Richard Davenport-Hines

‘The Duel after the Masquerade’ by Jean-Léon Gerome was exhibited to great acclaim in Paris in 1857, and a year later in London. The art historian Francis Haskell has suggested that the mysterious duelling figures from the commmedia dell’arte are characters in a story by Jules Champfleury

Crossed swords and pistols at dawn: the duel in literature

20 June 2015 9:00 am

Earlier this century I was a guest at a fine dinner, held in a citadel of aristocratic Catholicism, for youngish…

Oscar Wilde (Photo: Getty)

Oscar Wilde and the marvellous boy

9 May 2015 9:00 am

The prodigious brilliance, blaring public ruin, dismal martyrdom and posthumous glory of Oscar Wilde’s reputation are almost too familiar. The…

Benjamin Robert Haydon’s portrait of William Wordsworth

The table talk of the poets: dining with Keats, Yeats, Blunt and Lamb, Flint, Pound and Moore

3 January 2015 9:00 am

In December 1817 Benjamin Robert Haydon — vivid diarist and painter of huge but inferior canvases of historic events —…

Students at the Wartburg festival in October 1817, celebrating the tercentenary of the Reformation and the fourth anniversary of the Battle of Leipzig, cause panic in the courts of Europe

How a clumsy drummer started the 1848 revolutions

18 October 2014 9:00 am

There are hundreds of resounding ideas and shrewd precepts in Adam Zamoyski’s temperate yet splendidly provocative Phantom Terror. This is…

English economist John Maynard Keynes attends the United Nations International Monetary and Financial Conference at the Mount Washington Hotel in New Hampshire, 1944 Photo: Getty

The opéra bouffe that was the Bretton Woods conference

14 June 2014 8:00 am

There ought to be a comic opera about the Bretton Woods conference — Thomas Adès’s Powder Her Face, about Margaret,…

An almost masochistic docility: E.M. Forster in his youth

What E.M. Forster didn't do

8 March 2014 9:00 am

‘On the whole I think you should write biographies of those you admire and respect, and novels about human beings…

Arshile Gorky (Photo: Gjon Mili//Time Life/Getty)

Critics can be creative - look at Malcolm Cowley

11 January 2014 9:00 am

Even Spectator book reviewers have to concede that their craft is inferior to the creative travail of authors. Henry James…

W H Auden (Photo: H V Drees/Getty Images)

What would Auden have deemed evil in our time? European jingoism

9 November 2013 9:00 am

‘Goodbye to the Mezzogiorno’ was the first Auden poem that Alexander McCall Smith read in his youth. He discovered it…

Christopher Isherwood with W. H. Auden  (Photo: John F Stephenson/Getty Images)

The Rothschilds, the Spenders, the Queen...

19 October 2013 9:00 am

The novelist David Plante is French-Québécois by ancestry, grew up in a remote Francophone parish in Yankee New England and…

Portrait of the author
 Colette’s ‘L’Entrave’ in her flat in Paris, by André Dignimont

Colette’s France, by Jane Gilmour - review

28 September 2013 9:00 am

Richard Davenport-Hines on the charmed, dizzy world of the multi-talented Colette

MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood - review

31 August 2013 9:00 am

The two opening volumes of Margaret Atwood’s trilogy have sold over a million copies. One of them managed to be…

A stalwart young career woman: Willa Cather in her early twenties

The Selected Letters of Willa Cather, edited by Andrew Jewell - review

17 August 2013 9:00 am

Richard Davenport-Hines on the tomboy from Red Cloud whose evocation of the vast, unforgiving landscape of the prairies is unrivalled

'Death in the Baltic: The World War II Sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff', by Cathryn J. Prince - review

27 April 2013 9:00 am

Wilhelm Gustloff was a Nazi leader in Switzerland, who was shot dead in his Davos apartment by a Croatian Jewish…

Distant Intimacy: A Friendship in the Age of the Internet, by Frederic Raphael and Joseph Epstein – review

16 March 2013 9:00 am

One often hears the caterwaul that the harsh new technology of emails has killed the gentle old craft of letter-writing. …

Oscar Wilde, photographed by Napoleon Sarony

The wilder shores of Wilde

26 January 2013 9:00 am

In 1946, as a Princeton graduate, J. Robert Maguire was attached to the American delegation at the Paris Peace Conference.…

The French connection

17 November 2012 9:00 am

When novelists write essays, they often boom through megaphones, aggrandise the importance of their views and inflate their stature.  Julian…

Flaws in our national treasure

22 September 2012 9:00 am

Charles Dickens remains in his bicentennial year as much a national treasure as Shakespeare, and just as deeply embedded in…

Brotherly love

1 September 2012 9:00 am

Twenty years ago Pat Barker won acclaim with Regeneration, her novel about shell-shocked army officers undergoing treatment at the Craiglockhart…

Philida, by André Brink

25 August 2012 6:00 am

The location of Philida is a Cape farm which used to be named Zandvliet and is now the celebrated vineyard…

Preaching to the converted

7 July 2012 6:00 am

Jonathan Franzen is a pessimist with a capacity for quiet joy. In a revealing passage in this collection of essays,…


Hero or villein?

2 June 2012 8:00 pm

‘Not one word’, exclaimed Turgenev of Tolstoy, ‘not one movement of his is natural! He is eternally posing before us!’…


A lord of thin air

19 May 2012 11:00 am

Richard Davenport-Hines finds the author of Couples to have been a thoroughly singular man


A polished fragment

31 March 2012 11:00 am

One evening nearly 40 years ago the world’s press descended on Patrick White in Sydney: they rampaged outside his house,…

Picking up the pieces

24 March 2012 12:00 pm

‘The World of Interiors’ might have been a better title for this novel. Its two chief protagonists, Catherine Gehrig and…


Menace, mystery and decadence

11 February 2012 10:00 am

Richard Davenport-Hines on the seamy side of interwar Alexandria, as depicted by Lawrence Durrell