually formed a group? Such is the challenge Wolfram…

Driven to distraction — the unhappy life of Vivien Eliot

14 November 2020 9:00 am

Do you think your mother slept with T.S. Eliot? That was the question I needed to ask the 98-year-old in…

The courage of a madman: Maurice Wilson’s doomed assault on Everest

14 November 2020 9:00 am

Reinhold Messner, the first person to climb all 14 of the planet’s peaks higher than 8,000 metres, is probably the…

Sybille Bedford — a gifted writer but a monstrous snob

7 November 2020 9:00 am

Sybille Bedford died in 2006, just short of 95. She left four novels, a travel book, two volumes of legal…

Tom Bower pulls his punches with his life of Boris Johnson

24 October 2020 9:00 am

The Prime Minister may have lost his bounce –but perhaps that’s no bad thing, says Lynn Barber

The gospel of separation according to Malcolm X

24 October 2020 9:00 am

In late April 1962 Los Angeles police shot and killed an unarmed black man, Ronald X Stokes, during a disturbance…

Diplomatic daughters go behind the scenes at Yalta

17 October 2020 9:00 am

From Downing Street to Pennsylvania Avenue, history’s powerful inter-family influencers, whether spouses or children, have long operated behind weighty political…

Victoria Wood: stiletto in an oven glove

17 October 2020 9:00 am

Even if you didn’t have an Auntie Dot in Cockermouth (the one who ate a raffia drinks coaster, mistaking it…

‘I wonder about his humanity’: Malcolm McDowell on Stanley Kubrick

17 October 2020 9:00 am

Twenty-five years after making Spartacus, a parable of Roman decadence and rebellious slaves shot in California, Stanley Kubrick made Full…

The ‘unremarkable’ life of SS officer Robert Griesinger

3 October 2020 9:00 am

In October 2011 Daniel Lee was at a dinner party at which a Dutch woman told a disturbing story. It…

A cat’s-eye view of 18th-century social history

3 October 2020 9:00 am

Jeoffry is, by now, one of the best-known cats in literary history. And unlike the Cheshire Cat, Mr Mistoffelees, Orlando,…

We all love a poltergeist story

3 October 2020 9:00 am

There are fashions in the paranormal as in everything else. Since the famous Enfield hauntings of the late 1970s, poltergeists…

Ladies’ man: Tom Stoppard’s love life revealed

26 September 2020 9:00 am

Tom Stoppard is a non-stop genius of jokes – but many of them make his latest biographer uneasy, says Craig Raine

The magic of JFK remains undimmed

12 September 2020 9:00 am

It’s easy to forget that John F. Kennedy lived such a short life. At 43, he was the second youngest…

As Lucian Freud’s fame increases his indiscretions multiply

5 September 2020 9:00 am

Staying with Peregrine Eliot (later 10th Earl of St Germans) at Port Eliot in Cornwall, Lucian Freud remembered that the…

The paradox of Graham Greene – searching for peace in the world’s warzones

5 September 2020 9:00 am

Graham Greene was constantly searching for peace of mind along with escapist thrills, says Nicholas Shakespeare