I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Johnny Lyons

Is Larkin good for you?

A defining characteristic of art, as Martin Amis wrote, is its inability to lower our spirits, even if its message is irredeemably gloomy. The genius of Philip Larkin’s poetry rests, at least in part, on his gift of somehow sublimating our appreciation of life by amplifying its ordinariness.

The hegemony of history

Quentin Skinner’s most significant contribution to the history of ideas was his insistence that canonical texts do not stand outside history proposing universal and ‘ageless’ truths. They must rather be understood in the context of their publication. But does that mean they have little to say to us today?

Philosopher in a Hurry

As a popular explainer of what philosophy is concerned with, Bryan Magee had few equals. Never, perhaps, has so much been owed by so many curious minds to a single intellect. But as his frank memoirs show, Magee was not just a man of intellect but one of will and, above all, appetite.

The Genius and the Pedant

Isaiah Berlin had not only a great gift for political philosophy but an unusual talent for verbal expression: his wartime diplomatic despatches from the US were greatly prized by Churchill. A new book by his editor surprisingly reveals that he was very reluctant to have his work published.