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Charles Dickens photographed in New York on 15th February 1868, on his second visit to America.

‘A banishment’ – Gloria Deak describes the visits of celebrated Victorians to America

17 September 2013 13:17

No, they decidedly did not like us — this is true at least for the majority of the nineteenth-century British travelers to the New World. They came out of a… Continue reading

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FRANCE-INTERNET-LABOUR-COMPANY

Has anything in the recent past had a bigger effect on writers and writing than Twitter?

12 September 2013 9:30

I’ve been trying to think of something – anything – in recent years that has had a bigger effect on the working day of the average writer than Twitter. And… Continue reading

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English Romantic poet George Gordon Byron in Albanian dress, painted by Thomas Phillips circa 1815. Image: Getty

Discovering poetry: Lord Byron’s myth-making through verse

11 September 2013 9:00

‘So, we’ll go no more a roving’ So, we’ll go no more a roving So late into the night, Though the heart be still as loving, And the moon be… Continue reading

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Philip Hensher at the time of his own Booker shortlisting, for The Northern Clemency

Man Booker prize shortlist 2013 - how was our tipping?

10 September 2013 12:28

One of Philip Hensher’s many qualities as a critic is that he doesn’t take prisoners. So his entertaining and judicious guide to the Man Booker longlist ended like this: ‘The… Continue reading

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Detail from the front cover of 'The Pleasure Ground' by Richard Murphy, published by Bloodaxe.

Interview with a poet: Richard Murphy, an old Spectator hand

10 September 2013 10:30

Richard Murphy was born in County Mayo in Ireland in 1927. He spent part of his childhood in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) where his father was the last British mayor… Continue reading

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Jhumpa Lahiri's The Lowland, which has been longlisted for Booker, was partly inspired by watching her children's relationship.

Interview with a writer: Jhumpa Lahiri, author of Booker longlisted The Lowland

9 September 2013 9:30

The Lowland is the magnificent new novel by Jhumpa Lahiri, which has been longlisted for this year’s Man Booker prize. It tells the story of two brothers, Subhash and Udayan,… Continue reading

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Seamus Heaney, Recipient of 1995 Nobel Prize for Literature, In Bologna

Must read: Jenny McCartney on Seamus Heaney and Ulster’s divide

6 September 2013 9:00

If you haven’t already done so, I urge you to read Jenny McCartney’s piece in this week’s issue of the magazine. Together with Christopher Fletcher’s personal appreciation of Seamus Heaney… Continue reading

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Tashlich Ceremony Observed By Jews During Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah reading list

5 September 2013 9:57

Happy New Year! No, it isn’t three months’ early if you’re Jewish, and those of you who aren’t might like to cash in on the celebration. So, in honour of… Continue reading

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Will Jim Crace succeed Hilary Mantel as winner of the Booker Prize? The bookies seem to think so.

Bookies following Philip Hensher’s Booker shortlist

4 September 2013 12:22

The Guardian notes that Ladbrokes and William Hill share Philip Hensher’s hunch for the Booker shortlist, which is to be unveiled next week. ‘Hunch’ isn’t the right word. Hensher wrote… Continue reading

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James Basire took a coach and four through early January snows in 1814 to attend his aunt's funeral. His record of that journey remains a thrilling piece of unmediated history.

Here, Mr Gove, is the thrill of raw, unvarnished history

4 September 2013 9:36

Our unrelenting appetite for historical drama is fed by a ceaseless stream of novels and dramatisations – usually, these days, something to do with those naughty Tudors. Perhaps it is… Continue reading

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A general view of the 18th green on the Alcadeisa Golf Club

Hitler’s missed opportunity: failing to smash the rock of Gibraltar

3 September 2013 11:37

It may be that only geological erosion, expected to occur sometime over the next ten million years, will finally remove Gibraltar as a source of friction between Britain and Spain.… Continue reading

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The Guardian Hay Festival 2006

A Little Something: remembering Seamus Heaney

2 September 2013 16:59

‘So.’ So begins Seamus Heaney’s translation of ‘Beowulf’. I know it didn’t come easy to him. The morning after he had been awarded the Whitbread Prize for the work I… Continue reading

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Kenneth Tynan: he said it, but he didn't say it first. Photograph: Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

Foresworn: Jonathan Lethem, Kenneth Tynan, and the unpredictable progress of swearing

2 September 2013 16:31

For a few days last week, it seemed that Jonathan Lethem had achieved something unique: he had become the first person to use a particular four-letter word – the one… Continue reading

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The trailer from Danny Boyle's recent National Theatre adaptation of Frankenstein starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller.

What if Byron and the Shelleys had live tweeted from the Villa Diodati?

2 September 2013 13:38

It’s one of the most famous – indeed infamous – episodes in English literary history. In the summer of 1816 Lord Byron took a villa on the banks of Lake… Continue reading

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summer-books

My holiday from reading books is to read them as Caxton intended

29 August 2013 10:30

On hearing that Easy Jet had changed its hand luggage allowance, two questions struck me. First, was the airline in league with the luggage makers’ guild? Second, which paperbacks would… Continue reading

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Lore Segal's novel 'Half the Kingdom' is an ambitious but ultimately unrewarding novel about dementia patients.

Losing Your Mind – The Novel That Induces Insanity

28 August 2013 10:30

Nobody wants to go mad. We try to live healthy lives so that we won’t die slowly of lung cancer or quickly from a heart attack. But what we let… Continue reading

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57th Annual Writers Guild Awards - Inside

How long until novels are published with video inserts?

27 August 2013 10:30

In Charlie Kauffman’s Bafta lecture (a startlingly honest reflection on film writing, and well worth a listen), the screenwriter, producer and director stresses that it is of the utmost importance,… Continue reading

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England, bound in with the triumphant sea,
Whose rocky shore beats back the envious siege/ Of watery Neptune, is now bound in with shame,/ With inky blots and rotten parchment bonds.

Is England too good for the English? Shakespeare’s John of Gaunt seems to think so

26 August 2013 9:30

From Shakespeare’s Richard II, lines spoken by John of Gaunt. This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle, This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars, This other Eden, demi-paradise,… Continue reading

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9780199739318_450

What might link Cleopatra, Augustus, Constantine, Barbarossa, Tamerlane and the Farnese?

22 August 2013 10:30

The stone called sardonyx looks a lot more fragile than it actually is. It’s luminous like glass, but hard like steel, which explains why so much of it has survived… Continue reading

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'In Times of Fading Light' by Eugen Ruge tells the story of one German family's conflicts over the course of 70 years.

Review: In Times of Fading Light by Eugen Ruge – a tale of rebellion and conformity

21 August 2013 15:30

In Times of Fading Light’s seven narrators exist in an almost permanent state of bewildered disappointment. Given that the narrators are various generations of the same family, what we’re shown… Continue reading

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Two men examining British Ministry of Health wartime posters aimed at reducing absenteeism from war work, circa 1942. 'Coughs and sneezes spread diseases. Trap them in your handkerchief!'.

Final call for Propaganda: Power and Persuasion at the British Library

21 August 2013 11:57

For the first time in years, I thought of Tony Hancock. In the ‘Blood Donor’ episode of Hancock’s Half Hour, Hancock exits a doctors’ surgery singing the words ‘coughs and… Continue reading

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Elmore Leonard

On borrowing Elmore Leonard

20 August 2013 16:59

When you walk into a new branch library, or stumble across an unfamiliar secondhand bookshop, which writer do you look for? They can’t be too obscure; the idea is to… Continue reading

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Elmore Leonard has died aged 87.

Elmore Leonard dies aged 87

20 August 2013 15:18

Elmore Leonard has died aged 87. Leonard began his career as a hack and ended it as a modern master. His rule was: ‘if it sounds like writing, I rewrite it’. His writing became… Continue reading

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A group of Indian school children rides a cycle van to reach school near Kolkata. A reminder of how far India has yet to travel. (DESHAKALYAN CHOWDHURY/AFP/Getty Images)

Amartya Sen interview: India must fulfil Tagore’s vision, not Gandhi’s

20 August 2013 11:19

Amartya Sen is Thomas W. Lamont University Professor and Professor of Economics and Philosophy at Harvard University. Sen’s previous books include: Development as Freedom; Rationality and Freedom; The Argumentative Indian;… Continue reading

2 Comments
What did Thomas Traherne mean when he wrote: 'The stars did entertain my sense'?  (Ye Aung Thu/AFP/Getty Images)

Discovering Poetry: Thomas Traherne’s life lessons

19 August 2013 10:40

From ‘Wonder’, by Thomas Traherne How like an angel came I down! How bright are all things here! When first among his works I did appear O how their glory… Continue reading

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