A. N. Wilson
Andrew Norman Wilson (born 27 October 1950) is an English writer and newspaper columnist, known for his critical biographies, novels, works of popular history and religious views. He is an occasional columnist for the Daily Mail and former columnist for the London Evening Standard, and has been an occasional contributor to the Times Literary Supplement, New Statesman, The Spectator and The Observer.
Life and work
Wilson was educated at Rugby School and New College, Oxford. Destined originally for ordination in the Church of England, Wilson entered St Stephen's House, the High Church theological hall at Oxford, but left at the end of his first year.
In the late 1980s, he publicly stated that he was an atheist and published a pamphlet Against Religion in the Chatto & Windus CounterBlasts series; however, religious and ecclesiological themes continue to inform his work. For nearly 30 years he continued to be both a sceptic, and a prominent atheist.
He has covered his particular slant on biography and, to some extent his take on the Victorian era topics, in God's Funeral and The Victorians, which can be traced to this religious ambivalence. His books on Leo Tolstoy (Whitbread Award for best biography of 1988), C. S. Lewis, Hilaire Belloc, and Jesus Christ are all simultaneously sympathetic to and critical of religious belief. His work, Dante in Love published in 2011, presents a study of the great Italian poet Dante Alighieri, as an artist and philosopher, also depicting an in-depth portrait of medieval Florence in order to help readers to understand the literary and cultural background that engendered the Tuscan's masterpiece, The Divine Comedy. His most recent work, The Elizabethans, described as "the exhilarating story of the Elizabethan Age", was also published in 2011.
Wilson has a reputation, gained early in his career, of being a "young fogey". He holds controversial views and presents them to entertaining effect, for example in repeated appearances on BBC Radio 4's Any Questions.
His 2007 novel Winnie and Wolf was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. His non-fiction has been widely praised. Kathryn Hughes described his 2002 book The Victorians as "a magnificent achievement: plucky, engaged and full of awe at the way we continue to live out its inheritance today".
Wilson's Hitler: A Short Biography, however, was heavily criticized in a review by the historian Richard J. Evans for significant factual inaccuracies, lack of original research and analysis, and personal biases.
Libel claims and retractions
||This section of a biography of a living person does not include any references or sources. (October 2011)|
After Life in the Freezer was broadcast, Wilson, then a television reviewer for The Independent, wrote a column accusing the production team of staging a harrowing sequence in which a leopard seal killed and dismembered a young penguin. He claimed that the chances of filming natural behaviour like this were far too low and that the crew must have thrown baby penguins to the seal until they got the shot they wanted.
Alastair Fothergill responded by threatening to sue. In a private settlement, Wilson was forced to publish an apology and retraction acknowledging that there had been no basis for his claims. The Independent also paid an undisclosed sum of money, which Fothergill and David Attenborough donated to a fund for the penguins of the Falkland Islands.
Wilson had made similar claims about Attenborough's previous series, The Trials of Life, regarding the filming of the Malleefowl and been forced to retract those as well.
Betjeman letter hoax
In August 2006, Wilson's biography of Sir John Betjeman was published. It was later discovered that Wilson had been the victim of a hoax. Another biographer, Bevis Hillier, sent him a forged letter which was included in the book. Wilson later claimed that he has struck back with a hidden message of his own in a reprinting of the book that has yet to be discovered.
- A. N. Wilson has completed biographies on Hilaire Belloc, Tolstoy, C S Lewis, John Milton, Sir Walter Scott and Jesus.
- The Laird of Abbotsford: A view of Sir Walter Scott (1980)
- The Life of John Milton: A Biography
- Hilaire Belloc: A Biography (1985)
- How Can We Know? (1985)
- Penfriends from Porlock
- Tolstoy: A Biography (1988)
- C. S. Lewis: A Biography (1990)
- Against Religion: Why we should live without it (1991)
- Jesus: A Life (1992)
- The Rise and Fall of the House of Windsor published by Sinclair Stevenson (London) in (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)
- Our Times (2008)
- Dante in Love (2011)
- The Elizabethans (2011)
- Hitler: a short biography (2011)
- 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)
- Dream Children (1998)
- My Name Is Legion (2004)
- A Jealous Ghost (2005)
- Winnie and Wolf (2007) (Longlisted for the 2007 Man Booker Prize)
- The Potter's Hand (2012)
A novel sequence referred to as 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)
Notes and references
- A. N. Wilson (2009-04-11). "Religion of hatred: Why we should no longer be cowed by the chattering classes ruling Britain who sneer at Christianity". Daily Mail (London). Retrieved 2009-07-09. See also Wilson's slightly earlier article in the New Stateman, Why I believe again 2 April 2009.
- BBC – BBC Radio 4 Programmes – Any Questions?
- Hughes, Kathryn (2002-08-31). "High seriousness with a light touch". The Guardian (London).
- Evans, Richard J. (12). "Hitler: A Short Biography". New Statesman. Retrieved 14 February 2013.
- Marre, Oliver (2006-09-10). "Pendennis". London: The Observer. Retrieved 2006-09-11.
- "The internet is destroying the world as we know it", Daily Mail, 8 June 2007.
- James Atlas "'The Busy, Busy Wasp'", New York Times, 18 October 1992
- On ANW's biography of C.S. Lewis
- Gilbert Meilaender "Psychoanalyzing C.S.Lewis" Christian Century, 16–23 May 1990, pp. 525–529.
- Works by or about A. N. Wilson in libraries (WorldCat catalog)