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Wake up. Foul mood. Detest myself

Ysenda Maxtone Graham: ‘Lost Girls’

9 December 2019
Lost Girls: Love, War and Literature, 1939-51 
by D.J. Taylor.
Constable, 388 pp., £25, September, 978 1 4721 2686 3
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... magazine (1939-50). Was Connolly still carrying on his affair with Diana Witherby when he started his affair with Lys (while still married to Jean and while Lys was still married to Ian)? Was BarbaraSkelton having an affair with the Polish war artist Feliks Topolski when Peter Quennell came onto the scene, still married to his third wife, Glur, but making Topolski so jealous that the men ...

Seriously ugly

Gabriele Annan

11 January 1990
Weep no more 
by Barbara Skelton.
Hamish Hamilton, 166 pp., £14.95, November 1989, 0 241 12200 7
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... This, say BarbaraSkelton’s publishers, is the ‘second – and some people will be relieved to hear, final – volume of her riotous autobiography’. On page one of volume one there is a quotation from Harriette Wilson ...


Mary-Kay Wilmers

29 October 1987
Tears before Bedtime 
by Barbara Skelton.
Hamish Hamilton, 205 pp., £12.95, September 1987, 0 241 12326 7
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In the Pink 
by Caroline Blackwood.
Bloomsbury, 164 pp., £11.95, October 1987, 0 7475 0050 9
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... You must explain to me why Cyril wants Barbara,’ Evelyn Waugh wrote to Ann Fleming in September 1955, a year after BarbaraSkelton’s marriage to Cyril Connolly had formally ended. ‘It’s not as though she were rich or a good housekeeper or the mother of his children.’ The following year Edmund Wilson asked Connolly, now ...
23 March 1995
Cyril Connolly: A Nostalgic Life 
by Clive Fisher.
Macmillan, 304 pp., £20, March 1995, 0 333 57813 9
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... himself as a Public Relations Officer for Literature’, but ‘he is a droll old sponge at his best and worth six of Quennell.’ It was Peter Quennell who had christened Connolly’s next wife, BarbaraSkelton, ‘Baby’, although as Clive Fisher not inaptly puts it, ‘it was hard to imagine she had ever been pink and predictable and defenceless.’ No doubt the Furies were christened ‘the ...

‘Derek, please, not so fast’

Ferdinand Mount: Derek Jackson

7 February 2008
As I Was Going to St Ives: A Life of Derek Jackson 
by Simon Courtauld.
Michael Russell, 192 pp., £17.50, October 2007, 978 0 85955 311 7
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... he complained to her cousin, the actor Peter Eyre, that she could be ratty and was frequently boring. Then he made a pass at Eyre. He took on tougher opposition with Number Six, the ferocious minx BarbaraSkelton, part-original of the lethal Pamela Flitton in A Dance to the Music of Time. She had already scored with a whole bestiary of sacred monsters. Jackson would boast that ‘after King Farouk ...
2 March 1989
Friends of Promise: Cyril Connolly and the World of ‘Horizon’ 
by Michael Shelden.
Hamish Hamilton, 254 pp., £15.95, February 1989, 0 241 12647 9
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Coastwise Lights 
by Alan Ross.
Collins Harvill, 254 pp., £12.95, June 1988, 0 00 271767 0
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William Plomer 
by Peter Alexander.
Oxford, 397 pp., £25, March 1989, 0 19 212243 6
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... to ‘free us from guilt and fear’. All that is affected perhaps, but not pretentious: though it would attract few readers today, the book had something genuinely winning and intime about it. Barbara Pym’s journal records her love of it, as of the books of Denton Welch, another colourful figure from Horizon and the Connolly epoch. That common Mauritanian lobster, apparent survivor from the days ...


John Lanchester

5 June 1997
Journals 1990-92 
by Anthony Powell.
Heinemann, 238 pp., £20, May 1997, 0 434 00430 8
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... Office official described but not named in Faces in My Time, the third volume of Powell’s memoirs (where he goes by the nickname The Papal Bun). There is also a hint, or at least a non-denial, that BarbaraSkelton was the model for Pamela Widmerpool, the unforgettably nasty, semi-necrophile nymphomaniac who is one of the sequence’s great triumphs. These might not sound like high-level insights, and ...


Jenny Diski: Caroline Blackwood

18 October 2001
Dangerous Muse: A Life of Caroline Blackwood 
by Nancy Schoenberger.
Weidenfeld, 336 pp., £20, June 2001, 0 297 84101 7
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... fear. Blackwood’s friends are agreed that she saw only the bleakest, most negative aspects of the world and the people in it, and it is surely from that place in her that she writes. According to BarbaraSkelton, ‘on hearing of someone’s ghastly misfortune,’ Blackwood ‘would double up laughing’. She maintains the coldest eye she can manage, shying away from sentimentality as if it were ...

Raging towards Utopia

Neal Ascherson: Koestler

22 April 2010
Koestler: The Indispensable Intellectual 
by Michael Scammell.
Faber, 689 pp., £25, February 2010, 978 0 571 13853 1
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... of his charm, the electric excitement of his company. Why so many husbands and other male rivals forgave him, or at least never set about him, remains a mystery. Connolly, unaware that he was sharing BarbaraSkelton with Koestler, wrote: Like everyone who talks of ethics all day long, one could not trust him half an hour with one’s wife, one’s best friend, one’s manuscripts or one’s wine ...
6 February 2014
Becoming a Londoner: A Diary 
by David Plante.
Bloomsbury, 534 pp., £20, September 2013, 978 1 4088 3975 1
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The Animals: Love Letters between Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy 
edited by Katherine Bucknell.
Chatto, 481 pp., £25, September 2013, 978 0 7011 8678 4
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... way to glory. Take Frank Kermode’s Not Entitled, a memoir typical of a generation of men who thought things were best said by not being said at all. Plante, however, is a throwback to the days of BarbaraSkelton and the Comtesse de Boigne. In the years covered by his diary, he seems to have had an ear permanently cocked. Or was it his leg? Or was it his cock? Whichever, he was alert to the ...

Poetry and Soda

Barbara​ Everett

5 February 1981
The Penguin Book of Unrespectable Verse 
edited by Geoffrey Grigson.
Penguin, 335 pp., £1.75, November 1980, 0 14 042142 4
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The Penguin Book of Light Verse 
edited by Gavin Ewart.
Penguin, 639 pp., £9.50, October 1980, 0 14 042270 6
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... was an essential part of Anglo-Saxon poetry and merely manifested the learned ingenuity of a verse written by monks for monks. Similarly, to call medieval poems like ‘Adam lay y-bounden’ and Skelton’s ‘Merry Margaret’ light is to seem to suggest that this all-too-sophisticated, even decadent culture must be, because distant, something like quaint – that Merry Margaret lived in Merrie ...

Saint Shakespeare

Barbara​ Everett

19 August 2010
... chapel was completed, Holbein achieved his great portraits of the king, courtiers and gentry, and Torregiano was sculpting Henry VII for Westminster Abbey. But, though there were notable writers (Skelton, Wyatt, More, the great translators of the Bible like Tyndale), the country’s literary culture was relatively thin: it lacked character and cohesion. By the end of the 16th century, the picture had ...

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