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Perfect Light

Jenny Diski

9 July 1992
Diana: Her True Story 
by Andrew Morton.
Michael O’Mara, 165 pp., £14.99, June 1992, 1 85479 191 5
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Shared Lives 
by Lyndall Gordon.
Bloomsbury, 285 pp., £16.99, April 1992, 0 7475 1164 0
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Antonia White: Diaries 1958-1979 
edited by Susan Chitty.
Constable, 352 pp., £19.95, May 1992, 0 09 470660 3
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... with Barbara Cartland as a step-grandmother. Diana, apparently, concurs with this: ‘I knew I had to keep myself tidy for what lay ahead.’ This magical piece of gynaecological imagery makes AndrewMorton’s book almost worth reading, but it might not be enough to make it worth buying. Diana is constantly quoted, the key phrase being, ‘As Diana says ...’ But it is never clear to whom she ...
20 August 1998
... they used them to reveal, but perhaps they didn’t. More simply, Diana embodied a wondrous mixture of forms of celebrity – sacred and secular. ‘Not only did she capture the spirit of the age,’ AndrewMorton writes on the last page of the most recent edition of his famous book, ‘but more than that the manner of her life and death formed part of a religious cycle of sin and redemption, a ...

Tunnel Vision

Jenny Diski: Princess Diana

2 August 2007
The Diana Chronicles 
by Tina Brown.
Century, 481 pp., £18.99, June 2007, 978 1 84605 286 6
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by Sarah Bradford.
Penguin, 443 pp., £7.99, July 2007, 978 0 14 027671 8
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... about Diana? It’s just, you know, the way the world is. Diana, as the first narrator of her own yarn, seemed to understand that stories have their own needs and immutable trajectories. Diana told AndrewMorton in Diana: Her True Story that she would never be queen. In 1992 I reviewed the Morton book for this paper and mocked her prediction: ‘The premonition is never quite explained. Does she think ...

Puffed up, Slapped down

Rosemary Hill: Charles and Camilla

6 September 2017
Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life 
by Sally Bedell Smith.
Michael Joseph, 624 pp., £25, April 2017, 978 0 7181 8780 4
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The Duchess: The Untold Story 
by Penny Junor.
William Collins, 320 pp., £20, June 2017, 978 0 00 821100 4
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... wedding anniversary in 1991, presented a positive picture of a marriage that might not be a love match but was nevertheless a team effort. They were both furious. Diana’s response was to talk to AndrewMorton, whose book, Diana, Her True Story, came out the following year and marked the beginning of the public War of the Waleses. Junor has known her present subject since 1987, when her first ...
8 December 1994
The Prince of Wales 
by Jonathan Dimbleby.
Little, Brown, 620 pp., £20, November 1994, 0 316 91016 3
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... and manipulating the media. As their marriage deteriorated, and as Charles took up again with Camilla Parker-Bowles, it is as easy to understand why the Princess encouraged her friends to talk to AndrewMorton as it is to understand that the Prince was horrified and humiliated when Diana: Her True Story appeared. For someone as lonely, insecure and unhappy as Charles, it proved impossible to ...

Squidging about

Caroline Murphy: Camilla and the sex-motherers

22 January 2004
Camilla: An Intimate Portrait 
by Rebecca Tyrrel.
Short Books, 244 pp., £14.99, October 2003, 1 904095 53 4
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... she is 16 months older than Prince Charles), Camilla is the daughter of an army major, Bruce Shand, and a society hostess, the Honourable Rosalind Shand (née Cubitt). Her paternal grandfather, P. Morton Shand, was an ‘insatiable Lothario’, who married four times. At the time of his third divorce, in 1931, the High Court described him as ‘a peculiarly shameless litigant’. On her mother’s ...
17 October 1985
Secret Service: The Making of the British Intelligence Community 
by Christopher Andrew.
Heinemann, 616 pp., £12.95, October 1985, 0 434 02110 5
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The Secret Generation 
by John Gardner.
Heinemann, 453 pp., £9.95, August 1985, 0 434 28250 2
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Two Thyrds 
by Bertie Denham.
Ross Anderson Publications, 292 pp., £7.95, September 1983, 0 86360 006 9
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The Ultimate Enemy: British Intelligence and Nazi Germany 1933-1939 
by Wesley Wark.
Tauris, 304 pp., £19.50, October 1985, 1 85043 014 4
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... in the Second World War enemy agents were not shot but turned into double agents, the master of this art being Guy Liddell. The development of this intelligence community is the theme of Christopher Andrew’s book, which contains the first reliable narrative history of the secret services from Victorian days to the present. Needless to say, he has received no encouragement from Whitehall, and former ...


Christopher Tayler: Multofiction

8 January 2004
Set This House in Order 
by Matt Ruff.
Flamingo, 496 pp., £12, October 2003, 0 00 716423 8
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... out of his literary imagination. As a writer he was concerned only with spinning a good yarn."’ Earlier psychiatrists weren’t always so stern. In The Dissociation of a Personality (1906), Morton Prince described his patient ‘Christine Beauchamp’ as ‘an example in actual life of the imaginative creation of Stevenson’. Corbett Thigpen and Hervey Cleckley took a similar line in their ...

Always the Same Dream

Ferdinand Mount: Princess Margaret

4 January 2018
Ma’am Darling: 99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret 
by Craig Brown.
Fourth Estate, 423 pp., £16.99, September 2017, 978 0 00 820361 0
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... She was in fact perfectly capable of looking after her own interests. She secretly briefed Nigel Dempster to settle old scores, which didn’t stop her being indignant when Diana told all to AndrewMorton. During her first holiday on Mustique, Colin Tennant, who had just bought the island, asked whether as a wedding present she would like a piece of jewellery or a piece of land. She responded without ...
16 April 2014
... ignore except, oddly, when it comes to a huge project like HS2, when suddenly almost limitless public money is made available. The idea​ of a north-south high-speed line first emerged when Alastair Morton, who had been the chairman of Eurotunnel, was appointed to run the Strategic Rail Authority, created by John Prescott in 1999 to give direction to the privatised industry. Morton commissioned a ...


John Lanchester: The Rise and Rise of Ian Rankin

27 April 2000
Set in Darkness 
by Ian Rankin.
Orion, 415 pp., £16.99, February 2000, 0 7528 2129 6
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... about Rankin’s work. Not coincidentally, this was the point at which Rankin, as publishers say, ‘broke out’ from his fan base to achieve genuine bestsellerdom. The book owes a great deal to Andrew O’Hagan’s The Missing, a debt acknowledged by the dedication of Rankin’s next novella, Death Is Not the End, the following year. O’Hagan’s book told the story of a murderer known as Bible ...

Why can’t doctors be more scientific?

Hugh Pennington: The Great MMR Disaster

8 July 2004
... two years for promotion, at the age of 59, from the associate professorship that he had held for the previous 14. Enders shares Panum’s fate at the hands of the historians. Making Harvard Modern by Morton Keller and Phillis Keller (2001) passes him by without mention. The popular perception that naturally occurring measles is trivial is not new. One of the first to offer an explanation for the paradox ...

Don’t talk to pigeons

Ben Jackson: MI5 in WW1

22 January 2015
MI5 in the Great War 
edited by Nigel West.
Biteback, 434 pp., £25, July 2014, 978 1 84954 670 6
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... everyone. The Liberal MP Sir William Byles called it a ‘startling innovation’ and when the attorney general claimed in the House of Commons that there was ‘nothing novel’ in the bill, Alpheus Morton, MP for Sutherland, rose and snapped: ‘It upsets Magna Carta altogether.’ Finally, the proponents of the bill were reduced to denying that it created any precedent, to which Byles retorted ...

Toshie Trashed

Gavin Stamp: The Glasgow School of Art Fire

18 June 2014
... to get architecture out of building, making decorative features out of structural forms, goes far to explain the reason why.’ In 1933, reviewing the Mackintosh memorial exhibition in Glasgow, P. Morton Shand, critic, oenophile and the grandfather of the Duchess of Cornwall, wrote in the Architectural Review that ‘he has been called “the father of modern architecture”.’ In 1936, in the first ...

Fugitive Crusoe

Tom Paulin: Daniel Defoe

19 July 2001
Daniel Defoe: Master of Fictions 
by Maximilian Novak.
Oxford, 756 pp., £30, April 2001, 0 19 812686 7
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Political and Economic Writings of Daniel Defoe 
edited by W.R. Owens and P.N. Furbank.
Pickering & Chatto, £595, December 2000, 1 85196 465 7
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... his hero establishes ‘liberty of conscience’ in his island kingdom – Catholic, Protestant and pagan are all tolerated. Defoe, who claimed a knowledge of five languages, was educated at Charles Morton’s Dissenting Academy in Newington Green. Morton was a distinguished teacher and educationalist who was incessantly harassed by the Anglican Church till he left England for North America, where he ...

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