Biography

Dedicated to debauchery: the life of Thom Gunn

13 July 2024 9:00 am

Even the most liberal-minded reader might be surprised by the amount of crack cocaine, LSD, alcohol and casual sex the poet indulged over the course of 50 years

Paris is perhaps the greatest character in Balzac’s Human Comedy

22 June 2024 9:00 am

The drama of the street is a constant theme, though Balzac himself took most pleasure in the city’s ‘gloomy passages and silent cul-de-sacs between midnight and two in the morning’

A long goodbye to Berlin

15 June 2024 9:00 am

Christopher Isherwood’s experiences as a young man in Weimar Germany would be reworked in his autofiction for the rest of his life

The recklessness of George Mallory

18 May 2024 9:00 am

Having quarrelled with his adept former fellow climber, Mallory attempted Everest in 1924 seriously ill-equipped, and taking an inexperienced 22-year-old with him instead

Agent Zo: the Polish blonde with nerves of steel

18 May 2024 9:00 am

Clare Mulley celebrates the courage of Elzbieta Zawacka, who repeatedly risked her life in the second world war liaising between London and the Polish Resistance

Edwin Lutyens: the nation’s remembrancer-in-chief

18 May 2024 9:00 am

Though much admired for his domestic architecture, Lutyens is perhaps most celebrated for Whitehall’s Cenotaph and the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme

The identical twins who captivated literary London

27 April 2024 9:00 am

Intelligent and beautiful, Celia and Mamaine Paget were loved by some of the greatest writers of the interwar years, but remained uniquely devoted to each other

Alone and defenceless: the tragic death of Captain Cook

27 April 2024 9:00 am

Striding ashore unarmed showed courage that bordered on recklessness. But it was a kind of theatre Cook relished on his travels - and, famously, it didn’t always work

Four female writers at the court of Elizabeth I

27 April 2024 9:00 am

Of Ramie Targoff’s gifted quartet, Mary Sidney was particularly admired by her contemporaries for her translation of the Psalms into English verse

The circus provides perfect cover for espionage

27 April 2024 9:00 am

As he flew his plane between circus acts across Germany in the 1930s, Cyril Bertram Mills gained vital aerial intelligence about the Nazis’ rearmament programme

John Deakin: the perfect anti-hero of the tawdry Soho scene

20 April 2024 9:00 am

The photographer never attempted to show anyone in a good light, making his portraits of Francis Bacon and other Soho habitués look like dress rehearsals for morgue shots

They felt they could achieve anything together: two brave women in war-torn Serbia

20 April 2024 9:00 am

Vera Holme and Evelina Haverfield, lovers and fellow suffragettes, risked their lives as nursing staff in the first world war and exposed the absurdity of Edwardian homophobia

What we owe to the self-taught genius Carl Linnaeus

13 April 2024 9:00 am

Bumptious, uncouth and the despair of his schoolmasters, Linnaeus died almost forgotten. Yet he established a system of taxonomy that we still use two centuries later

Sir Roger Casement never deserved to hang

6 April 2024 9:00 am

Executed as one of the leaders of the Easter Rising, he was absent from Dublin at the time of the doomed insurrection – and actually tried to prevent it

How country living changed the lives of three remarkable women writers

30 March 2024 9:00 am

Harriet Baker describes how Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Townsend Warner and Rosamond Lehmann found new forms of peace and creativity away from the stifling capital

The stark horror of Barbara Comyns’s fiction was all too autobiographical

16 March 2024 9:00 am

Comyns’s fans have long enjoyed the novels’ macabre details and black humour. Now Avril Horner reveals their disturbing sources

The lonely passions of Carson McCullers

9 March 2024 9:00 am

McCullers’s acclaimed first novel, written when she was 23, drew her into the orbit of several female writers with whom she fell in love – but it was never reciprocated for long

The fresh, forceful voice of Frantz Fanon

9 March 2024 9:00 am

The Marxist from Martinique became a rallying figure for anti-colonial movements across the world. But might he have revised his violent message had he lived longer?

The remarkable Princess Gulbadan, flower of the Mughal court

2 March 2024 9:00 am

Emperor Babur’s beloved daughter – whose name means ‘body like a rose’ – speaks to us across the centuries in a cliffhanging account of royal life in Hindustan

Four months adrift in the Pacific: a couple’s extraordinary feat of endurance

2 March 2024 9:00 am

When a freak occurrence wrecked the Baileys’ sloop 300 miles from the Galapagos, their chances of rescue were minimal – and one of them couldn’t even swim

Will Keir Starmer ever learn to loosen up?

24 February 2024 9:00 am

The Labour leader comes across as compassionate and hard-working, but so ill at ease in front of the cameras that even his close friends fail to recognise him

Four dangerous visionary writers

17 February 2024 9:00 am

Simon Ings examines the lives of Maxim Gorky, Maurice Barrès, Gabriele D’Annunzio and Ding Ling, whose propagandism helped shape – and misshape – the 20th century

The strangeness of Charles III

27 January 2024 9:00 am

‘He can cry at a sunset’, says one courtier of the King. A bullied child and an intellectual among George Formby fans, Charles dreams of gardening and plants mazes

Hanif Kureishi – portrait of the artist as a young man

13 January 2024 9:00 am

Descriptions of the gifted author tearing up the literary landscape of the late 20th century are deeply poignant when set alongside Kureishi’s recent despatches from hospital

Milton Friedman – economic visionary or scourge of the world?

13 January 2024 9:00 am

Monetarism, with which his name is associated, has long defined economic policy. But what would Friedman have made of the banking collapse, so soon after his death in 2006?