Jenny Uglow’s latest book is Mr. Lear: A Life of Art and Nonsense. (November 2018)


Stepping Out of Byron’s Shadow

Ada Lovelace; painting by Alfred Edward Chalon, 1835

In Byron’s Wake: The Turbulent Lives of Byron’s Wife and Daughter: Annabella Milbanke and Ada Lovelace

by Miranda Seymour

Ada Lovelace: The Making of a Computer Scientist

by Christopher Hollings, Ursula Martin, and Adrian Rice
On March 20, 1816, Annabella, Lady Byron, received a poem in the mail. In fifteen stanzas, Byron’s “Fare Thee Well” was a cascade of brokenhearted loss and love: All my faults perchance thou     knowest,       All my madness none can         know; All my hopes, where’er thou goest, …

Collecting for the Glory of God

Hans Sloane during his presidency of the Royal Society, with an illustration of Jamaican lagetto; portrait by Stephen Slaughter, 1736

Collecting the World: Hans Sloane and the Origins of the British Museum

by James Delbourgo
When the first visitors entered the newly opened British Museum in Montagu House in Bloomsbury in January 1759, they walked past a stone from the Appian Way, the skeleton of a unicorn fish, and a buffalo head from Newfoundland. Beneath their feet were pillars from the Giant’s Causeway in County …

The Revolutionary Christian Girl

Edith Heckstall Smith: The Match Girl, circa 1884–1890

The Match Girl and the Heiress

by Seth Koven
Toward the start of his fascinating book The Match Girl and the Heiress, Seth Koven states that it “joins efforts by historians to reclaim pre–World War II Britain for Christianity, a salutary historiographical Reconquista.” This may set alarm bells ringing, with its implication that more secular-minded scholars should be driven …

A Seemingly Virtuous Monster

Engraving of Sabrina Bicknell at age seventy-five by Richard James Lane, after a portrait by Stephen Poyntz Denning, 1833; painting of Thomas Day by Joseph Wright, 1770

How to Create the Perfect Wife: Britain’s Most Ineligible Bachelor and His Enlightened Quest to Train the Ideal Mate

by Wendy Moore
Wendy Moore has written an account of a crazed attempt by the eighteenth-century poet and philosopher Thomas Day to educate two foundling girls, so that one might become the ideal wife. Her book reads at times like a historical novel. Yet it is underpinned by meticulous research, and raises a …


‘Oceania,’ Art of the Islands

“Oceania” is not the historical, ethnographic show that Western museum-goers might expect. At the entrance a shimmering wave of blue material cascades from the ceiling. Titled Kiko Moana, this flowing wave uses ancient techniques of weaving, embroidery, layering, and cutting, but it’s a contemporary work in polyethylene and cotton, created by four Maori women from the Mata Aho Collective in New Zealand who have also compiled an online archive of stories about the supernatural spirits of the waters. Old and new technologies meet.

How Rembrandt Took Britain

Rembrandt van Rijn: The Mill, 1645–1648

It is a tricky and ambitious plan to show Rembrandt’s works alongside those of his admirers, imitators, and copyists, as the National Gallery of Scotland’s “Rembrandt: Britain’s Discovery of the Master” does. Although Rembrandt’s presence was dominant, the exhibition told a rich and revealing story of the historical response to his work in Britain. The start was slow. There is continuing debate about whether or not Rembrandt actually visited England.

In Urgent Color: Emil Nolde’s Expressionism

Emil Nolde: Party, 1911

Profoundly influenced by Van Gogh and later by Munch, Emil Nolde (1867–1956) rejected Impressionism—which catches the external impression of a scene—in favor of Expressionism, which tries to convey the artist’s inner response, using exaggeration and distortion to delve into the nature of being. Yet Nolde seems to go even further, to be in love with the “expressiveness” of paint itself, its power to manipulate emotions, to delight, inflame, provoke.

The Serious Charm of Edward Bawden

Edward Bawden: Untitled landscape with sunset, 1927

Some critics mutter “tame” and—dread word—“charming,” and sneer at the twee marketing of Edward Bawden’s prints on greetings cards, handbags, kitchen tea-towels, and fridge magnets. But there’s more to Bawden than that. His admirers proclaim him as a mischievous genius, an edgy, brilliant designer, blending tradition with modernism. Yet the question echoes, as it so often does for those who follow a commercial career: Is he “a proper artist”? But after seeing the rich and surprising variety of work in the Dulwich Picture Gallery’s show, who can say that Edward Bawden is not?


Artist and Empire

An attempt to show how artists have responded to the history and ethos of empire over the last five centuries, and to address its legacy “not just in public monuments, but in social structures, culture and in the fault lines of contemporary global politics.”