16 NOVEMBER 2002, Page 47

John Mortimer

The Booker shortlist for the year 1847-48 could have included Dombey and Son, Wuthering Heights and Vanity Fair. The Communist Manifesto might have been entered for Whitbread. A. N. Wilson has written a perceptive study of this age in The Victorians (Hutchinson, £28) which I gratefully enjoyed. When our army took a hideous revenge on the Indians after the Mutiny, Queen Victoria, I learnt, wrote a letter of protest to Canning in which she said there should be no 'hatred of a brown skin'. A great justification for royal letters to politicians.

Coming back, after these giant characters, to our pygmy present, I relish Matthew Parris's Chance Witness (Viking, £18.99). It takes his talent as a writer to make our politicians entertaining.