- Lord Berners: The Last Eccentric by Mark Amory
Chatto, 274 pp, £20.00, March 1998, ISBN 1 85619 234 2
The composer Lord Berners (1883-1950), as a dozen books of memoirs remind us, was very much a name in the Twenties and Thirties, in the sphere in which fashionable society meets the arts. His father was a naval captain and his mother the daughter of an exceedingly rich ironmaster (this last a fact which, with perhaps a touch of snobbery, he does not mention in his autobiography, First Childhood). His mother’s main, if not sole, interest was the hunting field, and Berners’s boyhood, though in general cheerful enough, was plagued by the cults of the horse and of ‘manliness’ – also, at his prep school, by a sadistic headmaster. Fairly early on, he developed a passion for music, first of all from the mere look of it, ‘these black waves of notes undulating across the page’.