Lord Goodman

Lord Goodman is Master of University College, Oxford.


Lord Goodman, 8 May 1986

The enlightened editor of this publication has sent me these three books for review, having detected some symmetry which might make a joint review appropriate. All three are concerned with an aspect of freedom of speech; all three, moreover, attend to the age-old enigma of whether betrayal of a pledge can ever be justified, and if so, in what circumstances. One of them, Miss Keays’s book, can be briefly disposed of. In her case the betrayal is twofold. First, the betrayal of a lover by the desertion of her partner, and, secondly, the betrayal by the aggrieved lover of the private story of the romance. Wiser counsels – family counsels in particular – should have prevailed upon her to recognise that such a book would earn her little sympathy even among the many who had sympathised with her distress. It is indeed difficult to feel sorry for anyone who feels such poignant sorrow for herself. I am irresistibly reminded of the famous dog in Three Men in a Boat. His name, I believe, was Montmorency, and at one stage the author describes how, when someone trod on his tail, ‘he appealed to the solar system.’ This is Miss Keays’s appeal to the solar system and she will, I fear, have met the same response as poor Montmorency. It is a kindness to say no more about the book.’

Diary: On Loving Lucian Freud

Lord Goodman, 18 July 1985

Each morning when shaving I look at my reflection and a small and depressingly accurate mirror presents me with an image from which I have never derived any satisfaction. That is not to say that I am disappointed. I have never expected anything. If I were asked to write a short essay describing my face, the description would be unrecognisable to anyone who knew me well. I will not distress myself by offering descriptions of individual items of the entire contour. I well recollect on one occasion, after giving a lecture, seeing a report of it from a young woman which said that ‘the lecturer (a singularly ugly man) came into the room’ – but then I must with vanity add her further words: ‘and with a few well chosen sentences induced oblivion about his appearance that remained until the lecture ended and thereafter was immediately restored.’ I have any number of vanities. In the whole of this diary, in the whole of this issue, it would be impossible to compress the catalogue. I shall not gratify my enemies with this material, but it does enable me to say that common sense has always precluded personal vanity as one of my weaknesses.’

Aversion Theory

Lord Goodman, 20 May 1982

John Mortimer’s book has a thoroughly misleading title. It is designed to enlist a little pathetic sympathy for someone carried along like a piece of flotsam without the courage or determination to strike out for the shore. It would be difficult – judging from the book itself – to find anyone less shipwrecked than John Mortimer and less likely to pursue this policy if shipwrecked. At every stage Mr Mortimer demonstrates a firmness of intention which makes the title slightly fraudulent.

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