Book review – biography

Did Mrs Thatcher ‘do’ God? Denis thought so, and he should know, says Charles Moore

11 April 2015 9:00 am

As I swink in the field of Thatcher studies, this book brings refreshment. It is a welcome and rare. Far…

Charles Dodgson

Stolen kisses and naked girls: there is much to wonder about in Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland

28 March 2015 9:00 am

‘A vision of innocence was not always the same as an innocent vision,’ remarks Robert Douglas-Fairhurst. He is referring to…

Although Keynes hated his appearance, he was much painted by the Bloomsbury Group, including by Roger Fry (above)

John Maynard Keynes: transforming global economy while reading Virginia Woolf

28 March 2015 9:00 am

To the 21st-century right, especially in the United States, John Maynard Keynes has become a much-hated figure whose name is…

The Kinks in their Sixties heyday— Ray Davies is far right, next to his brother Dave

Ray Davies: part of Swinging Sixties London — and apart from it too

21 March 2015 9:00 am

As Johnny Rogan notes in this new biography of Ray Davies and the Kinks, it is almost 50 years since…

For his supposed involvement in a conspiracy against Nero, Seneca is ordered to commit suicide — as depicted in The Nuremberg Chronicle , 1493

Men behaving badly: Nero, Claudius and even Seneca could be intensely cruel to women — and fish

21 March 2015 9:00 am

They lived in barrels, they camped on top of columns, or in caves: the lives of the sages are often…

Henry Walter Bates supervises the capture of an alligator in the Amazon

All in the name of science: three young naturalists go on an Amazonian killing-spree

21 March 2015 9:00 am

John Hemming is our greatest living scholar-explorer. He is best known for his extraordinary first book The Conquest of the…

Anders Brievik: lonely computer-gamer on a killing spree

14 March 2015 9:00 am

In 2011, Anders Breivik murdered 69 teenagers in a socialist summer camp outside the Norwegian capital of Oslo, and eight…

John Aubrey and his circle: those magnificent men and their flying machines

14 March 2015 9:00 am

John Aubrey investigated everything from the workings of the brain, the causation of winds and the origins of Stonehenge to…

Portrait of Lord Dufferin, 1893

The first Lord Dufferin: the eclipse of a most eminent Victorian

28 February 2015 9:00 am

The first Marquess of Dufferin and Ava is largely forgotten today — rotten luck for the great diplomat of the…

Poster for an exhibition of Mayakovsky’s works, 1930

Both lyricist and agitator: the split personality of Vladimir Mayakovsky

21 February 2015 9:00 am

Why increase the number of suicides? Better to increase the output of ink! wrote Vladimir Mayakovsky in 1926 in response…

Tom Eliot — a very practical cat. Did T.S. Eliot simply recycle every personal experience into poetry?

31 January 2015 9:00 am

The musical Cats reopened in the West End in December, with a judge from The X Factor in the lead…

The King Kong of the thriller: the phenomenal output of Edgar Wallace, once the world’s most popular author

31 January 2015 9:00 am

At the time of his death in 1932 Edgar Wallace had published some 200 books, 25 plays, 45 collections of…

Muriel and Nellie: two radical Christians build Jerusalem in London’s East End

31 January 2015 9:00 am

This is the tale of Muriel Lester, once famous pacifist and social reformer, and Nellie Dowell, her invisible friend. Nellie…

‘Ash tree in Winter, 2010–13

Patrick George: painting some of his best work at 91

17 January 2015 9:00 am

‘If I see something I like I wish to tell someone else; this… is why I paint.’ Patrick George is…

Wonder Woman: feminist symbol or the ultimate male fantasy?

13 December 2014 9:00 am

It’s always interesting when people succeed in two different arenas — like Mike Nesmith’s mum, who gave the world both…

Hiding in Moominland: the conflicted life of Tove Jansson

13 December 2014 9:00 am

Tove Jansson’s father was a sculptor specialising in war memorials to the heroes of the White Guard of the Finnish…

Eugene O’Neill with his last wife, the actress Carlotta Monterey, who safeguarded him, and enabled him to write his later plays, though friends and family considered her his jailer

Eugene O’Neill: the dark genius of American theatre

29 November 2014 9:00 am

George Bernard Shaw called him a ‘Yankee Shakespeare peopling his isle with Calibans’. He was dubbed ‘a fighting Tolstoy’ and…

Jerry Lee Lewis: interrogating ‘The Killer’

29 November 2014 9:00 am

‘I ain’t never pretended to be anything,’ says the man they call the Killer. ‘I’ve lived my life to the…

Composer, conductor, author, pianist, lecturer — was there anything Leonard Bernstein couldn’t do?

29 November 2014 9:00 am

On 17 May 1969 Leonard Bernstein ended his 12-year run as musical director of the New York Philharmonic with a…

Margot dressed as an oriental snake charmer for a fancy dress ball at Devonshire House in 1897

Move over Downton: Margot and the Asquiths’ marital soap opera

29 November 2014 9:00 am

You might be forgiven for thinking that there is no need for yet another book about Margot Asquith. Her War…

Sabina Spielrein: from psychiatric patient to psychoanalyst

29 November 2014 9:00 am

Sabina Spielrein was a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst with groundbreaking ideas about the role of the reproductive drive in human psychology…

Bing and Bob on the Road to Singapore. One had talent; the other tried harder

Did anyone ever really love Bob Hope?

22 November 2014 9:00 am

Why does everything these days have to be a superlative? Why must writers scream for our attention, yelling that the…

Vita as ‘Lady with a Red Hat’ by William Strang

Vita in her ivory tower: a portrait of a lonely, lovelorn aristocrat who yearned to be mistress of her own ancestral home

22 November 2014 9:00 am

Visitors to the National Trust’s Sissinghurst — the decayed Elizabethan castle transformed by Vita Sackville-West in the early 1930s —…

What went so wrong for Vaclav Havel?

8 November 2014 9:00 am

The unforgettable moment a quarter of a century ago when the Berlin Wall came down was the most vivid drama…

A Stratford Stalin: the nasty, aggressive and stupid world of Joan Littlewood

8 November 2014 9:00 am

If Stalin had been a theatre director he’d have resembled Joan Littlewood. What an outstandingly unpleasant woman she was —…