Memories, memories, ah, fond memories! Flicking rapidly through the above-mentioned tome for the purposes of this review, I could not help but recall those golden days in the early Seventies – or was it the late Eighties? – when a distinguished coterie of British writers, among them my own good self, would make every effort to bring the pleasures of the literary life to stately homes the length and breadth of the sceptr'd isle. In my experience, senior members of the British aristocracy find it infinitely less tiring to entertain a writer than to plough through his books. Wearisome pictureless volumes are not for them. They prefer to take in their culture by a process of osmosis, over the very finest food and drink in the comfort of their own stately homes. Down the centuries, the most dutiful writers have struggled to oblige, taking pains to talk at length about themselves to needy titled folk whilst conscientiously consuming the requisite portions of food and drink.
On the Thursday, we would get a call from Sir (as he now is) Peregrine Worsthorne. 'What about Beaulieu this weekend, Wallace?' he would say. 'My dear Terry,' I would correct him, 'you surprise me! It isn't pronounced "bow-lyer". It's pronounced "byoo-lee”.’
On one such occasion, a chill week in mid-December a handful of us – Godfrey Smith, myself, Norman St John Stevas and Kingsley Amis – braved ice and snow to descend upon Chatsworth, the country seat of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. From the outset, Kingsley was in belligerent form,