DIARISTS CAN ALLOW themselves many indiscretions and some malice while pretending that their diaries were never really intended for publication. Such famous diarists as the late Chips Channon or Alan Clark must have been consumed with the desire that posterity should gape and marvel at their social mountaineering and sexual conquests. Memoirs published in the author's lifetime must be different . They can be of value if the author has had an interesting life or has an interesting mind. Lady Annabel Goldsmith satisfies both criteria and, as a bonus, she has also an explosive sense of humour, at times of astonishing, indeed Hanoverian , lubricity. Her memoirs will be devoured by many : historians of the twentieth century, celebrity addicts who wish to graduate to a higher altitude than this week 's issue of Hell o!, and lovers of good English prose. To parody Prince Monolulu, the famous racecourse tipster, 'She gotta voice!'
At the time of the author's birth in 1934, her grandfather, the Seventh Marquess of Londonderry, still owned 50,000 acres - half around Mount Stewart in Northern Ireland, half near Wynyard Park in County Durham (which included the family coal mines, the source of their great wealth) - and a