Ferdinand Mount is the former Editor of The Times Literary Supplement. His most recent book is English Voices: Lives, Landscapes, Laments.
 (December 2017)

IN THE REVIEW

Super Goethe

Johann Wolfgang Goethe

Goethe: Life as a Work of Art

by Rüdiger Safranski, translated from the German by David Dollenmayer
Herr Glaser of Stützerbach was proud of the life-sized oil portrait of himself that hung above his dining table. The corpulent merchant was even prouder to show it off to the young Duke of Saxe-Weimar and his new privy councilor, Johann Wolfgang Goethe. While Glaser was out of the room, the privy councilor took a knife, cut the face out of the canvas, and stuck his own head through the hole. With his powdered wig, his burning black eyes, his bulbous forehead, and his cheeks pitted with smallpox, Goethe must have been a terrifying spectacle. While he was cutting up his host’s portrait, the duke’s other hangers-on were taking Glaser’s precious barrels of wine and tobacco from his cellar and rolling them down the mountain outside. Goethe wrote in his diary: “Teased Glaser shamefully. Fantastic fun till 1 am. Slept well.” Goethe’s company could be exhausting.

Good Lord

Lord Patten

First Confession: A Sort of Memoir

by Chris Patten

Kind of Blue: A Political Memoir

by Ken Clarke
History to the defeated doesn’t even say “alas,” it just cuts them dead. In the British Conservative Party especially, the waters of oblivion close over the defenders of deserted orthodoxies like appeasement and the Corn Laws. So now with the Tory Europhiles. For a generation and more, to be “a …

When Our World Turned Upside Down

Pope John Paul II with a group of children in Czestochowa during his first papal visit to Poland, June 1979

Strange Rebels: 1979 and the Birth of the 21st Century

by Christian Caryl
We have lived through an Age of Astonishment, and have now come out on the other side, still a little bewildered about how we got here. Never before have so many savants—economists, political scientists, diplomats, sociologists, and commentators alike—been quite so stunned by the turn of events. In 1789 and …