Certain skill is required to write a good non-fiction book. The tone must be carefully honed to stimulate the ignorant reader without patronising the well-informed, the chronology should be clear, the author’s personal prejudices and gaps of knowledge artfully camouflaged, and his urge to bend facts to suit a preconceived thesis, at all times stoutly resisted. Above all it is vital to get things right, because although we are used to finding errors in newspapers, on the internet, on television and on the radio, it will be the end of non-fiction book publishing when the standard of factual accuracy between its covers finally sinks to the common media mean.
Jane Mulvagh, in writing about Evelyn Waugh and his relationship with the Lygon family of Madresfield Court, has bravely entered a world where there are already a great many experts and it strikes me that she is going to get her fingers badly burned. The book begins ‘The house upon