Which misguided frog was it who dared to say, long ago, that il n’y a pas de lettres ennuyeuses? Can it have been Dumas? It was, at all events, twaddle. Memoirs and biographies and, heaven knows, the daily posts swarm with such letters, as we all know to our cost. However, had the statement concerned diaries, it would have been a different and more accurate kettle of fish. Almost any diary is a fascination, even the purely schoolboy ones ('Got up late. Didn't wash. Had breakfast', and so on right through to the end of an action-packed day: 'Had my supper. Did my teeth. Squeezed my blackheads. Went to bed').
And it was indeed as a Harrow schoolboy that Cecil Beaton began, in I919, the astonishing diary that now fills over 150 notebooks. The volume here before us consists of extracts admirably chosen and assembled by Richard Buckle, who tells us that for Sir Cecil who, in those early days,