Thursday, 15 October 2009

Literary punishment

Old friends have been staying for the Cheltenham Literary Festival. They are gluttons for punishment, having sat through five separate events yesterday! We ourselves thought three were enough - but only overlapped on one occasion, Jenny Uglow talking about Charles II: a gambling man. (Here she is signing a book for Philip afterwards.)

I learnt a lot from Jenny Uglow's talk, or rather I relearnt it: I must have heard it all before at school, but that was long ago and far away. It's one of the pleasures of retirement that one can enjoy going back to school - even whilst remembering how painful school was in other ways. But I'm sure Fr. Hugh Aveling never told us that Charles II was grey-haired by the time he was 33, or that Louis XIV had 42 wigs.

Part of the enjoyment of the Uglow talk was that it was well-illustrated: Charles Saumarez Smith, on the other hand, who has spent all his life in the visual art world, gave us nothing to look at. Much as I enjoy the elegance of the way he speaks, it did make for rather a dry hour.

The most fun we had was with The Seven lives of John Murray, robustly chaired by Marcus Moore, with John Murray VII himself present on the platform, and going on tremendous riffs about authors published by his illustrious ancestors. Though the Murray archive has departed for Edinburgh, we learnt that 50 Albermarle Street was still full of an immense variety of items with disparate literary connections. A soufflé!

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