Ben Downing specializes in 19th- and 20th-century British social life and literature, with a particular emphasis on travel writing. He has written essays, articles, and reviews on figures such as Robert Louis Stevenson, Duff Cooper, Robert Byron, Anthony Powell, Peter Fleming, Wilfred Thesiger, and Patrick Leigh Fermor. His biography of Janet Ross, who for many years was the doyenne of Florence’s Anglo-American colony, will be published in 2013 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
He also writes poetry. His collection The Calligraphy Shop appeared in 2003, and he continues to publish poems in The Atlantic, The New Criterion, The Yale Review, and elsewhere.
Since 1993 he has worked at Parnassus: Poetry in Review, of which he is now the co-editor. He has taught literary seminars and workshops at Columbia, Bryn Mawr, and the 92nd St. Y, and he currently teaches a small private class, known as The English Salon, for advanced non-native speakers of English. He lives in New York City.