THE MORE ONE reads about, or by, Benjamin Britten, the more perplexing he becomes. He remains perhaps the only genius British music has produced in modern times, a man who by his mid-twenties was writing works of an originality and brilliance that make him the equal of any composer in history. Yet, no doubt because of this, he possessed a self-centredness and an egotism that make him at times seem almost repulsive. He could be a man of great personal generosity and kindliness: yet he would dump people – they called themselves ‘corpses’ – who were no longer of any use to him on his mission. He had an instinctive rapport with children, but seems to have found many adults unfathomable.