W.G. Runciman

The publisher’s launching party for David Cannadine’s Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy in the Moses Room of the House of Lords on 22 October was the third occasion on which I had been inside that curious place since taking my seat as a hereditary member of it. The Moses Room is evidently so called because its walls depict, in tableaux more impressive for their size than their quality, the appropriate Old Testament scenes. But it gave rise, in this context, to ironic reflections about the more or less gentlemanly anti-semitism of many of the declining and falling aristocrats whose stories Cannadine tells, as well as a puzzlement that for no reason which anyone could explain to me the publishers were not allowed to offer us the customary plonk and snacklets then and there. Instead, after Asa Briggs had introduced Cannadine and Cannadine had given us an encouragingly comical puff for his book, Robert Rhodes James reminded us that Lloyd George, despite doing so much to reduce the Upper House to impotence and discredit, had ended his days as Earl Lloyd George of Dwyfor, and then led us off down miles of corridors to a cellar under St Stephen’s Hall where we were finally allowed a drink.

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