Tony, Ray and the Duchess

Alan Bell

  • A Lonely Business: A Self-Portrait of James Pope-Hennessy edited by Peter Quennell
    Weidenfeld, 278 pp, £12.50, April 1981, ISBN 0 297 77918 4

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 book which has worn well; the two volumes of his life of Monckton Milnes, Lord Houghton; Verandah of 1964, with its autobiographical element added to family and colonial history; and the excellent Queen Mary (1959), an unusually sympathetic study. Several diaries and autobiographies have already recalled his charm, his amber good looks (ancestrally part-Malaysian) and his bright and entertaining manner. But the tributes are nearly always tinged with regret that his financial incompetence, his drinking habits, and the penchant for rough-trade homosexuality that was ultimately his undoing, made him a difficult and often an impossible friend. Even in 1942 James Lees-Milne was to write of him as ‘becoming spoilt and too reliant upon his youthful charm’.

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