Memory is the mother of the Muses and, sometimes, of amusement. In David Pryce-Jones’s generous trawl of literary friends and acquaintances, up come many treasures, including a mutual friend (Somerset Maugham), the odd rusting reputation (Lawrence Durrell), prating prig (Noel Annan), historian for hire (A J P Taylor), self-destroying genius (Alasdair Clayre, whom I have never read) and journalistic man for all prints (John Gross). Since David is a now very old friend, I cannot descend to impartiality. In 1960, already in his early twenties literary editor of Time and Tide, he invited me to do my first review: of Raul Hilberg’s The Destruction of the European Jews. His own verdict here is unequivocal: the Holocaust was ‘the end of common humanity’. Take that, fastidious relativisers.
From his earliest days, Pryce-Jones has had little time for the shallow end. On the face of it, who could be more comfortably cradled in upperish circles than the son of Alan, editor of the TLS, and the grandson of a high-ranking soldier able to pull the appropriate strings to