Autumn: time for a pie

Autumn, season of conkers and new boots

Each year when I see the first conker of the autumn I think: fire up the ancestral ovens! This incendiary…

Calais Migrants Attempt To Find A Way To Reach The UK

Meet the librarians – and book borrowers – of the Calais Jungle

In the middle of the Calais migrant camp, there is a book-filled haven of peace

With rain threatening, Jane Bennet departs for Netherfield — with her mother’s approval. Illustration by Hugh Thomson for Pride and Prejudice (1894)

Rain, shine and the human imagination — from Adam and Eve to David Hockney

‘Pray don’t talk to me about the weather, Mr Worthing,’ pleads Gwendolen in The Importance of Being Earnest. ‘Whenever people…

Mary Shelley by Richard Rothwell

There’s something about Mary (Wollstonecraft and Shelley)

If Mary Wollstonecraft, as she once declared, ‘was not born to tred in the beaten track’, the same with even…

Tolstoy with his secretary at Yasnaya Polyana, 1906

The prophet Tolstoy and his dodgy vicar

One fine day in June 1896, a lone Russian nihilist visited Leo Tolstoy on his country estate. Come to hear…

Churchill reading in his library at Chartwell

Churchill was as mad as a badger. We should all be thankful

The egotistical Churchill may have viewed the second world war as pure theatre, but that was exactly what was needed at the time, says Sam Leith


Is any kind of sex still taboo in literature?

Is there any kind of love that novelists still can’t touch?


Ian Buruma’s notebook: Teenagers discover Montaigne the blogger

Bard College in upstate New York, where I teach in the spring semester, is an interesting institution, once better known…


By the book: The NSA is behaving like a villain in a 1950s novel

The continuing drip-feed of stories about governments and friendly-seeming internet giants sifting through our data has left some citizens feeling…

Woman in black: Madeleine St John, due for revival. 
‘Her steadiest relationships were with a series of cats’

Breakdowns, suicide attempts — and four great novels

Among the clever young Australians who came over here in the 1960s to find themselves and make their mark, a…

Scarlett O’Hara runs through the streets of burning Atlanta

'Where are the happy fictional spinsters?'

This book arose from an argument. Lifelong bookworm Samantha Ellis and her best friend had gone to Brontë country and…

Top of the happiness scale: Chaucer’s Canterbury Pilgrims (English School, 15th century)

Look! Shakespeare! Wow! George Eliot! Criminy! Jane Austen!

Among the precursors to this breezy little book are, in form, the likes of The Story of Art, Our Island…

Lose weight the Muriel Spark way

Those of you dieting your way to a svelte physique amid the flesh-exposing terrors of summer should take courage from…

Mind your language: The springs before the Arab Spring

Two hundred and forty-years ago next Tuesday, Thomas Gray was buried in his mother’s grave in Stoke Poges churchyard. In…

High life

He was a member of a charmed circle of Hellene and Philhellene intellectuals just before and after the second world…

Group portrait of the Du Maurier sisters with their dog Brutus by Frederic Whiting (1918). From left to right: Daphne, Jeanne and Angela

Monsieur Hollande and Madame Bovary

François Hollande has had it with austerity. Well, fair enough — austerity is dull and painful. No wonder other European…


In a Greene shade

One of the unanticipated benefits of British rule in India is the body of distinguished writing in the English language…


Hero of his own drama

Sam Leith is enthralled by the larger-than-life genius, August Strindberg — playwright, horticulturalist, painter, alchemist and father of modern literature

Abiding inspiration

In 1971 looking back over his life, Lionel Trilling (1905-1975) declared himself surprised at being referred to as a critic.…


Making sense of a cruel world

The actor-biographer Simon Callow has played Dickens, and has created Dickensian characters, in monologues and in a solo bravura rendition…


The truest man of letters

Geoffrey Wheatcroft continues to mourn his friend John Gross on the first anniversary of his death

S is for Speculative

Margaret Atwood has written 20 novels, of which three (The Handmaid’s Tale, Oryx and Crake and The Year of the…

England from above

A highbrow vision of our country


When the going got tough

The acute emotional pain caused by his first wife’s infidelity was of priceless service to Evelyn Waugh as a novelist, says Paul Johnson