James Lees-Milne (1908-97) has been hailed as the greatest English diarist of the twentieth century. Funny, indiscreet, candid, touching and sharply observed, his journals both reveal a fascinating personality and hold up a mirror to the times. This second compilation from the original twelve volumes (also incorporating interesting new material), covers his life during his sixties and early seventies, when he was living in Gloucestershire with his formidable wife Alvilde. Having made his name as the country house expert of the National Trust and a writer on architecture, he sought to establish himself as a novelist and biographer. With some misgivings he published his wartime diaries, little imagining that it was as a diarist that he would achieve lasting fame. These diaries vividly portray the vicissitudes of a writer's lot, the merry-go-round of life on the Badminton estate of the eccentric Duke of Beaufort, and meetings with many friends including John Betjeman, Bruce Chatwin and the Mitford sisters. But perhaps they are most remarkable for the poignancy with which they depict the writer's own feelings of joy, regret, frustration, amusement and love - including a tendresse for the editor of this volume.
- Paperback | 512 pages
- 128 x 190 x 36mm | 358.34g
- 24 Jul 2008
- Hodder & Stoughton General Division
- John Murray Publishers Ltd
- London, United Kingdom
About James Lees-Milne
James Lees-Milne died in 1997. Once Country Houses Secretary of the National Trust, he is now best known for his memoirs and diaries, described by Jeremy Lewis as second to none in their comicality, rueful self-knowledge and feline observations. Michael Bloch, his friend and literary executor, is now writing his life.
'Unquestionably one of the greatest English diarists, a rival to Pepys' * David Watkin * 'The qualities which make his diaries addictive reading include a sense of the ridiculous, and a total frankness about whatever shows him at a disadvantage. He is wonderfully observant, and his sheer humanity shines out on every page' * The Field * 'What matters the clash of titans, when a clear and fastidious intellect shares its preoccupation with the minutiae of a civilised gentleman's day?' * Alan Clark * 'Always honest, always curious, always lovable' * Lynn Barber * 'Raw emotions, fearlessly expressed, spice every page' * Duff Hart-Davis * 'His pages abound in delightful shafts of self-revelation . . . a singularly funny, modest, sweet, lovable gentleman whose controversial prose is yet infused with a poetic vision of the essence of Old England' * Hugh Massingberd * 'Woefully funny, elegantly observed, appallingly indiscreet, these diaries are the best record we have of a world still recognizable but fast vanishing beneath the waves of history' * Peter Parker * 'Acute observation is coupled with entertaining literary style and ever-present humour . . . Michael Bloch has edited these diaries formidably well' * Bevis Hillier *