Son of Mann

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

What do you do if your son, who has grown up with privileges you have enabled, behaves in a way that threatens not only his own wellbeing but also that of your family? This question lurks behind Frederic Spotts’s febrile, compulsive account of the career of Thomas Mann’s talented, wayward and depressive eldest son, Klaus, […]

The Prometheus of Modern Times

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

There are three Benjamin Franklins: the American, the British and the French. The first and the last are famous, the second forgotten. The American Franklin is a curious hybrid, conceived in the image of the American Revolution: the Founding Father as common man. The folksy tinkerer builds the American Enlightenment in his shed; the conductor […]

Sorrowing in Sunlight

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

The former editor of the Times Literary Supplement Alan Pryce-Jones (1908–2000) makes several fleeting appearances in Anthony Powell’s journals from the mid-1980s – zestful, wordly and apparently modelling himself on Dorian Gray. Meeting him in June 1982, Powell thought the sprightly pensioner ‘at most perhaps in his late fifties, hair slightly grey, immensely spruce, full […]

Obsession of an Opium-Eater

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

‘This event of his life – his resort to opium – absorbed all the rest. There is little more to tell in the way of incident. His existence was thenceforth a series of dreams, undergone in different places.’ So the Daily News accounted for Thomas De Quincey, author and opium-eater, on his death in December 1859. Scanty ground for a biography, one might think. Yet De Quincey’s opium habit was a story that absorbed many readers at the time. Taken as a ‘blue pill’ or in alcohol as laudanum, opium was an effective panacea that hooked William Wilberforce and Dorothy Wordsworth, Sara Coleridge, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Charles Dickens and

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