Molly Guinness

Molly Guinness is The Spectator's archivist.

Will Boast

Life doesn’t care if your misery has a plot – but readers do

Sometimes writers have to get a memoir out of their system before they can start on their great novel. Will…

Norman Mailer and Dylan Thomas Photo: Getty

Lolita's secret revenge mission, and other daft theories of literary spite

Richard Bradford has written more than 20 books of literary criticism and biography. This latest one is a compendium of…

Girls sitting South Korea’s famously competitive university entrance test. North London Collegiate offers IBs instead

Escape from the hothouse

Molly Guinness visits the British school that’s giving Korean children a more rounded alternative to their country’s fearsome exam culture

Lillian Hellman chats with her lover, author Dashiell Hammett Photo: Time & Life/Getty

Lillian Hellman lied her way through life

Lillian Hellman must be a maddening subject for a biographer. The author Mary McCarthy’s remark that ‘every word she writes…


Sugata Mitra interview: ‘A reduction in resources can cause something nice to happen’

Children can teach each other, believes Sugata Mitra — if you give them the internet, a big screen and a helpful granny on Skype

Coco Chanel (Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty)

From Göring to Hemingway, via Coco Chanel – the dark glamour of the Paris Ritz at war

In Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen did a good job of showing how foolish it is to be obsessed by…

A Victorian nanny plays 

What nannies know

Soon after moving to London at the age of 20, Nina Stibbe wrote to her sister Vic saying, ‘Being a…

Diana Cooper,with her son John Julius Norwich in London, 1944

Darling Monster, edited by John Julius Norwich - review

It must have been awful for Diana and Duff Cooper to be separated from their only child during the war,…


The best teachers make you fall in love with a subject

Molly Guinness on those teachers everyone remembers

Death by Dior, by Terry Cooper - review

This book may sound like it’s going to be about high fashion, but it’s actually about Nazism, satanism, incest and…

The Girl from Station X, by Elisa Segrave - review

On her seventh birthday, Elisa Segrave’s five-year-old brother Raymond drowned in their grandmother’s swimming pool. From that day onwards, her…


Daniel Radcliffe: why are the leaders of our political parties so uninspiring?

Former Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe on Che, Noam Chomsky, giving up drink and being ‘frighteningly thorough’

Plus ça change.... Hair by Indira Schauwecker for Toni & Guy, Covent Garden, 2000,
and ‘Coiffure à la Belle Poule’ during the period of American Independence

Hairstyles Ancient and Present, by Charlotte Fiell - review

The key thing in 18th-century France was to get the hair extremely high. Perching on a small ladder behind his…


'Diana Vreeland', by Amanda Mackenzie Stuart - review

Over 80 and almost blind, Diana Vreeland was wheeled around a forthcoming costume exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum, issuing instructions…

Women, beware these women

When Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider read this review, they’ll exchange a pitying smile and quietly start waiting for my…

Slippery slopes

Being sent to finishing school in Bavaria in 1936 was a dream for some English girls: there were winter sports…

A variety of kitchen utensils, most of which are familar today,  by the Dutch painter Cornelis Jacobsz Delff, 1570-1643

The whole kitchen caboodle

Pretentious, effeminate, sinister and even obscene, the fork of folktale was a sign of loose morals, silly decadence or sexual…

UCAS Prepare To Help Thousands Of Students To Find University Places

Applying myself

The ‘personal statements’ on university admissions forms are rarely the student’s own work. I have written enough of them to know

Manet’s ‘Répose’. Berthe Morisot’s dress is acceptable for receiving close friends at home, but not for going out in

Finery down to a fine art

The Impressionists adored clothes. They delighted in strapontins, polonaises and paletots; fans, hats and umbrellas were an extra treat. They…

A Valparaiso romance

More than 150 years after her last publication, the narrator of this novel, the travel writer Maria Callcott, has taken…

The attraction of repulsion

Take some boiled maize, chew it, spit it out, put the mixture into an urn, bury it, dig it up…

Ecoutez bien!

The French make it look easy: small babies sleep through the night, toddlers calmly eat four-course lunches, well-dressed mothers chat…

Don’t mention the war

It wasn’t easy being the daughter of the artist Avigdor Arikha. In this memoir, Alba Arikha mixes teenage fury with…

Chagrin d’amour

The horror of love: Nancy Mitford’s first fiancé was gay; her husband, Peter Rodd, was feckless, spendthrift and unsympathetic, and…