News and reviews

A mind-bending history of mescaline reviewed in the Economist

Added on 29/06/2019

Mescaline is the drug that launched the modern fascination with hallucinogens. It is also the hallucinogen for which there is the earliest evidence of human use. At Chavin de Huantar, a temple complex in the Peruvian Andes…


Fabulosa! A bona history of Polari, Britain’s secret gay slang

Added on 28/06/2019

Slang, throughout its history, has given a voice to the margins of language and of society. But it has its own margins too. Beyond the founding vocabulary of criminality, or the vast playground focused on our giblets and their interactions…


Hannah Betts interviews Sir Roy Strong in the Telegraph

Added on 25/06/2019

One does not expect national treasures to go tearing about the country on two wheels, not least when they turn 84 this summer. But, then, Sir Roy Strong is no common-or-garden national treasure.


Polari, the secret gay argot, is making a surprising comeback

Added on 21/06/2019

Imagine you’re a gay man living in 1950. Not unnaturally, you would like to meet another gay man. How to identify yourself to a potential partner? A confession might bring the police; dressing yourself distinctively will invite ridicule.


The Evening Standard’s Summer Reading Guide

Added on 20/06/2019

The National Portrait Gallery’s superb exhibition of Elizabethan miniatures closed last month but for those who missed it, Elizabeth Goldring’s Nicholas Hilliard: Life of an Artist is worth the price for its beautiful photographs alone.


The Elizabethan Image Book of the Week in the Daily Mail

Added on 20/06/2019

To meet Elizabeth I face to face, head to the National Portrait Gallery. Take the escalator and, in one continuous, smooth sweep, it will land you at the entrance to the top galleries, filled with Tudor and Elizabethan portraits.


As long as poverty and maritime trade exist, so will piracy

Added on 15/06/2019

Western attitudes to piracy have dripped with hubris. In his classic history of 1932, Philip Gosse confidently argued that European empires and technological superiority had ‘done away’ with pirates entirely.


The Mindfulness Conspiracy by Ronald Purser in the Guardian

Added on 14/06/2019

Mindfulness has gone mainstream, with celebrity endorsement from Oprah Winfrey & Goldie Hawn. Meditation coaches, monks & neuroscientists went to Davos to impart the finer points to CEOs at the World Economic Forum.


Mike Jay’s Mescaline reviewed in the Guardian

Added on 13/06/2019

“Under the pressure of the cares and sorrows of our mortal condition,” Edmund Burke wrote, “men have at all times, and in all countries, called in some physical aid to their moral consolations – wine, beer, opium, brandy, or tobacco.”


Wild Sea: A History of the Southern Ocean reviewed in the Spectator

Added on 08/06/2019

‘Below the 40s there is no law, and below the 50s there is no God.’ Most sailors know some version of this saying, referring to the dangerous waters more than 40º south of the equator. In Wild Sea, Joy McCann focuses on these waters.


The Pocket reviewed in The Guardian

Added on 06/06/2019

Mistrust all enterprises that require new clothes,” says EM Forster in A Room With a View, adapting a quote from Henry David Thoreau. What a spoilsport. Surely one of the best bits about starting a new job is that it gives you permission to fashion yourself in a different way.


Ben Nicholson Writings and Ideas reviewed in the TLS

Added on 04/06/2019

In December 1933, the painter Ben Nicholson sent a letter from Paris to his lover, Barbara Hepworth, in London. “I shall be very interested to see what you write for your Unit One”, he says. “I shall write about 12 words and…