Alice Spawls is an editor at the London Review of Books. (April 2018)


My Dear Boy

Alan Hollinghurst, circa 2005

The Sparsholt Affair

by Alan Hollinghurst
In his 1963 preface to Jill, which tends to eclipse the novel, Philip Larkin described the Oxford he went up to in 1940, which became the setting for the book. It was, he wrote, “singularly free from…traditional distinctions” of class and background, though one might be forgiven for thinking that …

Portraits Put to Use—and Misuse

Anthony van Dyck: Venetia, Lady Digby, on Her Deathbed, 1633

The Face of Britain: A History of the Nation Through Its Portraits

by Simon Schama
Venetia Digby hadn’t been feeling unwell. She had gone to bed behind velvet curtains, as on every other night, wearing a cap to keep her curls in place. It was May Day, 1633, and the girls of Clerkenwell were gathering to dance their ribbons around the maypole. Sir Kenelm Digby …