Jeremy Lewis

Life in the Footnotes

As I Was Going to St Ives: A Life of Derek Jackson


Michael Russell 192pp £17.50 order from our bookshop

Biographies may be more popular than ever, but finding the right subject is never an easy business. Publishers prefer old favourites, and are reluctant to invest in unfamiliar names; biographers who struggle to earn a living are easily seduced into writing another unnecessary life of Churchill or Conan Doyle. Simon Courtauld has bucked the trend: his subject is one of those characters who flit through the footnotes of the memoirs, lives and letters of his better-known contemporaries, and is almost entirely unremembered by the world at large. An Oxford Professor of Spectroscopy, a war hero and a courageous amateur jockey, Derek Jackson was married to some of the most beautiful women of his generation: whether he can sustain even the briefest of lives – and this is very brief – is open to doubt.  

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