Book review – biography

George Bell in his study at Chichester Palace in 1943

George Bell: witness to the truth

2 April 2016 9:00 am

George Bell (1883–1958) was, in many respects, a typical Anglican prelate of his era. He went to Westminster and Christ…

The Bridgeman Art Library

Laurence Oliphant: oddest of Victorian oddballs

12 March 2016 9:00 am

As an erstwhile obituarist, I pity the poor hack who had to write up the life of Laurence Oliphant —…

Nimoy and Shatner in ‘The Man Trap’, the first episode of Star Trek (September 1966)

Close encounters on the starship Enterprise

5 March 2016 9:00 am

For a show with a self-proclaimed ‘five-year mission’, Star Trek hasn’t done badly. Gene Roddenberry’s ‘Wagon train to the stars’…

Always prone to depression: David Astor c.1946

David Astor: the saintly, tormented man who remade the Observer

5 March 2016 9:00 am

Before embarking on this book, Jeremy Lewis was told by his friend Diana Athill that his subject, the newspaper editor…

Robert Lowell c. 1940

Love, Robert Lowell and poetic licence

27 February 2016 9:00 am

The conceit of this book — the author’s third on Robert Lowell — is strong, although its execution is less…

Groucho Marx (Photo: Getty)

When Groucho Marx lectured T.S. Eliot

27 February 2016 9:00 am

Groucho Marx was delighted when he heard that the script for one of his old Vaudeville routines was being reprinted…

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…

Phil Lynott performs with Thin Lizzy (Photo: Getty)

Phil Lynott, from Dublin teenager to rock'n'roll burnout

27 February 2016 9:00 am

It’s often said that there are only seven basic plots in literature. When it comes to biographies of rock stars…

Happy early days: Erika and Klaus in 1927

Was Klaus Mann all Thomas Mann's fault?

27 February 2016 9:00 am

Thomas Mann, despite strong homosexual emotions, had six children. The two eldest, Erika and Klaus, born in 1905 and 1906…

Jeremy Corbyn: authenticity in spades

What’s next for Comrade Corbyn?

20 February 2016 9:00 am

‘Ah, Jeremy,’ remarked Tony Blair at a smart dinner party in Islington not long before he became prime minister, ‘he…

Thin air and frayed tempers

13 February 2016 9:00 am

Born in New South Wales in 1888, George Finch climbed Mount Canobolas as a boy, unleashing, in the thin air,…

David Litvinoff: queeny aesthete or street-hustling procurer?

6 February 2016 9:00 am

Even David Litvinoff’s surname was a concoction. It was really Levy. Wanting something ‘more romantic’, he appropriated that of his…

Catullus, Clodia and the pangs of despised love

6 February 2016 9:00 am

Reading Daisy Dunn’s ambitious first book, a biography of the salty (in more ways than one) Roman poet Catullus, it…

Inside the mind of a murderer

6 February 2016 9:00 am

For one week in July 2010, the aspiring spree killer Raoul Moat was the only news. ‘Aspiring’ because he didn’t…

Junk artist Bernard Buffet in his château

Bernard Buffet: painter and poser

16 January 2016 9:00 am

Bernard Buffet was no one’s idea of a great painter. Except, that is, Pierre Bergé and Nick Foulkes. Bergé was…

Robert Nairac: brave to a fault

2 January 2016 9:00 am

Captain Robert Nairac was a Grenadier Guards officer serving in Northern Ireland when on 14 May 1977 he was abducted…

Take up and read Augustine’s Confessions

2 January 2016 9:00 am

I usually throw away dust jackets but Robin Lane Fox chose his for a reason. He originally encountered Augustine of…

Brian Hodgson finds his vocation in Kathmandu

12 December 2015 9:00 am

It started as a ‘shoke’ — the Anglo-Indian slang word for ‘hobby’. Bored and lonely in Kathmandu, the young Assistant…

Orson Welles: ‘I started at the top and worked my way down’

Homage to awesome Welles on his centenary

12 December 2015 9:00 am

One day in May 1948 in the Frascati hills southeast of Rome, Orson Welles took his new secretary, Rita Ribolla,…

Samuel Palmer’s ‘The Harvest Moon’: ‘the bowed forms of peasants are shadows of divinity’

Samuel Palmer: from long-haired mystic to High Church Tory

21 November 2015 9:00 am

In his youth, Samuel Palmer (1805–1881) painted like a Romantic poet. The moonlit field of ‘The Harvest Moon’ (1831–32) glows…

Charles Williams: sadist or Rosicrucian saint?

14 November 2015 9:00 am

Charles Williams was a bad writer, but a very interesting one. Most famous bad writers have to settle, like Sidney…

John Paul Stapp: the fastest man on earth, who saved millions

14 November 2015 9:00 am

There’s a moment in Craig Ryan’s spectacular biography of John Paul Stapp — the maverick American Air Force doctor who,…

Was Éamon de Valera Ireland’s Franco?

14 November 2015 9:00 am

A highlight of this year’s Dublin Theatre Festival was the Rough Magic Theatre Company’s production of The Train, a musical…

Frost was an effective interviewer because he was never combative — hence the famous admission of failure that he extracted from Nixon in 1974 (above) and from Blair in 2003

David Frost’s tablet in Poet’s Corner should have read: ‘To the Unknown Television Presenter’

29 October 2015 9:00 am

On 13 March 2014 a congregation of 2,000 people, including many of the great and the good, gathered in Westminster…

Charlotte Brontë, as she appears in Branwell’s famous group portrait of his sisters (detail)

Charlotte Brontë: Cinderella or ugly sister?

24 October 2015 9:00 am

Preparations for next year’s bicentennial celebrations of the birth of Charlotte Brontë haven’t exactly got off to a flying start.…