Rory McEwen: man of many talents — and among the greatest of all flower painters

It seems odd that a singer, musician, television performer and sculptor who typified the 1960s as vividly as Rory McEwen…

'The Cuckoo Crying before Dawn’ (1943) is Edward’s largest known watercolour.

The world of Thessyros: an icky erotic fantasy

Lore has it that those viewing naughty books in the British Museum could once do so only with the Archbishop…

King John at Runnymede: at odds with his barons, he came to rely on mercenaries whom he couldn’t afford

King John was not a good man: two distinguished historians echo A.A. Milne

This being the 800th anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta, it is not surprising that there should be two…

'Warning! Someone is listening' Photo: Getty

Baiting the trap with CHEESE: how we fooled the Germans in the second world war

Second world war deception operations are now widely known, particularly those which misled the Germans into thinking that the D-Day…

John Galliano at Paris Fashion Week 2010

Drink, drugs and dressing-up: behind the scenes of the fashion industry

Philip Hensher explores a dangerously intoxicating world, and discovers just how quickly famous designers can become an irrelevance

English knight and Earl of Pembroke, William Marshall Photo: Getty

William Marshal: kingmaker — or just king of the joust?

In February 1861 a 21-year-old French medievalist called Paul Meyer walked into Sotheby’s auction house near Covent Garden. He had…

Composer Franz Schubert Photo: Getty

This Winter Journey goes far beyond expectation

You can tell a lot about a book from its bibliography. It’s the non-fiction equivalent of skipping to the final…

Benjamin Robert Haydon’s portrait of William Wordsworth

Sunday roasts and beaded bubbles: dining with the poets

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

Deng Xiaoping Photo: Getty

Deng Xiaoping: following in Mao’s footsteps

Much has been written about Deng Xiao-ping (1904–1997), most recently by Ezra Vogel in Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of…

‘Exquisitely dressed and groomed, Stefan Zweig looks simply terrified’

Stefan Zweig: the tragedy of a great bad writer

Stefan Zweig wasn’t, to be honest, a very good writer. This delicious fact was hugged to themselves by most of…

Outside Downing Street in June 1943. Ten years earlier, no one would have thought it remotely likely that Winston Churchill would be regarded as his country’s saviour

Does Boris Johnson really expect us to think he's Churchill?

An eccentric, thoroughgoing genius, surfing every wave with a death-defying self-belief — Philip Hensher wonders who Boris Johnson can be thinking of

Scenes from a long life. Left to right: the vulnerable young queen, in thrall to Prince Albert; overcoming her demons with the help of John Brown — depicted in a popular souvenir cut-out; and the matriarch as Empress of India

Is there anything left to say about Queen Victoria? A.N. Wilson has found plenty

A new, revisionist biography argues that it was only after her husband’s death that Queen Victoria found her true self. Jane Ridley is impressed

Peter Levi Photo: Getty

Peter Levi – poet, priest and life-enhancer

Hilaire Belloc was once being discussed on some television programme. One of the panellists was Peter Levi. The other critics…

‘While some observers were impressed, others felt the depiction of a doddery Churchill propped up on a walking stick unbecoming’

The lost Victorian who sculpted Churchill

Ivor Roberts-Jones was in many ways the right artist at the wrong time. Had the sculptor been born a few…

Chris Barber Photo: Redferns/Getty

Chris Barber should let someone meaner tell his story

Chris Barber, still going strong with his big band, was born in 1930. He heard jazz as a schoolboy on…

Composer Sir Harrison Birtwistle Photo: Redferns

The yes-no-maybe world of Harrison Birtwistle

For better or worse, we live in the age of the talking composer. Some talk well, some badly, a few…

Edgar Degas - Dancer slipping on her shoe (1874)

Ladies' hats were his waterlillies - the obsessive brilliance of Edgar Degas

Lucian Freud once said that ‘being able to draw well is the hardest thing — far harder than painting, as…

The Wyndham Sisters, 1899, by John Singer Sargent. Left to right: Madeline, Pamela and Mary

My family's better days

Simon Blow recalls the wealth, recklessness and beauty of his family’s better days

‘Grace Higgens in the Kitchen’ by Vanessa Bell

The Angel of Charleston, by Stewart MacKay - review

Above the range in the kitchen at Charleston House is a painted inscription: ‘Grace Higgens worked here for 50 years…

The young Clarice Lispector was strikingly beautiful, with catlike green eyes and ‘very, very sexy’, remembered a friend

'She's the most important Jewish writer since Kafka!'

Ian Thomson on the turbulent life of Clarice Lispector

Coloured photograph of Princess Louise dating from the early 1880s by the society photographer Alexander Bassano

What was the secret of Queen Victoria's rebel daughter?

Princess Louise (1848–1939), Queen Victoria’s fourth daughter, was the prettiest and liveliest of the five princesses, and the only one…

Claire Bloom in Brideshead Revisited (Photo: ITV/REX)

The Roth of tenderness and of rage

In the autumn of 2012, Philip Roth told a French magazine that his latest book, Nemesis, would be his last.…

Two faces of Bernard Berenson

How honest was Bernard Berenson?

Sam Leith suspects that even such a distinguished connoisseur as Bernard Berenson did not always play a straight bat

Pulitzer Prize-winning American poet Marianne Moore Photo: Getty

The mad, mum-fixated maiden aunt of modernism

Marianne Moore’s poems are notoriously ‘difficult’ but her personality and the circumstances of her life are as fascinating today as…

Desmond Fitzgerald, the 29th Knight of Glin, alongside his French wife Louise de la Falaise, 1966 Photo: Getty

The Last Knight, by Robert O’Byrne - review

I have to declare an interest: for many years the Knight and I were the closest of friends until a…