A. N. Wilson
Andrew Norman Wilson 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
Daily Mail
The Daily Mail is a British daily middle-market tabloid newspaper owned by the Daily Mail and General Trust. First published in 1896 by Lord Northcliffe, it is the United Kingdom's second biggest-selling daily newspaper after The Sun. Its sister paper The Mail on Sunday was launched in 1982...

 and former columnist for the London Evening Standard
Evening Standard
The Evening Standard, now styled the London Evening Standard, is a free local daily newspaper, published Monday–Friday in tabloid format in London. It is the dominant regional evening paper for London and the surrounding area, with coverage of national and international news and City of London...

, and has been an occasional contributor to the Times Literary Supplement, New Statesman
New Statesman
New Statesman is a British centre-left political and cultural magazine published weekly in London. Founded in 1913, and connected with leading members of the Fabian Society, the magazine reached a circulation peak in the late 1960s....

, The Spectator
The Spectator
The Spectator is a weekly British magazine first published on 6 July 1828. It is currently owned by David and Frederick Barclay, who also owns The Daily Telegraph. Its principal subject areas are politics and culture...

 and The Observer
The Observer
The Observer is a British newspaper, published on Sundays. In the same place on the political spectrum as its daily sister paper The Guardian, which acquired it in 1993, it takes a liberal or social democratic line on most issues. It is the world's oldest Sunday newspaper.-Origins:The first issue,...


Life and work

Wilson was educated at Rugby School
Rugby School
Rugby School is a co-educational day and boarding school located in the town of Rugby, Warwickshire, England. It is one of the oldest independent schools in Britain.-History:...

 and New College, Oxford
New College, Oxford
New College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.- Overview :The College's official name, College of St Mary, is the same as that of the older Oriel College; hence, it has been referred to as the "New College of St Mary", and is now almost always...

. Destined originally for ordination
In general religious use, ordination is the process by which individuals are consecrated, that is, set apart as clergy to perform various religious rites and ceremonies. The process and ceremonies of ordination itself varies by religion and denomination. One who is in preparation for, or who is...

 in the Church of England
Church of England
The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St...

, Wilson entered St Stephen's House
St Stephen's House, Oxford
St Stephen’s House, Oxford , is an Anglican theological college and one of six religious Permanent Private Halls of the University of Oxford, England...

, the High Church
High church
The term "High Church" refers to beliefs and practices of ecclesiology, liturgy and theology, generally with an emphasis on formality, and resistance to "modernization." Although used in connection with various Christian traditions, the term has traditionally been principally associated with the...

 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 skeptic, and a prominent atheist.

In April 2009 he published an article in the Daily Mail
Daily Mail
The Daily Mail is a British daily middle-market tabloid newspaper owned by the Daily Mail and General Trust. First published in 1896 by Lord Northcliffe, it is the United Kingdom's second biggest-selling daily newspaper after The Sun. Its sister paper The Mail on Sunday was launched in 1982...

 affirming his rediscovery of faith, and conversion to Christianity, attacking at the same time both academic and media atheists.

He has covered his particular slant on biography and, to some extent his take on the Victorian era
Victorian era
The Victorian era of British history was the period of Queen Victoria's reign from 20 June 1837 until her death on 22 January 1901. It was a long period of peace, prosperity, refined sensibilities and national self-confidence...

 topics, in God's Funeral and The Victorians, which can be traced to this religious ambivalence. His books on Leo Tolstoy
Leo Tolstoy
Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy was a Russian writer who primarily wrote novels and short stories. Later in life, he also wrote plays and essays. His two most famous works, the novels War and Peace and Anna Karenina, are acknowledged as two of the greatest novels of all time and a pinnacle of realist...

 (Whitbread Award for best biography of 1988), C. S. Lewis
C. S. Lewis
Clive Staples Lewis , commonly referred to as C. S. Lewis and known to his friends and family as "Jack", was a novelist, academic, medievalist, literary critic, essayist, lay theologian and Christian apologist from Belfast, Ireland...

, Hilaire Belloc
Hilaire Belloc
Joseph Hilaire Pierre René Belloc was an Anglo-French writer and historian who became a naturalised British subject in 1902. He was one of the most prolific writers in England during the early twentieth century. He was known as a writer, orator, poet, satirist, man of letters and political activist...

, and Jesus Christ are all simultaneously sympathetic to and critical of religious belief.

Wilson has a reputation, gained early in his career, of being a 'young fogey
Young Fogey
The term young fogey was humorously applied, in British context, to some younger-generation, rather buttoned-down writers and journalists, such as Simon Heffer, Charles Moore and, for a while, A. N. Wilson...

'. He holds controversial views and presents them to entertaining effect, for example in repeated appearances on BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4 is a British domestic radio station, operated and owned by the BBC, that broadcasts a wide variety of spoken-word programmes, including news, drama, comedy, science and history. It replaced the BBC Home Service in 1967. The station controller is currently Gwyneth Williams, and the...

's Any Questions.

Wilson has been occasionally criticized for his prose style. Nevertheless, his 2007 novel Winnie and Wolf was longlisted for the Man Booker prize. His non-fiction has been widely praised. Kathryn Hughes
Kathryn Hughes
Kathryn Hughes is a British historian, biographer and journalist. Educated at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford University and the University of East Anglia; her doctorate in Victorian History was developed into her first book, The Victorian Governess...

 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".

Libel claims and retractions

After Life in the Freezer
Life in the Freezer
Life in the Freezer is a BBC nature documentary series written and presented by David Attenborough, first transmitted in the UK from 18 November 1993....

 was broadcast, Wilson, then a television reviewer for The Independent
The Independent
The Independent is a British national morning newspaper published in London by Independent Print Limited, owned by Alexander Lebedev since 2010. It is nicknamed the Indy, while the Sunday edition, The Independent on Sunday, is the Sindy. Launched in 1986, it is one of the youngest UK national daily...

, 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
Alastair Fothergill
Alastair Fothergill is a producer of nature documentaries for television and cinema. He is the executive producer of the multi-award winning series The Blue Planet and Planet Earth and the co-director of the associated feature films Deep Blue and Earth.Fothergill attended Harrow...

 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
David Attenborough
Sir David Frederick Attenborough OM, CH, CVO, CBE, FRS, FZS, FSA is a British broadcaster and naturalist. His career as the face and voice of natural history programmes has endured for more than 50 years...

 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
The Trials of Life
The Trials of Life: A Natural History of Behaviour is a BBC nature documentary series written and presented by David Attenborough, first transmitted in the UK from 4 October 1990....

, 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
John Betjeman
Sir John Betjeman, CBE was an English poet, writer and broadcaster who described himself in Who's Who as a "poet and hack".He was a founding member of the Victorian Society and a passionate defender of Victorian architecture...

 was published. It was then discovered that he had been the victim of a hoax.
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.


  • 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 Stephenson (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)


  • The Sweets of Pimlico (1977)
  • Unguarded Hours (1978)
  • Kindly Light (1979)
  • The Healing Art (1980)
  • Who Was Oswald Fish? (1981)
  • Wise Virgin (1982)
  • Scandal
    Scandal (novel)
    Scandal, or Priscilla's Kindness is a satirical novel by A. N. Wilson first published in 1983 about a British politician's rise and fall, the latter caused by a relationship with a prostitute...

  • Gentlemen in England (1983)
  • Love Unknown (1986)
  • Stray
    Stray (novel)
    Stray is a novel by A. N. Wilson. It is a follow-up to his picture book The Tabitha Stories, as it follows the life of Tabitha's father. The book was published in Great Britain in 1987 by Walker Books and was re-published in the United States by Orchard Books in 1989...

  • The Vicar of Sorrows (1993)
  • Dream Children
    Dream Children
    Dream Children is a 1998 novel by A. N. Wilson.Owing to his own early encounters, Oliver Gold, a distinguished philosopher, has decided he can only be happy with a child. Oliver, however, moves in with a widow in North London. He makes all the ladies around him fall in love with him, from the...

  • My Name Is Legion
    My Name Is Legion (novel)
    My Name Is Legion is a novel by A. N. Wilson first published in 2004. Set in London in the first years of the 21st century, the book revolves around two main topics: Britain's gutter press and Christian religion. On the one hand, the novel satirizes the detrimental influence yellow journalism can...

  • A Jealous Ghost (2005)
  • Winnie and Wolf (2007) (Longlisted for the 2007 Man Booker Prize
    Man Booker Prize
    The Man Booker Prize for Fiction is a literary prize awarded each year for the best original full-length novel, written in the English language, by a citizen of the Commonwealth of Nations, Ireland, or Zimbabwe. The winner of the Man Booker Prize is generally assured of international renown and...


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)

External links

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