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Hons and Wets

D.A.N. Jones, 6 December 1984

The House of Mitford 
by Jonathan Guinness and Catherine Guinness.
Hutchinson, 604 pp., £12.95, November 1984, 0 09 155560 4
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... parents, eager to emulate the grandeur of their grandfathers. So it was quite a good idea for Jonathan Guinness (Nancy’s nephew) and his daughter Catherine to begin The House of Mitford with long chapters about the two grandfathers. Bertie (pronounced ‘Bartie’) Mitford and Thomas ‘Tap’ Bowles were both tremendous swells. They looked rather ...

Surviving the Sixties

Hilary Mantel, 18 May 1989

Shoe: The Odyssey of a Sixties Survivor 
by Jonathan Guinness.
Century Hutchinson, 233 pp., £14.95, March 1989, 0 09 173857 1
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Lilly: Reminiscences of Lillian Hellman 
by Peter Feibleman.
Chatto, 364 pp., £14.95, February 1989, 0 7011 3441 0
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... as an acrobat. Sometimes she was seen looking in dustbins. Sometimes she visited Salvador Dali. Jonathan Guinness – for it was he – found the hippy attractive, and carefully tested her out: not by offering a glass slipper, but by mentioning that his mother had been married to Oswald Mosley. Being a simple girl from the North of England, and knowing ...


Christopher Hitchens: The Almanach de Gotha, 2 July 1998

... in the Seventies, I was taken to one of those nightclubs in Berkeley Square, and there ran into Jonathan Guinness and his party. Introductions were effected; I didn’t catch all the names and said to the small dark man who still had hold of my hand: ‘Sorry, did you say you were Paul from Romania?’ He released the mitt and drew himself up ...

What a Lot of Parties

Christopher Hitchens: Diana Mosley, 30 September 1999

Diana Mosley: A Biography 
by Jan Dalley.
Faber, 297 pp., £20, October 1997, 0 571 14448 9
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... Auberon’s father dedicated his novel Vile Bodies, and his travel-book Labels, to Bryan and Diana Guinness. He was certainly in love with the latter and probably derived the scene in A Handful of Dust about the complaisant husband’s fakery of a compromising situation in Brighton from Bryan Guinness’s willingness to ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Blurbs and puffs, 20 July 2006

... of Fingersmith’. But sometimes a writer’s own work just isn’t enough: the proof copy of Jonathan Raban’s Surveillance, due from Picador in September, carries an assurance that the novel will appeal to readers of Jonathan Franzen and Ian McEwan. Wow. McEwan’s name has become something of a hallmark: even John ...

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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... with Camilla. What made her so special? She was, he later told his official biographer, Jonathan Dimbleby, a ‘pretty’ and ‘bubbly’ girl, who ‘laughed easily and at the same sillinesses’ as Charles himself. Tyrrel is more blunt. Camilla was, she says, a ‘big-bosomed Goons fan’. But she clearly offered something more than this. Patty ...


Kathleen Burk, 9 July 1992

The Barlow Clowes Affair 
by Lawrence Lever.
Macmillan, 278 pp., £17.50, February 1992, 0 333 51377 0
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For whom the bell tolls: The Lesson of Lloyd’s of London 
by Jonathan Mantle.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 358 pp., £18, June 1992, 1 85619 152 4
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The City of London: Continuity and Change, 1850-1990 
by Ranald Michie.
Macmillan, 238 pp., £30, January 1992, 0 333 55025 0
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... of the latter, and certainly the past few years have seen a series of scandals, notably Lloyd’s, Guinness, Barlow Clowes, BCCI and now Maxwell. Indeed, Maxwell bids fair to be one of the best. Robert Maxwell was a rogue of the first order, but no one can say that we were not warned: in 1971 the Department of Trade and Industry warned that he was ‘not a fit ...
Annotations to ‘Finnegans Wake’ 
by Roland McHugh.
Routledge, 628 pp., £17.95, October 1980, 0 7100 0661 6
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... Why, for instance, does he explain ‘Twone nathandjoe’ (3:12) by ‘two-one’, ‘Jonathan(Swift)’ and ‘Abraham’s son Nathan in Mosenthal’s Deborah’, yet ignore the much more pointed and relevant reference to the ‘Rebus’, attributed to Vanessa (who is named in the same line), which distinguishes two aspects of Swift’s nature ...

The Biographer’s Story

Jonathan Coe, 8 September 1994

The Life and Death of Peter Sellers 
by Roger Lewis.
Century, 817 pp., £20, April 1994, 0 7126 3801 6
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... dismissal of Sellers in Stage People, where we were told that to compare Sellers with Alec Guinness was ‘to notice the difference between acting and mimicry’: ‘Sellers entirely lacked grace and gravitas; he was a brattish, unintelligent performer, happy only when dodging into coarse goonery.’ It seems clear enough from this that although he is ...


A. Craig Copetas: Yaaaggghhhh, 25 June 1992

... that you were ‘indisputably a hugely important literary phenomenon’ and not taking any calls. Jonathan Cape’s posture is completely understandable given the current funeral atmosphere in England, but the psychic ramifications of Black Dogs are global in reach, and people we know are calling with questions. This is the reason the London Review has made ...

Meaningless Legs

Frank Kermode: John Gielgud, 21 June 2001

Gielgud: A Theatrical Life 1904-2000 
by Jonathan Croall.
Methuen, 579 pp., £20, November 2000, 0 413 74560 0
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John G.: The Authorised Biography of John Gielgud 
by Sheridan Morley.
Hodder, 510 pp., £20, May 2001, 0 340 36803 9
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John Gielgud: An Actor’s Life 
by Gyles Brandreth.
Sutton, 196 pp., £6.99, April 2001, 0 7509 2752 6
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... These biographies of John Gielgud by Jonathan Croall and Sheridan Morley are quite hard to tell apart. They are of much the same size, bear handsome pictures of the actor in old age on the front of their dust-jackets, and are, inevitably, affectionate and indulgent towards their subject. As Dirk Bogarde remarked when Croall consulted him about the work in hand, ‘everybody adored him, so the book might make rather flat reading ...

Fouling the nest

Anthony Julius, 8 April 1993

Modern British Jewry 
by Geoffrey Alderman.
Oxford, 397 pp., £40, September 1992, 0 19 820145 1
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... tending to resist the challenges of intellectual dissent. In this context, the new Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, is an exemplary figure. While his manner and education promise a certain openness, what he says rarely disturbs the most benighted Jewish orthodoxy. Though his style is admired by those who wish for a more inclusive Jewish practice, his doctrine ...

Secrets are best kept by those who have no sense of humour

Alan Bennett: Why I turned down ‘Big Brother’, 2 January 2003

... high the highest rung. 23 January. To Sotheby’s where I’m reminded of a lunch given for Alec Guinness in 1989 when I sat next to Lord Charteris, the Provost of Eton and previously the Queen’s Private Secretary. Talking of A Question of Attribution, then playing at the National, he remarked: ‘Of course, the question everybody asks is whether the Queen ...


Alan Bennett: What I Didn’t Do in 2007, 3 January 2008

... pretty curt. In one house in the street, though, they are assured of a warmer welcome, as Jonathan M. is never wont to turn down the chance of a debate and likes nothing better than a brisk canter through the arguments against the existence of God and the literal truth of the Bible. Two hapless evangelists had just had half an hour of this and were ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 2004, 6 January 2005

... Alan was sitting in his dressing-room when there was a tentative knock on the door. It was Alec Guinness. He shook Alan’s hand, said, ‘You must be very tired,’ and left. Alan’s languid phone calls were often to do with professional humiliation. In the 1999 production of Antony and Cleopatra at Stratford the curtain rose with Antony on his knees ...

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