novelist, biographer, and reviewer, born in Stone, Staffordshire, and educated at New College, Oxford. After abandoning training for the priesthood he became a teacher and then returned to Oxford to lecture in English. He was literary editor of the Spectator (1981–3). His novel writing began in a vein of slightly acid social comedy with The Sweets of Pimlico (1977) and Unguarded Hours (1978). Subsequent novels include The Healing Art (1980), about a mistaken diagnosis of cancer; Wise Virgin (1982), a study of a father–daughter relationship; The Vicar of Sorrows (1993), the story of a disillusioned clergyman's infatuation with a New Age traveller; and a sequence of novels forming the Lampitt quintet: Incline Our Hearts (1989), A Bottle in the Smoke (1990), Daughters of Albion (1991), Hearing Voices (1995), and A Watch in the Night (1996). He has written biographies of Sir Walter Scott (1980), Milton (1983), Belloc (1984), Tolstoy (1988), C. S. Lewis (1990), Jesus (1992), Iris Murdoch (2003), and John Betjeman (2006). Wilson's acclaimed study of the Victorian era, The Victorians (2002), was followed by After the Victorians (2005).