Andrew Norman Wilson (born 27 October 1950)[1] is an English writer and newspaper columnist known for his critical biographies, novels and works of popular history. He is an occasional columnist for the Daily Mail and a former columnist for the London Evening Standard. He has been an occasional contributor to The Times Literary Supplement, New Statesman, The Spectator and The Observer.

Wilson was born in Stone in Staffordshire[1] to a father who became the managing director of Wedgwood, the pottery company.[2] He was first educated at Hillstone School (subsequently incorporated into Malvern College) in Great Malvern, Worcestershire, and then at Rugby School from the age of 13, where he read Mao and Marx in his spare time. While at Rugby, he wrote an article for the school magazine arguing that public schools should be abolished. The national press became interested in the story, with the Daily Express headlining its account “Red rebel in Tom Brown’s school”.[3] “Reporters arrived at the school gates, wanting to interview me, but my housemaster, wisely, would not let me talk to them”, Wilson told Hunter Davies in 1993.[2] After New College, Oxford, he taught English at Merchant Taylors’ School, Northwood, for two years and then spent seven years as a lecturer in medieval literature at St Hugh’s College and New College, Oxford. He married the Shakespearean scholar Katherine Duncan-Jones in 1971. They had two daughters, Emily Wilson (born 1971) and Beatrice “Bee” Wilson (born 1974), and divorced in 1990.

A prolific journalist and author of non-fiction, Wilson has also written over 20 works of fiction, for which he has won the Somerset Maugham Prize and the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. His novels also include such historical works as The Potter’s Hand (a study of the family life of Josiah Wedgwood), Resolution, a fictional account of Captain James Cook’s second voyage, and Scandal about the Profumo affair. His 2007 novel Winnie and Wolf, about the relationship between Adolf Hitler and Richard Wagner‘s English daughter-in-law, was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize. Novels set in the present include The Vicar of Sorrows, about a clergyman who has lost his faith dealing with the death of his mother, and Dream Children about paedophilia.

In the early 1990s, in the wake of the fatwa on Salman Rushdie and the continuing troubles in Northern Ireland, Wilson published a pamphlet, Against Religion, in the Chatto & Windus CounterBlasts series. He wrote biographies of Jesus and St Paul as well as a history of atheism in the 19th century entitled God’s Funeral, describing its growth as due to influences ranging from David Hume to Sigmund Freud. These and many other of his books, such as those on Leo Tolstoy (Whitbread Award for best biography of 1988), C. S. Lewis and Hilaire Belloc, are simultaneously sympathetic to religious belief and critical of it.

In August 2006, Wilson’s biography of John Betjeman was published. It was later discovered that another biographer, Bevis Hillier, had sent him a forged letter which was included in the book.[4]

In 2001 Wilson published Dante in Love, a study of the Italian poet Dante Alighieri as an artist and philosopher, also depicting an in-depth portrait of medieval Florence to help readers understand the literary and cultural background which engendered the Tuscan’s masterpiece, The Divine Comedy.

In addition to his many biographies, Wilson has written three books covering entire eras, The Victorians (2002), After the Victorians (2005) and The Elizabethans (2011).[citation needed]

Books in order of publication:

Non-fiction

  • The Laird of Abbotsford: A View of Sir Walter Scott (1980)
  • The Life of John Milton: A Biography (1983)
  • Hilaire Belloc: A Biography (1985)
  • How Can We Know? (1985)
  • Penfriends from Porlock (1988)
  • Tolstoy: A Biography (1988)
  • C. S. Lewis: A Biography (1990)
  • Against Religion: Why We Should Live Without It (1991)
  • Jesus: A Life (1992)
  • The Faber Book of Church and Clergy (editor) (1992)
  • The Rise and Fall of the House of Windsor (1993)
  • Paul: The Mind of the Apostle (1997)
  • God’s Funeral: The Decline of Faith in Western Civilization (1999)
  • The Victorians (2002)
  • Iris Murdoch As I Knew Her (2003)
  • London: A Short History (2004)
  • After the Victorians (2005)
  • Betjeman (2006)
  • Literary Genius: 25 Classic Writers Who Define English & American Literature (2007, illustrated by Barry Moser)
  • Our Times (2008)
  • Dante in Love (2011)
  • The Elizabethans (2011)
  • Hitler: A Short Biography (2011)
  • Victoria: A Life (2014)
  • The Book of the People: How to Read the Bible (2015)
  • The Queen: The Life and Family of Queen Elizabeth II (2016)
  • Charles Darwin, Victorian Mythmaker (2017)
  • Prince Albert: The Man Who Saved the Monarchy (2019)[16]

Fiction

  • The Sweets of Pimlico (1977)
  • Unguarded Hours (1978)
  • Kindly Light (1979)
  • The Healing Art (1980)
  • Who Was Oswald Fish? (1981)
  • Wise Virgin (1982)
  • Scandal (1983)
  • Gentlemen in England (1983)
  • Love Unknown (1986)
  • Stray (1987)
  • The Vicar of Sorrows (1993)
  • The Tabitha Stories (1997)
  • Dream Children (1998)
  • My Name Is Legion (2004)
  • A Jealous Ghost (2005)
  • Winnie and Wolf (2007, long-listed for the 2007 Man Booker Prize) – fictional account of the relationship between Adolf Hitler and Winifred Wagner[17]
  • The Potter’s Hand (2012)
  • Resolution (2016)
  • Aftershocks (2018)

The Lampitt Chronicles

  • Incline Our Hearts (1988)
  • A Bottle in the Smoke (1990)
  • Daughters of Albion (1991)
  • Hearing Voices (1995)
  • A Watch in the Night (1996)