A. N. Wilson

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For the American artist, see Andrew Norman Wilson (artist).

Andrew Norman Wilson (born in 1950)[1] 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[edit]

Wilson was born in Stone, Staffordshire[2] and educated at Hillstone School, Great Malvern in Worcestershire, 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. He married the Shakespeare scholar Katherine Duncan-Jones in 1971. They had two daughters, Emily Wilson (born 1971) and Beatrice "Bee" Wilson (born 1974), and divorced in 1990.

In the late 1980s, Wilson stated publicly 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. However, in April 2009, he published articles in the New Statesman and Daily Mail affirming his rediscovery of faith, and conversion to Christianity, attacking at the same time in the Daily Mail article both academic and media atheists.[3] [4]

Wilson has covered his particular slant on biography and, to some extent, his take on 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 to help readers understand the literary and cultural background which engendered the Tuscan's masterpiece, The Divine Comedy. 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,[citation needed] for example in his appearances on BBC Radio 4's Any Questions.[5][not in citation given]

His 2007 novel Winnie and Wolf was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

Wilson's Hitler: A Short Biography, however, was heavily criticised in a review by the historian Richard J. Evans for significant factual inaccuracies, lack of original research and analysis, and personal biases.[6]

Betjeman letter hoax[edit]

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 is still to be discovered, a decade later.[7]

Published works[edit]


  • 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 Faber Book of Church and Clergy (Editor) published by Faber & Faber (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)
  • Victoria: a life (2014)
  • The Book of the People: How to Read the Bible (2015)


  • 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) (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)


Wilson has also presented several television programmes.

Title Synopsis Broadcast Broadcaster
The Genius of Josiah Wedgwood Wilson explores the life of his great hero, Josiah Wedgwood. As one of the founding fathers of the Industrial Revolution, Wedgwood was a self-made, self-educated creative giant, whose other achievements might be better known if he were not so celebrated for his pottery. 19 April 2013 BBC[8]
Narnia's Lost Poet: The Secret Lives and Loves of CS Lewis Wilson, a biographer of Lewis, goes in search of the man behind Narnia – bestselling children's author, famous Christian writer, Oxford academic and an aspiring poet who never achieved the same success in writing verse as he did prose. 27 November 2013 BBC[9]
Return to Betjemanland Wilson travels back to a landscape of beautiful houses and churches, beaches and seaside piers, where he examines the life and work of the poet and broadcaster Sir John Betjeman. 1 September 2014 BBC[10]
Queen Victoria's Letters: A Monarch Unveiled Wilson explores the personal life of Queen Victoria through her journals and letters in this psychological portrait of Britain's longest reigning monarch. 13 November 2014
20 November 2014

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Encyclopaedia Britannica
  2. ^ Encyclopaedia Britannica
  3. ^ A. N. Wilson (11 April 2009). "Religion of hatred: Why we should no longer be cowed by the chattering classes ruling Britain who sneer at Christianity". Daily Mail. London. Retrieved 9 July 2009. 
  4. ^ Why I believe again New Statesman, 2 April 2009.
  5. ^ BBC – BBC Radio 4 Programmes – Any Questions?
  6. ^ Evans, Richard J. (12 March 2012). "Hitler: A Short Biography". New Statesman. Retrieved 14 February 2013. 
  7. ^ Marre, Oliver (10 September 2006). "Pendennis". London: The Observer. Retrieved 11 September 2006. 
  8. ^ BBC – The Genius of Josiah Wedgwood
  9. ^ BBC – Narnia's Lost Poet
  10. ^ BBC – Return to Betjemanland
  11. ^ BBC – Queen Victoria's Letters

External links[edit]