Antony Lambton

‘Gush, Gush! You Simply Must be More Gushing’

Weep No More

By

Hamish Hamilton 224pp £14.95 order from our bookshop
 

Barbara Skelton has two remarkable literary qualities; she tells the truth and has no illusions about herself or her lovers. She was also attractive. The combination was found irresistible by many talented and devious men. This second volume of her diary/memoirs, gives the reader a fascinating account of her marriages to Lord Weidenfeld and Professor Derek Jackson. Let me deal with the publisher first.

Their story begins with the break-up of her marriage to Cyril Connolly. In her diary Skelton wrote: ‘He (Connolly) would like to kill W (Weidenfeld) and it would break his heart. If we separated, it would break mine too.’ Despite or perhaps because of the broken hearts, she decided to marry the then penurious W, but her diary suggests her love for him was not uncritical. ‘W is back from Israel. He seems very concerned about his weight. Never stops staring at himself in the mirror, half in wonder, half in doubt. “I’m thinner, don’t you think?”

The pair married. The bride noted in her diary: ‘A feeling of utter despair followed the ceremony.’ Their honeymoon on Ischia justified her forebodings. She chanted ‘Until death do us part. At once the distressed bird-face appeared, eyes bulging, while he chewed at his lower lip.’ Their resumption of life in England was equally merry. At a dinner when Mrs W sat silent, bored by her husband’s snobbish friends, he jumped up, leaned over her shoulder and whispered. ‘Gush, gush! You simply must be more gushing.’ It was no good. His wife was a bloody-minded bohemian intellectual who would not demean herself. By now desperate, he told her, ‘The only solution is to marry an heiress’ (he did). A further entry in the diary remembers: ‘In the evening he returns looking most displeased, remains silent and twitchy about the nose, bites his cuticles, picks his nose and farts.’

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter