- The Great Fire of London (1982)
- The Last Testament of Oscar Wilde (1983)
- Hawksmoor (1985)
- Chatterton (1987)
- First Light (1989)
- English Music (1992)
- The House of Doctor Dee (1993)
- Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem (1994)
- Milton in America (1996)
- The Plato Papers (1999)
- The Clerkenwell Tales (2003)
- The Lambs of London (2004)
- The Fall of Troy (2006)
- The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein (2008)
- The Canterbury Tales (2009)
- Three Brothers (2013)
- Mr Cadmus (2020)
- The Collection (2001)
Non fiction series
- Escape from Earth (2003)
- In The Beginning (2003)
- Cities of Blood (2004)
- Kingdom of the Dead (2004)
- Foundation (2011)
- Tudors (2012)
- Civil War (2014)
- Revolution (2016)
- Dominion (2018)
- Innovation (2021)
- Notes for a New Culture (1976)
- Dressing Up (1979)
- Ezra Pound and His World (1980)
- T.S. Eliot (1984)
- Dickens’ London (1987)
- Dickens (1990)
- Blake (1995)
- The Life of Thomas More (1998)
- London (2000)
- The Mystery of Charles Dickens (2002)
- Turner (2002)
- Albion (2002)
- Illustrated London (2003)
- Chaucer: Ackroyd’s Brief Lives (2004)
- Ancient Greece (2005)
- Ancient Rome (2005)
- Shakespeare (2005)
- J.M.W. Turner (2006)
- Newton (2006)
- The Thames (2007)
- Poe: A Life Cut Short (2008)
- Venice (2009)
- A Brief Guide to William Shakespeare (2010)
- The Death of King Arthur (2010)
- The English Ghost (2010)
- London Under (2011)
- Wilkie Collins (2012)
- Charlie Chaplin (2014)
- Rebellion (2014)
- Alfred Hitchcock (2015)
- Blitz (2016)
- Queer City (2017)
Novels Book Covers
Collections Book Covers
Non fiction series Book Covers
Non fiction Book Covers
Peter Ackroyd Books Overview
Lyndall Gordon’s biographical work on T. S. Eliot has won many dramatic accolades. In this ‘nuanced, discerning account of a life famously flawed in its search for perfection’ The New Yorker, Gordon captures Eliot’s ‘complex spiritual and artistic history…
with tact, diligence, and subtlety’ Boston Globe. Drawing on recently discovered letters, she addresses in full the issue of Eliot’s anti Semitism as well as the less noted issue of his misogyny. Her account ‘rescues both the poet and the man from the simplifying abstractions that have always been applied to him’ The New York Times, and is ‘definitive but not dogmatic, sympathetic without taking sides…
. Its voice rings with authority’ Baltimore Sun. Praised by Cynthia Ozick as ‘daring, strong, psychologically brilliant,’ Gordon’s study remains true to the mysteries of art as she chronicles the poet’s ‘insistent search for salvation.’
In the aftermath of the great fire, eighteenth century London is a city of extremes. Squalor and superstition vie with elegance and reason as brilliant architect, Nicholas Dyer, is commissioned to build seven new churches. They are to stand as beacons of the Enlightenment but Dyer plans to conceal a dark secret at the heart of each one. Two hundred and fifty years later, in the same vast metropolis, a series of murders occur on the sites of those same churches. Detective Nicholas Hawksmoor investigates, but the gruesome crimes make no sense to the modern mind…
Combining thriller, ghost story and metaphysical tract, ‘Hawksmoor‘ won the Whitbread Book Award and ‘Guardian’ Fiction Prize in 1985.
Thomas Chatterton 1752 1770, apparently a suicide at 18, posthumously astonished literary England when he was revealed as the author of a sequence of famous and influential ‘medieval’ poems he claimed to have discovered. An authentic talent as well as a literary counterfeiter, he is the guiding spirit of Peter Ackroyd’s brilliant novel. In today’s London, a young poet and an elderly novelist engage the mystery of Chatterton by trying to decode the clues found in an old manuscript, only to discover that their investigation discloses other riddles for which there are no solutions. Chatterton is at once a hilariously witty comedy; a thoughtful and dramatic exploration of the deepest issues of authenticity in both life and art; and a subtle and touching story of failed lives, parental love, doomed marriages, and erotic passions.
First Light begins with an ominous coincidence: the reappearance of the ancient night sky during the excavation of an astronomically aligned Neolithic grave in Dorset. A group of eccentrics archaeologists, astronomers, local rustics, a civil servant, and a stand up comic converge on the site, disturbing the quiet seclusion of Pilgrin Valley. Someone or something is trying to sabotage the best efforts of the excavators, headed by Mark Clare, to unearth the dormant secrets of the burial ground. Meanwhile, at the nearby observatory, astronomer Damien Fall, his telescope focused on the red star Aldebaran, is unnerved by the deeper significance he imputes to the celestial sophistication of the region’s ancient inhabitants. And Joey Hanover, a retired music hall and TV entertainer searching for his own past, has learned secrets from Farmer Mint and his son, Boy, the weirdly cryptic guardians of their ancestral home in the valley. All is masterfully woven into an immensely engaging and entertaining novel, a suspenseful reflection on life, nature, and the cosmos, and above all an illuminating and enchanting story.
A boy escapes from the harsh realities of post World War I London into the evocative world of his imagination, where a discovery of his heritage offers him the key to understanding his own past.Tour.
This novel centres on the famous 16th century alchemist and astrologer John Dee. Reputedly a black magician, he was imprisoned by Queen Mary for allegedly attempting to kill her through sorcery. When Matthew Palmer inherits an old house in Clerkenwell, he feels that he has become part of its past.
In this novel the light and the dark sides of 19th century London flow into each other, attracting the attention of famous names such as Marx and Gissing, but also of less well known characters, who play a significant role in a tale that is a mixture of fable, adventure and Gothic comedy.
When Peter Ackroyd, one of Britain’s undisputed literary masters, writes a new novel, it is a literary event. With his last novel, The Trial of Elizabeth Cree, ‘as gripping and ingenious a murder mystery as you could hope to come across,’ in the words of the San Francisco Chronicle, he reached a whole new level of critical and popular success. Now, with his trademark blending of historical fact and fictive fancy, Ackroyd has placed the towering poet of Paradise Lost in the new Eden that is colonial America. John Milton, aging, blind, fleeing the restoration of English monarchy and all the vain trappings that go with it ‘misrule’ in his estimation, comes to New England, where he is adopted by a community of fellow puritans as their leader. With his enormous powers of intellect, his command of language, and the awe the townspeople hold him in, Milton takes on absolute power. Insisting on strict and merciless application of puritan justice, he soon becomes, in his attempt at regaining paradise, as much a tyrant as the despots from whom he and his comrades have sought refuge, more brutal than the ‘savage’ native Americans. As always, Ackroyd has crafted a thoroughly enjoyable novel that entertains while raising provocative questions this time about America’s founding myths. With a resurgence of interest in the puritans in the movie adaptations of The Scarlet Letter and the forthcoming The Crucible, Milton in America is particularly relevant. It is also entirely absorbing in short, vintage Ackroyd.
From the imagination of one of the most brilliant writers of our time and bestselling author of The Life of Thomas More, a novel that playfully imagines how the ‘modern’ era might appear to a thinker seventeen centuries hence. At the turn of the 38th century, London’s greatest orator, Plato, is known for his lectures on the long, tumultuous history of his now tranquil city. Plato focuses on the obscure and confusing era that began in A.D. 1500, the Age of Mouldwarp. His subjects include Sigmund Freud’s comic masterpiece ‘Jokes and Their Relation to the Subconscious,’ and Charles D.’s greatest novel, ‘The Origin of Species.’ He explores the rituals of Mouldwarp, and the later cult of webs and nets that enslaved the population. By the end of his lecture series, however, Plato has been drawn closer to the subject of his fascination than he could ever have anticipated. At once funny and erudite, The Plato Papers is a smart and entertaining look at how the future is imagined, the present absorbed, and the past misrepresented.
From the foremost contemporary chronicler of London’s history, a suspenseful novel that ingeniously draws on Chaucer s The Canterbury Tales to recreate the city s 14th century religious and political intrigues. London, 1399. Sister Clarice, a nun born below Clerkenwell convent, is predicting the death of King Richard II and the demise of the Church. Her visions can be dismissed as madness, until she accurately foretells a series of terrorist explosions. What is the role of the apocalyptic Predestined Men? And the clandestine Dominus? And what powers, ultimately, will prevail?In Peter Ackroyd s deft and suprising narrative, The Miller, the Prioress, the Wife of Bath and other characters from Canterbury Tales pursue these mysteries through a pungently vivid medieval London.
A tour de force in the tradition of Hawksmoor and Chatterton, Peter Ackroyd’s new novel of deceit and betrayal is a witty reimagining of a great nineteenth century Shakespeare forgery. Charles and Mary Lamb, who will achieve lasting fame as the authors of Tales from Shakespeare for children, are still living at their parents home. Charles, an aspiring writer bored stiff by his job as a clerk at the East India Company, enjoys a drink or three too many each night at the local pub. His sister, Mary, is trapped in domesticity, caring for her ailing, dotty father and her maddening mother. The siblings enchantment with Shakespeare provides a much needed escape, and they delight in reading and quoting the great bard. When William Ireland, an ambitious young antiquarian bookseller, comes into their lives claiming to possess a lost Shakespearean play, the Lambs can barely contain their excitement. As word of the amazing find spreads, scholars and actors alike beat a path to Ireland s door, and soon all of London is eagerly anticipating opening night of a star studded production of the play. The perfect, lighthearted follow up to Ackroyd s magnificent biography of Shakespeare, The Lambs of London transforms the real life literary hoax into an ingenious, intriguing drama that will keep readers guessing right to the end.
Heinrich Obermann, a celebrated German archaeologist, has uncovered the ancient ruins of Troy on a Turkish hillside. He fervently believes that his discovery will prove that the heroes of the Iliad, a work he has cherished all his life, actually existed. Sophia, Obermann’s young Greek wife, works at the site carefully preserving the ancient treasures she uncovers. But Sophia soon comes to see another side of her husband. He is mysteriously vague about his past and the wife he claims died years before. When she finds a cache of artefacts Obermann has hidden away, her suspicions about him rise, feelings that escalate when a visiting archaeologist who questions Obermann s methods dies from a mysterious fever. The arrival of a second, equally sceptical archaeologist brings Sophia s doubts to a head and spurs Obermann to make even greater claims about the evidence he has found and the profound importance of his achievements. In The Fall of Troy, Peter Ackroyd again demonstrates his ability to evoke time and place, and to transform history into compelling fiction. Like the Homeric epics that entrance Obermann, The Fall of Troy is in part accurate, in part fantastic. It is a brilliantly told story of heroes and scoundrels, human aspirations and follies, and the temptation to shape the truth to fit a passionately held belief.
Peter Ackroyd’s imagination dazzles in this brilliant novel written in the voice of Victor Frankenstein himself. Mary Shelley and Shelley are characters in the novel. It was at Oxford that I first met Bysshe. We arrived at our college on the same day; confusing to a mere foreigner, it is called University College. I had seen him from my window and had been struck by his auburn locks. The long haired poet Mad Shelley and the serious minded student from Switzerland spark each other s interest in the new philosophy of science which is overturning long cherished beliefs. Perhaps there is no God. In which case, where is the divine spark, the soul? Can it be found in the human brain? The heart? The eyes?Victor Frankenstein begins his anatomy experiments in a barn near Oxford. The coroner s office provides corpses but they have often died of violence and drowning; they are damaged and putrifying. Victor moves his coils and jars and electrical fluids to a deserted pottery and from there, makes contact with the Doomesday Men the resurrectionists. Victor finds that perfect specimens are hard to come by…
until that Thames side dawn when, wrapped in his greatcoat, he hears the splashing of oars and sees in the half light the approaching boat where, slung into the stern, is the corpse of a handsome young man, one hand trailing in the water…
. From the Hardcover edition.
A fresh, modern prose retelling captures the vigorous and bawdy spirit of Chaucer’s classic Renowned critic, historian, and biographer Peter Ackroyd takes on what is arguably the greatest poem in the English language and presents the work in a prose vernacular that makes it accessible to modern readers while preserving the spirit of the original. A mirror for medieval society, Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales concerns a motley group of pilgrims who meet in a London inn on their way to Canterbury and agree to take part in a storytelling competition. Ranging from comedy to tragedy, pious sermon to ribald farce, heroic adventure to passionate romance, the tales serve not only as a summation of the sensibility of the Middle Ages but as a representation of the drama of the human condition. Ackroyd’s contemporary prose emphasizes the humanity of these characters as well as explicitly rendering the naughty good humor of the writer whose comedy influenced Fielding and Dickens yet still masterfully evokes the euphonies and harmonies of Chaucer’s verse. This retelling is sure to delight modern readers and bring a new appreciation to those already familiar with the classic tales.
During the 1970s and the early 1980s Peter Ackroyd wrote countless book reviews and articles for the Spectator, on literature, film and a number of social and cultural issues. The Collection offers a selection of these incisive and entertaining pieces, which established Ackroyd’s reputation as a writer. It also includes a selection of his reviews as chief book reviewer for the Times, as well as three of his short stories.
Exploring the universe has always been a dream of humans and, especially for the last 50 years, a constant aim of science. From the early days of rocketry to the creative minds of science fiction writers, Escape from Earth covers the thrilling history of humans venturing into space. Peter Ackroyd’s Voyages Through Time is a series of highly illustrated nonfiction books that illuminate the world’s defining eras of history from our humble beginnings to the exploration of space. Written in a fresh, bold narrative, this series is sure to become a publishing classic.
Voyages Through Time: The Beginning traces the story of life on Earth from its cosmic origins to the birth of our Universe. Covering all aspects of the new heavens and a new Earth, the text sparkles, bringing the Hadean Age, the Precambrian world, the Jurassic period, and more to life. Peter Ackroyd’s Voyages Through Time will illuminate the world’s defining eras of history, from our humble beginnings to the exploration of space, in a fresh, bold narrative that is sure to become a publishing classic.
From Mummys to monuments, Pharaohs to Pyramids enter the Kingdom of the Dead. The original empire, Egypt, was a land of wealth and wonder, assassinations and palace intrigue uncover the secrets of this ancient land, if you dare…
Peter Ackroyd brilliantly brings to life the wonder of the Ancient Egyptians it’s history, but not as you know it!
Peter Ackroyd’s biography gives new insights into Eliot’s life and work. The author also wrote ‘First Light’, ‘Chatterton’ and ‘Hawksmoor’.
London was on the threshold of a period of enormous expanson and change: it was the coming of the great Age. But to the boy Dickens, forcibly separated from his family, it was a terrifying place. Alone he’d walk the slum ridden, shabby, depressed and dirty streets, stand and stare at busy street corners, peep down dark, dismal courts, and feed his insatiable curiousity with ‘wild visions’ that were in monstrous empathy with his deep sense of despair. More than 100 years later the sights and sounds of that city, its colour and suffering reach out to us through his writings and some of the earliest surviving pictures of his day. Dickens’ London is London through Dickens’ eyes, a uniques interpretation of the spirit of Victorian London in the company of the master medium of the Age and under the guidance of Peter Ackroyd; both men among the greatest place poets in the English language.
In this stunning new illustrated biography, Peter Ackroyd introduces us to the public and private life of one of Britain’s best loved literary giants, Charles Dickens. Dickens‘s own story is one of rags to riches; from bankruptcy, prison and enforced child labor in his youth to a life of fame and fortune in adulthood, yet one that was overshadowed by guilt and secrecy. His life seems to echo the plots of his epic novels: indeed he was strongly influenced by personal experience and his stories brim with references to the places and characters he knew and the preoccupations that haunted his life. At a remarkably young age, Dickens achieved the public respectability, wealth and international fame he had craved during his impoverished childhood. However, his road to personal happiness was a far less successful one. Scarred by the memory of his father’s bankruptcy, he experienced continued anxieties over money and he often found himself supporting members of his family financially. Dickens, a writer who celebrated domestic harmony and familial affection in his work, had also to brave the shame of public anger when he separated from his wife of over twenty years for his secret mistress, Ellen Ternan. As a strong supporter of social reform, Dickens‘s writings frequently addressed issues of contemporary concern. In Dickens Public Life and Private Passion, Peter Ackroyd highlights the reality of life in the Victorian era and the great landmarks and events of the time, all of which were to be profound influences on Dickens‘s life and work. Dickens was a mercurial character, with enormous vitality, wit and humor, yet he also lived a sense of loss and longing that constantly reiterated itself in his work. He died having achieved success and riches he aspired to, while still harboring the deep sadness he had experienced all is life. Illustrated with contemporary images and photographs, Ackroyd presents a fascinating introduction to his best loved and his time.
A first rate biography of an extraordinary man.’ The Wall Street Journal’SUPERB…
Ackroyd writes with clarity and ease: His book is consistently intelligent, entertaining and affectionate. One closes its pages full of admiration for Blake and eager to study his pictures and read his poetry…
. Ackroyd emphasizes Blake the visionary Londoner, like Turner or Dickens, and convincingly relates the poet’s work to the social upheavals of his time…
. Above all, he makes Blake live for the modern reader.’ The Washington Post Book World ‘LYRICAL AND ILLUMINATING…
Ackroyd is a masterly storyteller and interpreter of Blake‘s writing and art.’ Chicago Tribune ‘THE WORK OF A WRITER AT THE PEAK OF HIS LITERARY POWERS…
It is one of the great strengths of Ackroyd’s writing that he reminds us that every individual life and cast of mind has a tradition behind it, a context of other lives and minds which is half forgotten or not remembered at all. As a writer, he is always letting his bucket deeper and deeper down the historical well.’ The New Yorker
Peter Ackroyd’s The Life of Thomas More is a magnificent reconstruction of the life and imagination of one of the most remarkable figures of history. Thomas More was a renowned statesman, the author of a political fantasy that gave a name to a genre and a worldview Utopia, and, most famously, a Catholic martyr, who paid with his life when he refused to follow his sovereign, King Henry VIII, in severing England’s ties with the Catholic Church. Born into the professional clas*ses, Thomas More 1478 1535 rose by dint of formidable intellect and well placed connections to become the most powerful man in England after the king. An exponent of what was called in his day ‘the mixed life,’ More combined medieval piety with worldly mastery of legal argument and the art of negotiation. Ackroyd dramatically shows how the clouds of Lutheran reformation that swarmed over the continent unleashed the storm of the early modern period that swept away More’s world and took his life. He clarifies the whirl of dynastic, religious, and mercantile politics that brought the autocratic Henry VIII and the devout More into their fateful conflict. And he narrates the unrelenting drama of More’s final days his detention, trial, and execution with a novelist’s mastery of suspense. In Ackroyd’s hands, this renowned ‘man for all seasons’ emerges in the fullness of his complex humanity; we see the unexpected side of his character a preference for bawdy humor as well as his indisputable moral courage. Acclaimed for his magisterial biographies T. S. Eliot, Dickens, Blake, Peter Ackroyd has once again scored a triumph.
This magnificent evocation of all that London has meant down the centuries…
I cannot begin to describe the richness with which Ackroyd pursues his theme…
A blend of virtuosity and deep affection that is truly bewitching. Ackroyd has performed a noble public service in preserving in these pages so many centuries of marvels, and secrecies. Jan MorrisLondon: The Biography is the pinnacle of Peter Ackroyd’s brilliant obsession with the eponymous city. In this unusual and engaging work, Ackroyd brings the reader through time into the city whose institutions and idiosyncrasies have permeated much of his works of fiction and nonfiction. Peter Ackroyd sees London as a living, breathing organism, with its own laws of growth and change. Reveling in the city s riches as well as its raucousness, the author traces thematically its growth from the time of the Druids to the beginning of the twenty first century. Anecdotal, insightful, and wonderfully entertaining, London is animated by Ackroyd s concern for the close relationship between the present and the past, as well as by what he describes as the peculiar echoic quality of London, whereby its texture and history actively affect the lives and personalities of its citizens. London confirms Ackroyd s status as what one critic has called our age s greatest London imagination.
This adaptation of the one man show in which Simon Callow toured, also features his voice as he becomes Charles Dickens, travelling to a land of pompous beadles and drunken midwives, and on through Europe and America for infamous adventures and the most fashionable society parties.
Peter Ackroyd follows his acclaimed London: The Biography with a book that once again plumbs the history of England and uncovers the continuities that link past and present. A dazzling, highly original exploration of English culture from its roots in the Anglo Saxon period to the present day, Albion demonstrates that a quintessentially English quality imbues every form of cultural expression not just literature, but also painting, music, architecture, philosophy, and science. In an intricate, expertly crafted mixture of narrative and theme, Ackroyd travels through time and across cultural categories as he seeks out the roots and the essence of the English imagination. With an irrepressible curiosity and contagious enthusiasm, he moves from Beowulf to Virginia Woolf, Hogarth to Hockney, Purcell to Vaughan Williams, Inigo Jones to Edward Lutyens. His lively biographical sketches and incisive exegeses of the work of figures both well known and less familiar deepen our understanding and appreciation of our inherited culture. Like London: The Biography, Albion contains unexpected treasures, including a thought provoking look at immigration and assimilation and a delightful digression into the English obsession with gardening. Black and white photographs and drawings, and two lavish four color inserts add visual appeal throughout. Ackroyd’s talent for distilling information and presenting it with novelistic flair shines on every page of Albion. It is Peter Ackroyd at his most brilliant and exuberant.
In the first in a new series of brief biographies, bestselling author Peter Ackroyd brilliantly evokes the medieval world of England and provides an incomparable introduction to the great poet’s works. Geoffrey Chaucer, who died in 1400, lived a surprisingly eventful life. He served with the Duke of Clarence and with Edward III, and in 1359 was taken prisoner in France and ransomed. Through his wife, Philippa, he gained the patronage of John of Gaunt, which helped him carve out a career at Court. His posts included Controller of Customs at the Port of London, Knight of the Shire for Kent, and King’s Forester. He went on numerous adventurous diplomatic missions to France and Italy. Yet he was also indicted for rape, sued for debt, and captured in battle. He began to write in the 1360s, and is now known as the father of English poetry. His Troilus and Criseyde is the first example of modern English literature, and his masterpiece, The Canterbury Tales, the forerunner of the English novel, dominated the last part of his life. In his lively style, Peter Ackroyd, one of the most acclaimed biographers and novelists writing today, brings us an eye opening portrait, rich in drama and colorful historical detail, of a prolific, multifaceted genius.
History buffs, budding anthropologists, and anyone who loves a good story will enjoy the fifth installment of the award winning Voyages Through Time series. Ancient Greece visits the cradle of Western Civilization to look at the philosophers, architects, and statesmen who helped lay the groundwork for society as we know it today.
From the rise of the great emperors to the destruction of Pompeii, this fascinating book takes an up close look at the most dynamic and aggressive young republic of all time.
In a magnificent feat of re creating sixteenth century London and Stratford, bestselling biographer and novelist Peter Ackroyd brings William Shakespeare to life in the manner of a contemporary rather than a biographer. Following his magisterial and ingenious re creations of the lives of Chaucer, Dickens, T. S. Eliot, William Blake, and Sir Thomas More, Ackroyd delivers his crowning achievement with this definitive and imaginative biographical masterpiece. Thousands of books have been written about the playwright, but none has borne Ackroyd’s unique and accessible stamp. His method is to position the playwright in the context of his world, exploring everything from Stratford s humble town to its fields of wildflowers; discerning influences on the plays from unexpected quarters; and entering London with the playwright as modern theatre, as we know it, is just beginning to emerge. Writing as though we are observing Shakespeare and his circle of friends, patrons, managers, and fellow actors and writers, Ackroyd is able to see Shakespeare‘s genius from within, so we feel that Ackroyd the writer merges with Shakespeare the writer, the poet, the man; and thus with great sympathy and clarity we experience the way in which Shakespeare worked. Shakespeare: The Biography is quite unlike other more analytic biographies that have been written. Rather, Peter Ackroyd has used his skill, his extraordinary knowledge, and his historical intuition to craft this major full scale book on one of the most towering figures of the English language.
When Newton was not yet twenty five years old, he formulated calculus, hit upon the idea of gravity, and discovered that white light was made up of all the colors of the spectrum. By 1678, Newton designed a telescope to study the movement of the planets and published Principia, a milestone in the history of science, which set forth his famous laws of motion and universal gravitation. Newton‘s long time research on calculus, finally made public in 1704, triggered a heated controversy as European scientists accused him of plagiarizing the work of the German scientist Gottfried Leibniz. In this third volume in the acclaimed Ackroyd s Brief Lives series, bestselling author Peter Ackroyd provides an engaging portrait of Isaac Newton, illuminating what we think we know about him and describing his seminal contributions to science and mathematics. A man of wide and eclectic interests, Newton blurred the borders between natural philosophy and speculation: he was as passionate about astrology as astronomy and dabbled in alchemy, while his religious faith was never undermined by his determination to interpret a modern universe as a mathematical universe. By brining vividly to life a somewhat puritanical man whose desire to experiment and explore bordered on the obsessive, Peter Ackroyd demonstrates the unique brilliance of Newton s perceptions, which changed our understanding of the world.
Displaying the same qualities as London: The Biography scholarship, wit, anecdotes, spirit of place, narrative and character this hugely enjoyable book will be another mammoth bestseller. Thames: Sacred River is a history of the river from source to sea from prehistoric times to the present. It covers the flora and fauna of the river, paintings and photographs inspired by The Thames, its geology, smells and colours, its literature, laws and landscape, its magic and myths, architecture, trade and weather. The reader learns about the fishes that swim in the river and the boats that ply on its surface; about floods and tides; hauntings and suicides; miasmas and sewers; locks, weirs and embankments. Here is Shelley floating on the river under poetical beech trees; Hogarth getting roaring drunk on a boat trip to Gravesend; William Morris wondering whether the same Thames water flowed past his windows in Hammersmith as flowed past his house at Kelmscott 100 miles upriver. Peter Ackroyd has a genius for digging out the most surprising and entertaining details, and for writing about them in magisterial prose, and as historian Gillian Tindall, writing in the Sunday Telegraph about the richness and profusion of material says…
there is so much to enjoy here.
Peter Ackroyd at his most magical and magisterial a glittering, evocative, fascinating, story filled portrait of Venice, the ultimate city. The Venetians language and way of thinking set them aside from the rest of Italy. They are an island people, linked to the sea and to the tides rather than the land. This lat est work from the incomparable Peter Ackroyd, like a magic gondola, transports its readers to that sensual and surprising city. His account embraces facts and romance, conjuring up the atmosphere of the canals, bridges, and sunlit squares, the churches and the markets, the festivals and the flowers. He leads us through the history of the city, from the first refugees arriving in the mists of the lagoon in the fourth century to the rise of a great mercantile state and its trading empire, the wars against Napoleon, and the tourist invasions of today. Everything is here: the merchants on the Rialto and the Jews in the ghetto; the glassblowers of Murano; the carnival masks and the sad colonies of lepers; the artists Bellini, Titian, Tintoretto, Tiepolo. And the ever present undertone of Venice’s shadowy corners and dead ends, of prisons and punishment, wars and sieges, scandals and seductions. Ackroyd s Venice: Pure City is a study of Venice much in the vein of his lauded London: The Biography. Like London, Venice is a fluid, writerly exploration organized around a num ber of themes. History and context are provided in each chap ter, but Ackroyd s portrait of Venice is a particularly novelistic one, both beautiful and rapturous. We could have no better guide reading Venice: Pure City is, in itself, a glorious journey to the ultimate city. From the Hardcover edition.
This is an essential guide for new students coming to the Bard for the first time as well as a valuable resource for a dedicated fan. It is an ideal introduction to the life and times of Shakespeare, uncovering the few fragments of his life and placing him within the Elizabethan world. The book also looks at each of his plays and sonnets, giving full explanations and descriptions, putting them in context, and revealing the many great quotes and key scenes.
Acclaimed biographer Peter Ackroyd vibrantly resurrects the legendary epic of Camelot in this modern adaptation. The names of Arthur, Merlin, Lancelot, Guinevere, Galahad, the sword of Excalibur, and the court of Camelot are as recognizable as any from the world of myth. Although many versions exist of the stories of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, Le Morte d’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory endures as the most moving and richly inventive. In this abridged retelling the inimitable Peter Ackroyd transforms Malory’s fifteenth century work into a dramatic modern story, vividly bringing to life a world of courage and chivalry, magic, and majesty. The golden age of Camelot, the perilous search for the Holy Grail, the love of Guinevere and Lancelot, and the treachery of Arthur’s son Mordred are all rendered into contemporary prose with Ackroyd’s characteristic charm and panache. Just as he did with his fresh new version of Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, Ackroyd now brings one of the cornerstones of English literature to a whole new audience.
An enormously enjoyable spooky collection of ghost sightings over the centuries, full of the spirit of place, in true Ackroyd style. The English, Peter Ackroyd tells us in this fascinating collection, see more ghosts than any other nation. Each region has its own particular spirits, from the Celtic ghosts of Cornwall to the dobies and boggarts of the north. Some speak and some are silent, some smell of old leather, others of fragrant thyme. From medieval times to today stories have been told and apparitions seen ghosts who avenge injustice, souls who long for peace, spooks who just want to have fun. The English Ghost is a treasury of such sightings which we can believe or not, as we will. The accounts, packed with eerie detail, range from the door slamming, shrieking ghost of Hinton Manor in the 1760s and the moaning child that terrified Wordsworth’s nephew at Cambridge, to the headless bear of Kidderminster, the violent daemon of Devon who tried to strangle a man with his cravat and the modern day hitchhikers on Bluebell Hill. Comical and scary, like all good ghost stories, these curious incidents also plumb the depths of the English psyche in its yearnings for justice, freedom and love.
From the author of the bestselling London: The Biography, a poetic and powerful urban history of life and legend beneath London. This is a wonderful, atmospheric, historical, imaginative, oozing little study of verything that goes on under London, from original springs and streams and Roman amphitheatres to Victorian sewers and gang hide outs. The depth below is hot, much warmer than the surface and this book tunnels down through the geological layers, meeting the creatures that dwell in darkness, real and fictional rats and eels, monsters and ghosts. There is a bronze age trackway under the Isle of Dogs, Wren found Anglo Saxon graves under St Paul’s, and the monastery of Whitefriars lies beneath Fleet Street. In Kensal Green cemetery there was a hydraulic device to lower bodies into the catacombs below ‘Welcome to the lower depths’. A door in the plinth of statue of Boadicea on Westminster Bridge leads to a huge tunnel, packed with cables gas, water, telephone. When the Metropolitan Line was opened in 1864 the guards asked for permission to grow beards to protect themselves against the sulphurous fumes, and called their engines by the names of tyrants Czar, Kaiser, Mogul and even Pluto, god of the underworld. Going under London is to penetrate history, to enter a hidden world. ‘The vastness of the space, a second earth,’ writes Peter Ackroyd, ‘elicits sensations of wonder and of terror. It partakes of myth and dream in equal measure.’