Literature

Impartial reviewer: Woman Reading, by Lovis Corinth, 1888.

How does the reader decide if a history book is worth their time?

The Brontë sisters portrayed by Patrick Branwell Brontë, c. 1834.

Since the moment Emily Brontë died we have tried – and failed – to understand who she was. 

An illuminated knight from the Hunterian Psalter, c.1170.

What goes on in other people’s minds? The idea of writing about what we can never know – the interior lives of others – was born in the fertile hybrid culture of 12th-century England and made possible by the pursuit of romantic love. 

The Parisian pornographer who modernised literature. 

Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=773745

From ancient Greece to the Second World War, from the papacy to the Antichrist, from Byzantium to China and the story of the Jewish people, historians select their favourite books of the past year.

Wild yet chaste, impudent and ageless, Sarah Bernhardt was inescapably Oscar Wilde’s Salomé, ‘the most splendid creation’.

Walt Whitman, 1887. Copyright Alamy

The American poet died on March 26th, 1892 after completing his masterpiece, Leaves of Grass, a year earlier. 

Despite its popularity in France, the political memoir took a while to get going in Britain. It was Lord Clarendon’s epic attempt to make sense of the turbulent 17th century that slowly set the ball rolling.

Illustration by Warwick Goble from the Complete Poetical Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, 1912. © Alamy;

If you believe the neologism 'post-truth' describes a new phenomenon, think again. Geoffrey Chaucer diagnosed the problem at the end of the 14th century.

David dances on the moonlit heath, William Powell Frith, late 19th century.

Along with Robin Hood, the romantic highwayman is one of the great myths of English outlawry. But the model for this most gallant of rogues was a Frenchman name Claude Duval, who carried out audacious robberies with a touch of Parisian flair.