There can be no subscriber of the Literary Review who does not admire the editor for his perfect prose and wit. Those who have not had the pleasure of meeting him may not know that his personal charms surpass even his intellectual abilities. He is irresistible. So when he telephoned to ask for an urgent review of The Making of an English Country Garden, on the grounds that its author was the mother of Kate Kellaway – a Dream of Beauty and ex-deputy editor of this magazine – I naturally agreed to help out. Without hesitation I volunteered to stay up all night and then bicycle through snow to deliver the work next day – for no money at all. The editor had also added that we must do the Dream of Beauty's mother proud. Nothing less than 800 words of eulogy would suffice. It was only after I had put the telephone down that I saw things differently. I too have daughters who are Dreams of Beauty and I too have recently written a gardening book, which although selected by the Academy Bookclub, no less, was never reviewed in these pages. Mrs Kellaway, who is not a name to conjure with in gardening circles, seemed unlikely to have written anything outstanding. Pride and principles dictated an instant telephone call cancelling my commitment, but I decided on a compromise. I would wait to see the work before delivering my snub.
It was an unusually prejudiced reader who sat down to look at Deborah Kellaway's first gardening book. Every year more volumes on gardening are published than on any other subject and 1987 broke all previous records. I sometimes think I would not care if I never read another contemporary word