Continuing my defence of my dog walking wages, in the edition of the LRB that I mentioned yesterday, I also found these gems.
1) In a review by Julian Barnes, I discovered what I'd been looking for for years - someone else who doesn't like Hugo. Barnes quotes Richard Cobb's description of him as "France's National Bore".
2) This Churchill comment (supposedly made to Stalin): " In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies.".
3) Best of all, as so often, some unintentional humour, from a review of recent books about Iris Murdoch. It turns out that, when Murdoch was 20, she and some friends from Oxford formed a touring concert party called the Magpies and travelled round the Cotswolds, bringing dance, ballads and "allegorical Tudor drama to varyingly enthusiastic audiences" (sounds a bit like the sort of thing Lucky Jim's professor was "keen on").
As Rosemary Hill, the reviewer, explains, quoting liberally from Murdoch's diary of the period:
"Here, not quite a writer yet and not quite at war either, Murdoch is at her most endearing, earnestly practising 'Greensleeves' on the recorder in a field full of cows, discussing the international situation while wondering with rather more urgency whether the scenery will turn up in time. The journal evokes a Betjemanesque interwar world of japes and ginger biscuits, 'strenuous breakfasts' and undergraduate tantrums. "Apparently while I was singing 'Love is a sickness' yesterday Denys [another troupe member] gave an appalling display of temperament because he couldn't find his tights."
The Magpies went over very well in Aston Bampton, where the local children did some songs and dances in the interval and were 'most spontaneous and charming', but at Northleach everything was ruined by 'a great mob of toughs at the back' who reduced Denys to tears and sent Murdoch into a rage by laughing all through her ballad. She was inconsolable, she notes, despite the rest of the cast being 'terribly upset for me' ...Talk of politics among the Magpies was desultory, even as rumours of war grew louder: 'We try not to think of it at all - and find it amazingly easy.'"
A Party Poem for Betjeman's Birthday
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