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17 March 1983
Caves of Ice 
by James Lees-Milne.
Chatto, 276 pp., £12.95, February 1983, 0 7011 2657 4
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... When one opens a diary there are two things one wants to know. The first is the date of the entries; the second is the age of the author. JamesLees-Milne was 36, rising 37, when he started this record on 1 January 1946. He had, however, kept a diary before, during the years of the war, and abandoned it only three months earlier, so he starts here with ...

Poor Harold

C.H. Sisson

3 December 1981
Harold Nicolson: A Biography. Vo. II: 1930-1968 
by James Lees-Milne.
Chatto, 403 pp., £15, October 1981, 0 7011 2602 7
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... broadcasts on ‘The New Spirit in Modern Literature’. The pamphlet which the BBC published to accompany the series gave me my first sight of the work of T.S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf, and I believe James Joyce, though I learn from the volume before me that Sir John Reith, reigning at the BBC, forbade Nicolson to mention Ulysses, then banned. Little encounters of that kind were to be expected in those ...

Motoring

Frank Kermode: James Lees-Milne

30 November 2000
Deep Romantic Chasm: Diaries 1979-81 
by James Lees-Milne, edited by Michael Bloch.
Murray, 276 pp., £22.50, October 2000, 0 7195 5608 2
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A Mingled Measure: Diaries 1953-72 
by James Lees-Milne.
Murray, 325 pp., £12.99, October 2000, 0 7195 5609 0
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Ancient as the Hills: Diaries 1973-74 
by James Lees-Milne.
Murray, 228 pp., £12.99, October 2000, 0 7195 6200 7
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... Of the seven volumes of diaries published over the years by JamesLees-Milne two have now been reissued as rather grand paperbacks, along with an eighth, a final hardback selection made by Michael Bloch. They all have titles like Ancestral Voices, Caves of Ice, Through Wood ...

Not bothered

E.S. Turner

29 August 1991
The Bachelor Duke: William Spencer Cavendish, Sixth Duke of Devonshire, 1790-1858 
by James Lees-Milne.
Murray, 234 pp., £19.95, March 1991, 0 7195 4920 5
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... so heading off any rumour of a changeling. In the birth chamber several witnesses testified that the child was Georgiana’s (the event has echoes of the ‘warming-pan affair’ which embarrassed James II’s Queen). Having given her husband a long-wanted male heir, the Duchess naturally expected him to pay off her prodigious gambling debts. This he failed to do. Soon she became pregnant again ...
21 May 1981
A Lonely Business: A Self-Portrait of James​ Pope-Hennessy 
edited by Peter Quennell.
Weidenfeld, 278 pp., £12.50, April 1981, 0 297 77918 4
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... James Pope-Hennessy, who was murdered in 1974 when he was 58, will be remembered for several of his books, among them London Fabric, an architectural study made in the nick of time in 1939, a young man’s ...

Late Worm

Rosemary Hill: James Lees-Milne

10 September 2009
James Lees-MilneThe Life 
by Michael Bloch.
Murray, 400 pp., £25, September 2009, 978 0 7195 6034 7
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... Anyone who knew or knew of JamesLees-Milne in his later years might have formed the impression of an exquisitely polished round peg in a perfectly round hole. Aesthete, diarist, wit, he had known everyone from the Mitfords to Mick Jagger and ...

Brideshead Revered

David Cannadine

17 March 1983
The Country House 
by James Lees-Milne.
Oxford, 110 pp., £4.50, November 1982, 0 19 214139 2
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English Country Houses and Landed Estates 
by Heather Clemenson.
Croom Helm, 244 pp., £15.95, July 1982, 0 85664 987 2
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The Last Country Houses 
by Clive Aslet.
Yale, 344 pp., £15, October 1982, 0 300 02904 7
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... One of the many contradictory qualities of the British,’ JamesLees-Milne rightly notes in his attractive if angry anthology in piam memoriam Bladesover, ‘is to revere, and even lament, the things they are in the process of destroying.’ You cannot, he seems to be ...

Ambitions

Robert Blake

18 December 1980
Harold Nicolson: A Biography: Vol. 1, 1886-1929 
by James Lees-Milne.
Chatto, 429 pp., £15, November 1980, 0 7011 2520 9
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Harold Nicolson Diaries 1930-1964 
by Stanley Olson.
Collins, 436 pp., £9.50, October 1980, 0 00 216304 7
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... in Paris under Attlee’s government, and even at times dreamed of being Foreign Secretary. There were good reasons for his lack of success. He was well-known for his numerous homosexual affairs: Mr Lees-Milne says that he ‘was not passionate but very lustful’. His tastes were a serious handicap when the act was criminal even between consenting adults. The extent of the veil drawn over such matters ...
2 June 1988
Home: A Short History of an Idea 
by Witold Rybczynski.
Heinemann, 256 pp., £12.95, March 1988, 0 434 14292 1
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... had dug in her heels and was busy re-establishing an ancestral home and garden at Sissinghurst. Sackville-West was a moving force behind the National Trust’s new Country House Scheme, recommending JamesLees-Milne for the job of historic buildings secretary and also helping to define the aesthetic which would be built up around the preserved country house. In English Country Houses (1941) she ...

Diners-out

E.S. Turner

3 July 1986
Augustus Hare: Victorian Gentleman 
by Malcolm Barnes.
Allen and Unwin, 240 pp., £20, May 1986, 9780049201002
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Midway on the Waves 
by James Lees-Milne.
Faber, 248 pp., £10.95, October 1985, 0 571 13723 7
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... ran a small hospice for needy gentlewomen, with all costs paid for a month. There was to be nothing like that at the Villa Mauresque. The book should have a special piquancy for those familiar with JamesLees-Milne’s sparkling volumes about the years he spent flitting round stately homes during and after World War Two, making the most of such high life as was going. The most recent volume is Midway ...
13 November 1997
The Fall and Rise of the Stately Home 
by Peter Mandler.
Yale, 523 pp., £19.95, April 1997, 0 300 06703 8
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Ancient as the Hills 
by James Lees-Milne.
Murray, 228 pp., £20, July 1997, 0 7195 5596 5
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The Fate of the English Country House 
by David Littlejohn.
Oxford, 344 pp., £20, May 1997, 9780195088762
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... Christopher Hussey, Ralph Dutton, Country Life, the Sitwell brothers, the Shell Guides and Brideshead Revisited all played their part. But no step was more important than the appointment in 1936 of JamesLees-Milne as secretary of the National Trust’s Country Houses Committee. The story of how this Baroque-loving, Etonian aesthete travelled the length and breadth of the country, persuading indigent ...

Identity Parade

Linda Colley

25 February 1993
People and Places: Country House Donors and the National Trust 
by James Lees-Milne.
Murray, 232 pp., £19.99, October 1992, 0 7195 5145 5
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The Making of the National Poet: Shakespeare, Adaptation and Authorship, 1660-1769 
by Michael Dobson.
Oxford, 266 pp., £30, October 1992, 0 19 811233 5
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Myths of the English 
edited by Roy Porter.
Polity, 280 pp., £39.50, October 1992, 0 7456 0844 2
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Fields of Vision: Landscape Imagery and National Identity in England and the United States 
by Stephen Daniels.
Polity, 257 pp., £39.50, November 1992, 0 7456 0450 1
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... both English and British idenitities. But at the same time, and whether their authors are conscious of it or not, all four of them also betray confusion, flux and anxiety. The dust-jacket blurb of JamesLees-Milne’s People and Places suggests this right away. His book, it tells us, is an ‘extraordinary, amusing and touching picture ... of an England now lost’. The story will be a familiar one ...
7 July 1988
Young Betjeman 
by Bevis Hillier.
Murray, 457 pp., £15.95, July 1988, 0 7195 4531 5
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... grand houses, which grew even more accessible after his appointment to the Architectural Review. One such house, which happened to be near Oxford, was rented by Maurice Hastings, a man described by JamesLees-Milne as ‘a capricious alcoholic ... rich, clever and slightly mad’. Hastings would lash his landlord’s family portraits, which were by Kneller, with a hunting crop, and fire his rifle at ...

Hm, hm and that was all

Rosemary Hill: Queen Mary

6 December 2018
The Quest for Queen Mary 
by James​ Pope-Hennessy, edited by Hugo Vickers.
Zuleika, 335 pp., £25, September 2018, 978 1 9997770 3 6
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... during the Second World War, which included my parents and their friends, to say that someone ‘sat there like Queen Mary’ was to indicate that a terminal blight had been cast over the occasion. James Pope-Hennessy, born in 1916, belonged to that generation. He came from a distinguished Catholic and literary family and was a friend of many of his most interesting contemporaries, Cecil Beaton and ...
19 October 2006
Last Curtsey: The End of the Debutantes 
by Fiona MacCarthy.
Faber, 305 pp., £20, October 2006, 0 571 22859 3
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... ade, old England was coming apart at the seams. Debs paired up to co-host dances while their mothers rented houses in ever more outré parts of town: at Worlds End, or even Fulham. Outside London, as JamesLees-Milne observed, ‘the country-house way of life as some of us have known it’ would never be revived. Some debs’ parents diversified, opened their houses to the public or turned them into ...

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