These memoirs by novelist and historian Peter Vansittart chart his literary course from schooldays to the present as author of over forty highly praised works of fiction and non-fiction.
He begins with an evocation of his English childhood and his early eclectic reading - including Baroness Orczy, Buchan, Dickens and A.E.W. Mason - then discusses the writers who later fascinated him, both renowned and arcane. He reflects on his friendships with V.S. Pritchett, Stephen Spender, Arnold Toynbee, Elias Canetti, Angus Wilson and Marghanita Laski. There are glimpses, too, of encounters with Anthony Burgess, George Orwell, A.L. Rowse, Kenneth Tynan, Alan Ross and L.H. Myers, and adventures with an assortment of bohemian poets, writers and artists, eccentric publishers, schoolmasters and sundry others.
His distinctive and personal preoccupations with literature, history and art are illumined against a background of the General Strike, Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin, the Second World War and subsequent social and political changes - and, of course, developments within literature and language itself - offering a unique and revealing insight into the workings of a writer's mind.
Here's a little book of anecdotes which will delight any reader with the same interests as the author - namely boks, and their (often mildly eccentric) authors. There are good stories about (and many quotations from) Angus Wilson, Middleton Murray, Bernard Shaw, Doris Lessing, Somerset Maugham ... you name them, Vansittart has something to say about them. He also has a good line in self-denigration, and tells many good stories against himself - such as when, irritated that an elderly man seemed to be cornering the market in intelligent nubile young women, he asked whether he perhaps had an interest in the theatre. Sir John Gielgud have him 'a studied conspiratorial wink'. (Kirkus UK)