LRB Diary for 2021

What happened to Cicero’s head after he was murdered on 7 December 43 BC? Who saw America first on 12 October 1492? Which year was fated to be famous in British history principally for the ‘Great Stink’? How much money did Donald Trump lose on Black Monday? Who concluded that both he and his brother must have been conceived during the old August Bank Holiday? Find the answers to these questions, and many more, in the LRB Diary for 2021, which has mined the paper’s archive to find an incident from history, tall tale or seasonal poem for every week of next year. Buy it now

A young priest called Walchelin, returning home one clear night in Normandy around a thousand years ago, heard a great clash and din of an army approaching; he assumed it was the soldiers who...

Story: ‘Terminus’

Hilary Mantel, 22 May 1997

On 9 January, shortly after eleven on a dark sleety morning, I saw my dead father on a train pulling out of Clapham Junction, bound for Waterloo.

I glanced away, not recognising him at once. We...

Skipwith and Anktill: Tudor Microhistory

David Wootton, 10 August 2000

Both David Cressy and Cynthia Herrup believe they are writing microhistory, a word coined by Italians, but used to describe above all the work of Natalie Zemon Davis (The Return of Martin Guerre,...


James Davidson, 23 January 1997

Summer 165 AD. I dreamed of Athena with her aegis, in the form of the statue in Athens made by Phidias, and just as massive and beautiful. The aegis, moreover, was giving off a perfume, as sweet...

To the west of the Isle of Dogs, a mile or so towards the City of London, a Victorian bridge spans the entrance canal to the Limehouse Basin. Ten years ago, London’s docklands were still...

Poem: ‘The Mother of the Muses’

Tony Harrison, 5 January 1989

In memoriam Emmanuel Stratas, born Crete 1903, died Toronto 1987

After I’ve lit the fire and looked outside and found us snowbound and the roads all blocked, anxious to prove my...

I’m an intelligence: Sylvia Plath at 86

Joanna Biggs, 20 December 2018

Awake at 4 a.m. when the sleeping pills wear off, she finds a voice and writes the poems of her life, ones that will make her a myth like Lazarus, like Lorelei. But now she knows that her conception of her life, psychological and otherwise, is no longer tenable, and never was. Now what? ‘I love you for listening,’ Plath, abandoned and alone, tells her analyst Ruth Beuscher in a letter late in 1962. The rest of us are listening at last.

Scarsdale Romance

Anita Brookner, 6 May 1982

Mrs Jean Harris, a trim widow of 56, was a woman who had reason to congratulate herself on making a success of her life. She had risen from undistinguished but respectable suburban beginnings to...

The Death of a Poet: Charlotte Mew

Penelope Fitzgerald, 23 May 2002

Penelope Fitzgerald wrote ‘The Death of a Poet’ in 1980 or 1981, intending it to form part of a group portrait of the writers published by Harold Monro’s Poetry Bookshop in...

Cloche Hats and Perms: Bonnie and Clyde

Bee Wilson, 10 September 2009

Easter Sunday fell on April Fools’ Day in 1934. A young woman called Bonnie Parker was sitting in a field by a narrow dirt road near the town of Grapevine, Texas, playing with a white...

The clockwork universe that Galileo postulated had been in the first place wound up and set going by God, and would continue to work in a wholly predictable, calculable and orderly fashion until the Last Trump should sound.

God’s Iceberg

Mary-Kay Wilmers, 4 December 1986

Some passengers were playing cards in the second-class smoking-room when the Titanic hit the iceberg. It was Sunday night, quite late, and most people had gone to bed. One card-player had seen...

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