I HAVE TO declare an interest, and an avid one. I've learned a lot about a higher and wilder branch of my family from reading this autobiography. I share with the author, my good friend Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy, a beautiful Quakerly aunt (my father's sister) and a clutch of dashing first cousins. While I and my siblings were brought up in the North in unglamorous middle-class sobriety, Jonny Gathorne-Hardy's family slid up and down the slippery slopes of wealth and aristocracy. My Quakerly aunt married an Earl, and one of the Earl's three younger brothers was Jonny father.
The 'unfair' rule of primogeniture determined the pattern of Jonny's life. The Earl inherited the Big House, other properties, vast acreages, and masses of money. The others were not left destitute, and the Earl was relatively magnanimous (though