Peter Parker

British troops go over the top on 1 July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme

The British army’s greatest catastrophe — and its most valuable lesson

Peter Parker spends 24 hours on the bloodsoaked battlefield of the Somme, scene of the British army’s greatest catastrophe

RAMC stretcher-bearers from the South Eastern Mounted Brigade enter the Field Ambulance dressing station at Y Ravine. Picture courtesy of Stephen Chambers

The other trenches: the Dardanelles, 100 years on

Peter Parker discerns classical allusion amid the horror in two books commemorating the centenary of the Gallipoli campaign

Princess Bamba, Catherine and Sophia Duleep Singh at their debut at Buckingham Palace, 1894

Sophia Duleep Singh: from socialite to socialist

Princess Sophia Alexandrovna Duleep Singh (1876–1948) had a heritage as confusing as her name. Her father was a deposed Indian…

David Hockney, photographed by Christopher Simon Sykes

David Hockney, our most popular and hardworking living artist, returns to the easel

The first volume of Christopher Simon Sykes’s biography of David Hockney ended in the summer of 1975. The 38-year-old painter…

Joining the old rogue on his 80th birthday, from left to right, Bevis Hillier, Antonia Fraser, Hamilton, James Pope-Hennessy, James Reeve, and the Spectator’s current book editor, Mark Amory

The long and disgraceful life of Britain's pre-eminent bounder

In his time, Gerald Hamilton (1890–1970) was an almost legendary figure, but he is now remembered — if at all…

Colonel James Tod, travelling by elephant through Rajasthan with his cavalry and sepoys (Indian school, 18th century)

From Scylax to the Beatles: the West's lust for India

Peter Parker on the age-old allure of the Indian subcontinent

Akhil Sharma Photo: Getty

A truth too tender for memoir

It has been 14 years since Akhil Sharma published his first, widely acclaimed novel, An Obedient Father. Though its subject…

‘Harmony and order were what Jane Austen sought in her life and work’. Chawton House, in Hampshire (above), was inherited by Jane’s brother, Edward.

Brains with green fingers

‘Life is bristling with thorns,’ Voltaire observed in 1769, ‘and I know no other remedy than to cultivate one’s garden.’…

A dreadful warning: a fisherman paddles through a tide of toxic waste on the Yamuna river, against a backdrop of smog and high-rise construction

Lawlessness, corruption, poverty and pollution: the city where we're all headed

India’s vast polluted capital, where brutality, corruption and ruthless self-seeking are endemic, could be the blueprint of the future, says Peter Parker

Highly valued for its decorative qualities, the lily is the earliest known cultivated flower, dating from 1550 BC

Pine by Laura Mason; Lily, by Marcia Reiss - review

After the success of their animal series of monographs, Reaktion Books have had the clever idea of doing something similar…

L'Enfant Sauvage

Francois Truffaut, by Anne Gillian - review

Almost 30 years after his death, François Truffaut remains a vital presence in the cinema. Terrence Malick and Wes Anderson…

The ultimate fashion accessory?
Left: the hermitage at Dale Abbey, Derbyshire and (right) the new hermitage, Painshill, Surrey

The Hermit in the Garden, by Gordon Campbell - review

In his 1780 essay On Modern Gardening Horace Walpole declared that of the many ornamental features then fashionable, the one…

The Blind Man’s Garden, by Nadeem Aslam – review

Set in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, Nadeem Aslam fourth novel begins with two young Pakistani men slipping over the…

The land of lost content

Published at the author’s expense in 1896, A.E. Housman’s A Shropshire Lad did not at first attract many readers. It…

Formal Gardens

Blending the old with the new

Holker Hall is situated in a beautiful Cumbrian landscape within sight of Morecambe Bay, and in 1950 it became the…

Girls and boys come out to play

‘You are in the polymorphous-perverse stage,’ the school psychiatrist tells the assembled boys of Favorite River Academy in Vermont in…


Photo finish

Christopher Isherwood kept diaries almost all his life. The first extant one dates from 1917, when he was 12, and…


The greatest show on earth

Jessica Douglas-Home’s aptly titled book is based on the diaries of her grandmother Lilah Wingfield, who attended the Delhi Durbar…


Poetry in paint

At the age of just 21, Samuel Palmer produced one of British art’s greatest self-portraits.


Citizen of the world

Peter Parker remembers his friend Francis King, a regular reviewer for The Spectator for 40 years, who died last week


Goodbye to Berlin

Peter Parker is beguiled by a novel approach to the lives of Europe’s intellectual elite in flight from Nazi Germany


In the pink

In 1988 Katherine Swift took a lease on the Dower House at Morville Hall, a National Trust property in Shropshire, and created a one-and-a-half acre garden in what had been a field.


Planting a dream

Every schoolboy knows the story of six-year-old George Washington taking his ‘little hatchet’ to his mother’s prized cherry tree.