In the latest issue:

Real Men Go to Tehran

Adam Shatz

What Trump doesn’t know about Iran

Patrick Cockburn

Kaiser Karl V

Thomas Penn

The Hostile Environment

Catherine Hall

Social Mobilities

Adam Swift

Short Cuts: So much for England

Tariq Ali

What the jihadis left behind

Nelly Lahoud

Ray Strachey

Francesca Wade

C.J. Sansom

Malcolm Gaskill

At the British Museum: ‘Troy: Myth and Reality’

James Davidson

Poem: ‘The Lion Tree’

Jamie McKendrick


Jenny Turner

Boys in Motion

Nicholas Penny

Jia Tolentino

Lauren Oyler

Diary: What really happened in Yancheng?

Long Ling

Astrid, Clio and JuliaAlan Bell

Terms and Conditions

These terms and conditions of use refer to the London Review of Books and the London Review Bookshop website ( — hereafter ‘LRB Website’). These terms and conditions apply to all users of the LRB Website ("you"), including individual subscribers to the print edition of the LRB who wish to take advantage of our free 'subscriber only' access to archived material ("individual users") and users who are authorised to access the LRB Website by subscribing institutions ("institutional users").

Each time you use the LRB Website you signify your acceptance of these terms and conditions. If you do not agree, or are not comfortable with any part of this document, your only remedy is not to use the LRB Website.

  1. By registering for access to the LRB Website and/or entering the LRB Website by whatever route of access, you agree to be bound by the terms and conditions currently prevailing.
  2. The London Review of Books ("LRB") reserves the right to change these terms and conditions at any time and you should check for any alterations regularly. Continued usage of the LRB Website subsequent to a change in the terms and conditions constitutes acceptance of the current terms and conditions.
  3. The terms and conditions of any subscription agreements which educational and other institutions have entered into with the LRB apply in addition to these terms and conditions.
  4. You undertake to indemnify the LRB fully for all losses damages and costs incurred as a result of your breaching these terms and conditions.
  5. The information you supply on registration to the LRB Website shall be accurate and complete. You will notify the LRB promptly of any changes of relevant details by emailing the registrar. You will not assist a non-registered person to gain access to the LRB Website by supplying them with your password. In the event that the LRB considers that you have breached the requirements governing registration, that you are in breach of these terms and conditions or that your or your institution's subscription to the LRB lapses, your registration to the LRB Website will be terminated.
  6. Each individual subscriber to the LRB (whether a person or organisation) is entitled to the registration of one person to use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site. This user is an 'individual user'.
  7. The London Review of Books operates a ‘no questions asked’ cancellation policy in accordance with UK legislation. Please contact us to cancel your subscription and receive a full refund for the cost of all unposted issues.
  8. Use of the 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is strictly for the personal use of each individual user who may read the content on the screen, download, store or print single copies for their own personal private non-commercial use only, and is not to be made available to or used by any other person for any purpose.
  9. Each institution which subscribes to the LRB is entitled to grant access to persons to register on and use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site under the terms and conditions of its subscription agreement with the LRB. These users are 'institutional users'.
  10. Each institutional user of the LRB may access and search the LRB database and view its entire contents, and may also reproduce insubstantial extracts from individual articles or other works in the database to which their institution's subscription provides access, including in academic assignments and theses, online and/or in print. All quotations must be credited to the author and the LRB. Institutional users are not permitted to reproduce any entire article or other work, or to make any commercial use of any LRB material (including sale, licensing or publication) without the LRB's prior written permission. Institutions may notify institutional users of any additional or different conditions of use which they have agreed with the LRB.
  11. Users may use any one computer to access the LRB web site 'subscriber only' content at any time, so long as that connection does not allow any other computer, networked or otherwise connected, to access 'subscriber only' content.
  12. The LRB Website and its contents are protected by copyright and other intellectual property rights. You acknowledge that all intellectual property rights including copyright in the LRB Website and its contents belong to or have been licensed to the LRB or are otherwise used by the LRB as permitted by applicable law.
  13. All intellectual property rights in articles, reviews and essays originally published in the print edition of the LRB and subsequently included on the LRB Website belong to or have been licensed to the LRB. This material is made available to you for use as set out in paragraph 8 (if you are an individual user) or paragraph 10 (if you are an institutional user) only. Save for such permitted use, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt such material in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department.
  14. All intellectual property rights in images on the LRB Website are owned by the LRB except where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited. Save for such material taken for permitted use set out above, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt LRB’s images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department. Where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, reproduce or translate such images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the copyright holder. The LRB will not undertake to supply contact details of any attributed or credited copyright holder.
  15. The LRB Website is provided on an 'as is' basis and the LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website will be accessible by any particular browser, operating system or device.
  16. The LRB makes no express or implied representation and gives no warranty of any kind in relation to any content available on the LRB Website including as to the accuracy or reliability of any information either in its articles, essays and reviews or in the letters printed in its letter page or material supplied by third parties. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) arising from the publication of any materials on the LRB Website or incurred as a consequence of using or relying on such materials.
  17. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) for any legal or other consequences (including infringement of third party rights) of any links made to the LRB Website.
  18. The LRB is not responsible for the content of any material you encounter after leaving the LRB Website site via a link in it or otherwise. The LRB gives no warranty as to the accuracy or reliability of any such material and to the fullest extent permitted by law excludes all liability that may arise in respect of or as a consequence of using or relying on such material.
  19. This site may be used only for lawful purposes and in a manner which does not infringe the rights of, or restrict the use and enjoyment of the site by, any third party. In the event of a chat room, message board, forum and/or news group being set up on the LRB Website, the LRB will not undertake to monitor any material supplied and will give no warranty as to its accuracy, reliability, originality or decency. By posting any material you agree that you are solely responsible for ensuring that it is accurate and not obscene, defamatory, plagiarised or in breach of copyright, confidentiality or any other right of any person, and you undertake to indemnify the LRB against all claims, losses, damages and costs incurred in consequence of your posting of such material. The LRB will reserve the right to remove any such material posted at any time and without notice or explanation. The LRB will reserve the right to disclose the provenance of such material, republish it in any form it deems fit or edit or censor it. The LRB will reserve the right to terminate the registration of any person it considers to abuse access to any chat room, message board, forum or news group provided by the LRB.
  20. Any e-mail services supplied via the LRB Website are subject to these terms and conditions.
  21. You will not knowingly transmit any virus, malware, trojan or other harmful matter to the LRB Website. The LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website is free from contaminating matter, viruses or other malicious software and to the fullest extent permitted by law disclaims all liability of any kind including liability for any damages, losses or costs resulting from damage to your computer or other property arising from access to the LRB Website, use of it or downloading material from it.
  22. The LRB does not warrant that the use of the LRB Website will be uninterrupted, and disclaims all liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred as a result of access to the LRB Website being interrupted, modified or discontinued.
  23. The LRB Website contains advertisements and promotional links to websites and other resources operated by third parties. While we would never knowingly link to a site which we believed to be trading in bad faith, the LRB makes no express or implied representations or warranties of any kind in respect of any third party websites or resources or their contents, and we take no responsibility for the content, privacy practices, goods or services offered by these websites and resources. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability for any damages or losses arising from access to such websites and resources. Any transaction effected with such a third party contacted via the LRB Website are subject to the terms and conditions imposed by the third party involved and the LRB accepts no responsibility or liability resulting from such transactions.
  24. The LRB disclaims liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred for unauthorised access or alterations of transmissions or data by third parties as consequence of visit to the LRB Website.
  25. While 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is currently provided free to subscribers to the print edition of the LRB, the LRB reserves the right to impose a charge for access to some or all areas of the LRB Website without notice.
  26. These terms and conditions are governed by and will be interpreted in accordance with English law and any disputes relating to these terms and conditions will be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales.
  27. The various provisions of these terms and conditions are severable and if any provision is held to be invalid or unenforceable by any court of competent jurisdiction then such invalidity or unenforceability shall not affect the remaining provisions.
  28. If these terms and conditions are not accepted in full, use of the LRB Website must be terminated immediately.
The Wanton Chase 
by Peter Quennell.
Collins, 192 pp., £8.95, May 1980, 0 00 216526 0
Show More
Show More

The Wanton Chase follows on all too directly from The Marble Foot, published four years ago, a volume which took the author through his first 33 years and his first two marriages, covering a worthy parental background and a period of poetical precocity and undergraduate literary acclaim at Balliol, followed by a Japanese literary professorship and a spell at the copywriting desk of an advertising agency. Mr Quennell fitted easily, marital tensions notwithstanding, into the London literary scene which he has long adorned. The second volume of his memoirs opens in 1939, with the author, not uncharacteristically, on a French holiday with a girlfriend and Cyril Connolly, in the course of which Mr Quennell and his nameless companion were stoned in a small provincial town for their immodesty. It was to be the last such excursion for many years, the onset of war soon finding Mr Quennell, confessedly slothful and sedentary by habit, working in the Ministry of Information as a press censor, suppressing facts with the skill that in his advertising days he had devoted to enlarging them.

His contribution to the war effort allowed him plenty of time for furtive literary composition while on duty, for which he was punished by a brief exile to Belfast, a distasteful appointment from which he was rescued by the Ministry of Economic Warfare. Even there the demands on a Temporary Administrative Officer left time for recreation in wartime night-clubs (with hangover cures dispensed by an understanding chemist), and the perpetual caravanserai of contemporary London provided a string of short-lived liaisons. There he found the Scandinavian Astrid (a woman of ‘generous affection’) and her ‘rather dotty little friend’ Julia (who is at least once given as ‘Julie’ – it must have been difficult for the author to keep track of all the pseudonyms). The entanglement with Julia is described at length, with a not ungrateful memory of the pain inflicted by the affair; she seems to have resembled no one so much as Pamela Flitton of A Dance to the Music of Time, not least for her ‘knack, perhaps half-conscious, of distinguishing her lovers’ weakest points, just as certain wasps, accustomed to paralyse their prey, know exactly where to sink their stings’. Conscription as a part-time fireman was a less agreeable diversion – but cumulative inefficiency and displeasing social contacts were alleviated by a not unwelcome summary dismissal. Later, as the war was ending, Mr Quennell felt disposed to let his conscience be pricked by what he had not done, and to comfort himself with romantic thoughts of what he might have done, rejoicing vicariously in the military achievement of some of his friends, to be compared unfavourably with his own less glorious literary and official performance.

Some literary work was indeed to be credited: a regular book-reviewing feature in the Daily Mail, from 1943 (to be retained, throughout the ups and downs of newspaper editors, for 13 years), and the joint direction of the Cornhill Magazine soon afterwards, with History Today to add to his various duties later on. Jobs like these provided a useful background for literary work, for many years giving a regularity in which his biographical work – notably his work on Ruskin – could flourish. (‘Rushkin, Rushkin,’ said Churchill magisterially when he heard of Quennell’s studies, ‘a man with a shingularly unfortunate shex-life.’)

Although this period of his life favoured biographical research, it makes dull material for the autobiographer, who wisely takes refuge in a series of vignettes of friends, a technique he has used earlier in his more skilfully linked occasional essays on literary and social themes, The Sign of the Fish. Many of his portraits are of the beau monde: Lady Cunard and Nancy, Lord Berners, the Duff Coopers, Mrs Fleming and her successive husbands Lord Rothermere and Ian Fleming (who ‘good-naturedly accepted me, no doubt because I was neither a wild bohemian nor a rampant homosexual’). Much of this is ground that others have gone over before, although Mr Quennell usually manages to be fresh, affectionate and grateful. It is sometimes difficult to achieve novelty, especially when Evelyn Waugh’s Diary has left a minefield of disobliging references to be explained away. A visit to the Paris Embassy in 1946 found Waugh much put out by having his bugbear Quennell staying there as an unexpected fellow guest. Since Waugh got in first with the publication of a few well-turned asperities, it is now left to Mr Quennell to explain that he did not suffer from ‘palpitations brought on by sexual excess’: the disorder now has to be rather heavily documented as a mere hangover. (Waugh’s letters, announced for publication in the autumn, may further muddy the water for any future autobiographers among his enemies.) The Paris visit provides several more agreeable recollections, like that of seeing Lady Diana’s Chinese chiropodist ‘move reverentially towards the bottom of the bed’ at her levée in the Princcsse Borghese’s lit de parade, a scene worthy of Mrs Stitch herself.

Fortunately this elevated social record is varied by portraits of Brancusi and Montherlant, and by anecdotes recorded from the survivors of Proust’s salon, a circle Mr Quennell would have found particularly sympathetic. There is also the high bohemian world of contemporary London, with Nina Hamnett and Co, and a mandatory but notably unrevealing section on Burgess and Maclean. Two sections are, however, outstanding: on the landowner and painter Dick Wyndham and the connoisseur-collector Sir Robert Abdy. Wyndham, a man who found relief from his various tensions in the variety and depths of his friendships, comes over well and his qualities are beautifully portrayed here, especially when so well placed against a sketch of his enemy Wyndham Lewis (who savages him in The Apes of God). Abdy, the Francophile Cornishman with a refined and well-satisfied taste for 18th-century objets d’art, had ‘the standards of an Augustan connoisseur’: ‘in one historical age alone would Bertie always feel a stranger – the barbaric age in which he lived.’

Mr Quennell is inclined to share his friend’s yearnings for the 18th century, as can be seen in the spiritual refreshment he derived from the ravaged relics of Georgian architecture in the squares of wartime London, in the constant literary references which view Noël Coward, Ivor Novello and Robert Newton in the light of Garrick’s theatrical world, or his pungent romance with Miss Julia set against Hazlitt’s Liber Amoris. It is not just a world of politesse and enlightenment that is referred to. Boswell (who provides the best of Mr Quennell’s Four Portraits) is particularly sympathetic, and so is Hogarth, on whom there is a neat biographical recapitulation here. Perhaps this taste for a lower life helps to account for the intrusion of a couple of tarts, ‘Mary’and ‘Betsy’, whose visits are chronicled to balance the literary and social eminences elsewhere in the book. The author appears to have enjoyed the conversation of these two part-timers as much as their ministrations, and he gives them both respectful testimonials. Betsy’s ‘untroubled sense of humour was a particularly engaging trait’, he remarks in obituarist’s prose, and Mary it was who patiently explained to him – he considerately passes on the information – what ‘an Arthur J.’ signified in rhyming slang.

‘Arthur J?’ No, a J. Arthur Rank is meant, and the error is not only one of memory but of scansion, a metrical defect rare in a book notable for its rhythmical prose – ‘the spells of halcyon calm that remembered pleasure brings’, and similar felicities of diction that seemed to be less prominent in the previous volume. They are sometimes rather mannered, but never oppressively so, and they heighten the lone of the whole volume to match the innumerable pseudonyms and unidentifying epithets which raise the book above the level of mere factual record. Astrid, Clio, Julia, Perdita; G., at whose bare thighs the French threw their stones, L., who flitted wholesomely but briefly into his life, M., with whom he spent the evening of his 50th birthday; ‘Isabelle’ (his second wife Marcelle Rothé); or ‘the popular young journalist’ who turns out to be Godfrey Winn.

As in The Marble Foot, the effect of such circumlocutions is furtive rather than discreet, and it reduces the impact of some of the narrative. It matches very well, however, the literary quality of the closing pages, in which three moments of illuminating hyperacsthesia are recalled, with appropriate references to Rousseau, Tcheckov (sic) and Hogarth. These simple flashes of aesthetic revelation have helped to heighten Mr Quennell’s sensibility and to give him a special feeling, beyond the dualities of 18th-century civilisation, for the Emperor Antoninus Pius and the sense of aequinimitas that he cherished on his deathbed.

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

Please include name, address, and a telephone number.

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.