A.J.P. Taylor

My dear friend Gerald, Lord Berners, died in 1950. I thought that not more than half a dozen people remembered him. But the centenary of his birth has brought him back into attention. There have been concerts of his music, performances of his ballets and an exhibition devoted to his life on the fifth floor of the Festival Hall. His two best books have been reprinted in paperback: First Childhood, the first part of his autobiography, and Far from the Madding War, the best novel written about the Second World War, at any rate in Oxford. This last contains that inspired feature, Emmeline’s war work. Emmeline, niece of the head of an Oxford college, had been told that war meant destruction. She bought a priceless 15th-century tapestry, set it up on a frame and unpicked a piece of it every day – the only rational piece of war work ever undertaken.

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