In the course of a long and successful career as a journalist and author, Paul Johnson has known popes, presidents, prime ministers, painters, poets, playwrights, even the foul-mouthed publican Muriel Belcher, who ran the legendary Colony Club. Harking back to the scandalously anecdotal 17th century book by John Aubrey on the celebrities of his times, Brief Lives is the distilled essence of Johnson's experience of a complex variety of people who have contributed to our political, spiritual and cultural life. He advised Margaret Thatcher, counselled Princess Diana, had a drawing of him done by Ernest Hemingway and enjoyed the company of John Osborne, Arnold Wesker and Harold Pinter at Buckingham Palace. He has been an insider, outside observer and universal commentator on the individuals who have changed history, formed public taste or simply lightened our lives by their presence.
In this eclectic selection of biographical sketches Bill Deedes remembers some of the key figures of the twentieth century. Political heavyweights such as Ramsay MacDonald, Stanley Baldwin and Anthony Eden are reassessed and re-evalued, while record breakers such as Sir Edmund Hillary and Roger Bannister are shown to be far more than just their achievements. Further afield, W. F. Deedes ruminates on the chaotic and shady world of Imelda Marcos, the dignity and determination of anti-apartheid campaigner Helen Suzman and the controversial leadership of Ian Smith in Rhodesia. But there are lighter portraits too. Noel Coward, with his useful advice on trains, Mary Whitehouse’s inadvertent demonstration of pornography and Malcolm Muggeridge’s half-hearted suicide attempt all feature in this delightful compendium. Like his previous books, Dear Bill and At War With Waugh, Brief Lives is an affectionate, perceptive and anecdotal book, bursting with life, humour and wit.
'I never liked her, nor did she like me; strange, then, how we managed to keep up a sort of friendship for so long.' Fay Langdon has relinquished her singing career to marry Owen, a highly successful solicitor. At one of their dinner parties Fay meets the glamorous, self-obsessed Julia and is destined to join the handful of acolytes who provide Julia with ammunition for her merciless scorn and disapprobation. As the years pass and Fay and Julia's lives grow empty of purpose, they are drawn together by their fear of age and isolation. Yet a mutual mistrust continues to exist between them until Fay is driven to one last heroic act.
WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY RUTH SCURR John Aubrey was a modest man, a self-styled antiquarian and the man who invented modern biography. His ‘lives’ of the prominent figures of his generation and the Elizabethan era, including Shakespeare, Milton and Sir Walter Raleigh, have been plundered by historians for centuries for their frankness and fascinating detail. Collected here are all of Aubrey’s biographical writings, a series of unforgettable portraits of the characters of his day, still more alive and kicking than in any conventional work of history.
Brief Livesis an eccentric collection of biographical anecdotes and fictional vignettes in which famous figures such as Goethe, Petrarch and Antonin Artaud rub shoulders with impecunious aristocrats, actors and art historians as well as a range of fictional characters caught amid the daily chaos of their lives. Here a dead man recounts his experiences as a Jesus impersonator. A wife reflects on the unhappiness of holidays. A doctor conducts altitude experiments on prisoners. Lott loses his mother's ashes in Amsterdam, and Nietzsche dances naked round a stove in Turin. These small, curious pieces deliver the reader on an A-Z journey towards the brilliant long essay 'Variable Stars', which takes in the French poets Mallarme and Villiers, as well as Jonathan Franzen, Janet Frame and Nigel Cox. A meditation on mortality and the tasks of recording, collection and recollection we undertake to stave it off, Brief Livesis a genre-crossing work that makes a plea for what historian Simon Schama has called 'the eloquence of peculiarity'.
Wesley, Samuel (British clergyman and poet, 1662 - 1735). On Christmas Day 1716, Wesley was haunted by an apparition of a badger with no head. It was called Jeffrey. Frank writes: "It occurred to me that it would be a good idea to write a modern, updated version of John Aubrey's Brief Lives. But it further occurred to me that some books are unimproveable, and that in trying to follow in Aubrey's footsteps I would embarrass myself and become the butt of ridicule. The idea continued to nag at me, however, and eventually I decided the solution was to outdo Aubrey in brevity. My own Brief Lives would consist of a single, unadorned fact about each of my subjects. So the reader may not learn very much about the life of X or Y or Z, but they would be armed with one little nugget which might come in handy to chuck into a lull during the conversation at the kind of swish sophisticated cocktail party to which they no doubt get invited." Other entries include: Gibson, Willie Harmsworth, Alfred, Lord Northcliffe Jansson, Tove Lennon, John Stein, Gertrude Nixon, Richard Milhous Schubert, Franz Tippett, Michael Anderson, John Henry Brooke, Charles Callaghan, James Russell, Ken
Henry James is known for the psychological depth of his characters; for his remarkable ability to penetrate to the inner life of his creations. Yet the story of his own inner life remains curiously obscure. The best known facts about James – his illustrious, wealthy family and famous siblings; his prolific literary output with its numerous quirky female heroines; his long-term bachelorhood, and the rumours that accompanied it; and his flamboyant adoption of British citizenship in 1915 – have created a mythology surrounding the author. In this succinct new biography, Hazel Hutchison examines the writer’s childhood, travels, experiences and acquaintances – all of which re-appear to varying degrees in his writing. Brief Lives: Henry James presents a fresh take on one of the central figures in the English canon – perfect for both the general reader and the James enthusiast.
The rules laid down for this edition have been fully stated in the Introduction. It need only be said here that these have been scrupulously followed. I may take this opportunity of saying that the text gives Aubrey's quotations, English and Latin alike, in the form in which they are found in his MSS. They are plainly cited from memory, not from book: they frequently do not scan, and at times do not even construe. A few are incorrect cementings of odd half lines. The necessary excisions have not been numerous. They suggest two reflections. The turbulence attributed to Sir Walter Raleigh seems to have made his name in the next age the centre of aggregation of quite a number of coarse stories. In the same way, Aubrey is generally nasty when he mentions the noble house of Herbert, earl of Pembroke, and the allied family of Sydney. There may be personal pique in this, for Aubrey thinks he had a narrow escape from assassination by a Herbert (i. 48); perhaps also there may be the after-glow of a Wiltshire 'feud'.