Max Egremont

Dreams of Autocracy

Caves of Ice


Chatto & Windus 276pp £12.95 order from our bookshop

‘If a man has no constant lover who shares his soul as well as his body he must have a diary – a poor substitute, but better than nothing. That is all there is to it in my case.’ Thus writes James Lees-Milne at the beginning of Caves of Ice, extracts from his diary for the years 1946 and 1947. We are not told Mr Lees-Milne’s age at this time, but I should imagine him to have been in his late thirties. He works for the National Trust as its Historic Buildings Adviser. He lives in London, first in rooms in Alexander Place, then in Thurloe Square. He is curious about people, if a little petulant in his reactions to them; architecture and poetry are his chief passions. Although not nostalgic, he leans towards the idea of a benevolent autocracy that would preserve courtesy, taste and private patronage. He does not feel at home amid the privations of Mr Attlee’s Britain.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • What did London look like in the 6th Century? Rory Naismith's 'Citadel of the Saxons' tries to answer that questi… ,
    • Start your week with a dose of Russian Revolutionary zeal. Donald Rayfield reviews Tobie Mathew's 'Greetings From t… ,
    • A treat from the LR Archive: exactly 20 years ago, Malcolm Bradbury reviewed John Updike's 'Bech at Bay' ,
    • ‘When bullets come close, the noise they make as they go past changes from a zing to a crack’ John Lanchester's dy… ,
    • Man with a Bloody Paintbrush: Robin Simon on Lucian Freud ,
    • Jane Ridley reviews The Diaries of Kenneth Rose (ed. D R Thorpe) ,
    • ‘Look,’ says Trump. ‘The fact is I’m only human.’ On the evidence of this book that point is debatable. From the A… ,