Biography

Why Niki Lauda was considered the bravest man in sport

20 June 2020 9:00 am

Formula One motor racing is the perennial, worldwide contest that most reliably gratifies hero-worshipping, power-worshipping, money-worshipping, technology-worshipping ghouls, and some…

The many rival identities of Charles Dickens

6 June 2020 9:00 am

Robert Douglas-Fairhurst explores the many rival identities of Charles Dickens

Houdini looks bound to captivate us forever

16 May 2020 9:00 am

Give thanks to the person who invented Venetian blinds, they say, or it would be curtains for us all. Curtains…

Without Joseph Banks, Cook’s first voyage might have been a failure

9 May 2020 9:00 am

When the wealthy young Joseph Banks announced that he intended joining Captain Cook’s expedition to Tahiti to observe the Transit…

René Dreyfus: the racing driver detested by the Nazis

2 May 2020 9:00 am

I have driven a racing car. On television, it looks like a smooth and scientific matter. It is not. A…

Why are musicologists so indifferent to their subjects’ love lives?

2 May 2020 9:00 am

People often say that the battle for male gay rights has been won, at least in the West, and that…

When Idi Amin threatened to shoot the cook

2 May 2020 9:00 am

Private chefs keep many secrets and are expected to go to their graves without sharing a morsel of gossip about…

For Ravi Shankar, music was a sort of religion

11 April 2020 9:00 am

When musicians from outside the Anglo-American pop mainstream achieve success in the West, there are conflicting reactions. Seun Kuti, the…

Gustav Mahler’s bid for greatness: the ‘Symphony of a Thousand’

21 March 2020 9:00 am

Gustav Mahler was a passionate enthusiast for the colossal in music. Even so, his mighty eighth symphony stands apart, says Philip Hensher

The good boy of jazz: Dave Brubeck’s time has come round at last

7 March 2020 9:00 am

On 8 November 1954, Dave Brubeck’s portrait appeared on the cover of Time magazine, accompanied by the words ‘The Joints…

Dangerously desirable: the white-morph gyr falcon commands sky-high prices

29 February 2020 9:00 am

The art of falconry is more than 3,000 years old and possibly as popular now as at any time. Its…

The wizard that was Warhol

29 February 2020 9:00 am

In 1983 I was sent to New York to interview Johnny Rotten and I took the opportunity to call on…

Death in the Cape – the lonely fate of Mary Kingsley

15 February 2020 9:00 am

What compelled three well-known British writers to leave their homes and travel 6,000 miles to participate in a nasty late-19th-century…

The stomach for the fight: cooking for Churchill during the war

15 February 2020 9:00 am

Georgina Landemare cooked for the Churchill family in all their kitchens, during the 1930s and 1940s. She got as close…

Rembrandt remains an enigma

24 January 2020 10:00 pm

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606–69) is not only the presiding genius of the Dutch golden age of painting, but one…

We were highly amused: the Queen — and Mrs Thatcher — thought Ken Dodd tattyfilarious

24 January 2020 10:00 pm

Doddy! Thou shouldst be living at this hour. England hath need of tickling sticks. So also hath the rest of…

How did the infamous Josef Mengele escape punishment?

24 January 2020 10:00 pm

The atrocities of the concentration camp at Auschwitz–Birkenau are now universally known, but it is still almost beyond belief that…

A lovable, impossible man: Bryan Robertson, gifted curator and Spectator critic

18 January 2020 9:00 am

Andrew Lambirth claims that Bryan Robertson was ‘the greatest director the Tate Gallery never had’; but on the evidence of…

The dark past of the pioneering photographer Eadweard Muybridge

18 January 2020 9:00 am

A distinctive pattern of horizontal and vertical lines appears in the background of many of Eadweard Muybridge’s best-known photographs, giving…

David Bowie: the boy who never gave up

11 January 2020 9:00 am

A few years ago Will Brooker spent 12 months pretending to be David Bowie. For several weeks he dressed up…

How troll stories blighted the life of Patrick O’Brian

21 December 2019 9:00 am

Patrick O’Brian, born Richard Patrick Russ, never wanted his life written, and this passionate wish presents the first hurdle to…

The genius of Reynolds Stone: a private man in a public world

21 December 2019 9:00 am

You may not know the name of Reynolds Stone, but it is almost impossible that you haven’t come across his…

Burnt out at 27: the tragedy of Janis Joplin

21 December 2019 9:00 am

Janis Joplin hated the word ‘star’, but she loved the trappings. As soon as she made serious money she bought…

James Baldwin’s radicalism was part Marxist, part Christian

7 December 2019 9:00 am

Great biographies try to answer questions about the complicated relationship between their subjects’ inner life and outer workings. How did…

Three dashing Frenchmen captivate Victorian London

2 November 2019 9:00 am

Do not google Samuel Jean Pozzi. If you want to enjoy Julian Barnes’s The Man in the Red Coat —…