Notes to Volume 6: 1961 and January to April 1962


5 January 1961

The Man in the Moon

Man in the Moon. 1960 comedy directed by Basil Dearden, written by Bryan Forbes and Michael Relph, starring Kenneth More, Shirley Anne Field, Michael Hordern and Charles Gray.

vester, not only tuus

'Your' plural, not merely singular.

The cockles … of one's heart

In medieval Latin, a term for the ventricles of the heart was 'cochleae cordis'.

more meo

In my (usual) way.

the Lawrences

GWL's daughter and son-in-law.


7 January 1961

it is unreadable

Nonetheless it had a good review in The Times (16 March 1961). The book was Sir Richard Roos: 1410–1482; Lancastrian Poet by Ethel Seaton; it ran to nearly 600 pages.


12 January 1961

old and gray and full of sleep

From 'When You are Old' by W B Yeats.

Winston's history of the first war

The World Crisis, 1911-1918 (published in six volumes, 1923).


18 January 1961

Holmes-Laski letters

1916-1935 correspondence between Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr and Harold Laski, published in 1953.

Threads of Gold…

The Thread of Gold (1905) and Beside Still Waters (1907) by A C Benson.

Lead, Kindly Light

Hymn with words by J H Newman, 1833 and music by John Dykes, 1867.

Abide with Me

Hymn with words by Henry Lyte, 1847 and music by William Monk, 1861.

his plate-throwing

Frieda Lawrence pooh-pooed the story of Lawrence's throwing plates at her:

The story of the mayor of Milan who came to breakfast in Taormina, with Lawrence throwing plates at me, made me weep tears of laughter. I had never heard it before! And we were poor and did not have so many plates! (New Statesman, 13 August 1955.)


One of the three Gorgons of Greek myth; looking at her face turned any human to stone.


A preference for lucky rather than courageous or clever generals is widely attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte, though I can find no verifiable citation.


21 January 1961

Lexham Gardens

In Earl's Court, London.


25 January 1961

till the almond-tree turns pink…

C Day Lewis, From Feathers to Iron 14, 'Now the full throated daffodils':

Today the almond tree turns pink,
The first flush of spring
Winds loll and gossip through the town
Her secret whispering.

the Eton affair

Browning was dismissed from his post at Eton by the Head Master, Hornby, whose action was probably ultra vires.


29 January 1961

faint yet pursuing

Judges 8:4:

And Gideon came to Jordan, and passed over, he, and the three hundred men that were with him, faint, yet pursuing them.

'Faint yet pursuing' became a fashionable phrase in the 19th century and was used by Christina Rossetti, Coventry Patmore and many other writers.


4 February 1961

The Duchess of Malfi

Tragedy by John Webster, 1614. A byword for over-the-top goriness. The revival was directed by Donald McWhinnie, and the cast included Eric Porter, Max Adrian, Derek Godfrey and Patrick Wymark.


9 February 1961

running, as he said, half across London

Advertisement to the first edition of the Life of Johnson:

Let me only observe, as a specimen of my trouble, that I have sometimes been obliged to run half over London, in order to fix a date correctly; which, when I had accomplished, I well knew would obtain me no praise, though a failure would have been to my discredit.


16 February 1961

blood-boltered Webster

cf Macbeth 4:1: 'The blood-boltered Banquo smiles upon me'.

A New Zealand village

GWL's writing has evidently been mistranscribed in the middle and at the end: the name seems to be Taumatawhakatangihangako-auauotamateaturipukakapikimaunga-horonukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu

The middle section is not vouched for but at the end 'tahu' not 'tahn' (as printed) must surely be right.


18 February 1961

'with advantages'

Henry V, 4:3:

Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day.


22 February 1961

Britten's Midsummer Night's Dream

Libretto adapted by the composer and Peter Pears from the Shakespeare text.


1 March 1961

Nesselrode Pie

Pastry base filled with a bavarois of lemon, rum, candied fruit and (in traditional recipes) chestnuts.


19 March 1961

Do not fancy … something to say

Johnson ('Most affectionately yours') to Boswell, 11 September 1777:

Do not fancy that an intermission of writing is a decay of kindness. No man is always in a disposition to write; nor has any man at all times something to say.


22 March 1961

horrible air of Amplex

A brand of deodorant.

Baghdad on the Hudson

O Henry dubbed New York 'Baghdad on the Subway' in A Madison Square Arabian Night; the name was modified by an unknown wit to that quoted by RH-D. (The estuary of the Hudson River separates the states of New York and New Jersey.)


27 March 1961

succès fou

A wild success.

Four Seasons restaurant

Opened 1959 and still going.


29 March 1961


Thoughts at the back (of one's mind)—doubts, reservations.

New English Bible

The New English Bible version of the New Testament, work on which began in 1947, was jointly published in 1961 by the Oxford and Cambridge University Presses. It became a best-seller at once and sold nearly five million copies within three years. T S Eliot commented, 'We are … entitled to expect from a panel chosen from among the most distinguished scholars of our day at least a work of dignified mediocrity … we find we are offered something far below that modest level, something which astonishes with its combination of the vulgar, the trivial, and the pedantic.' (The Daily Telegraph, 16 December 1962, p 7)

the Lord's Prayer

Matthew 6:9-13, 'Our Father, which art in heaven', is given in the New English Bible in a modernised form, ending:

Forgive us the wrong we have done,
As we forgive those who have wronged us.
And do not bring us to the test,
But save us from the evil one.

Wad I hae the presoomption

A story very similar is in Rosina Bulwer-Lytton's Behind the Scenes (1854),  p 43.

'Truly and indifferently', 'true and lively word'

From the Book of Common Prayer, Holy Communion service, the prayer for the Church Militant:

…and grant unto her whole Council, and to all that are put in authority under her, that they may truly and indifferently administer justice, to the punishment of wickedness and vice, and to the maintenance of thy true religion, and virtue. Give grace, O heavenly Father, to all Bishops and Curates, that they may both by their life and doctrine set forth thy true and lively Word, and rightly and duly administer thy holy Sacraments…


31 March 1961

Tunes of Glory

1960 film directed by Ronald Neame, written by James Kennaway. Drama about conflict between officers in a peacetime regiment, starring Alec Guinness, John Mills, Dennis Price and Kay Walsh.

The Rat Race

1960 film directed by Robert Mulligan, written by Garson Kanin, starring Tony Curtis and Debbie Reynolds.

The Magnificent Seven 

1960 film directed by John Sturges, written by William Roberts. Western, in which seven mercenaries are hired to defend villagers from bandits. Based on the earlier film Seven Samurai. 

The World of Suzie Wong

1960 film directed by Richard Quine, written by Paul Osborn, based on Richard Mason's novel of the same name. The cast included William Holden, Nancy Kwan, Sylvia Sims and Michael Wilding.


8 April 1961

Madame Bovary

Flaubert's novel was prosecuted for obscenity when it was first serialised in La Revue de Paris in 1856. Flaubert won and the book became a best seller and was quickly recognised as a classic of the genre.


15 April 1961


Old word for hammer. cf Falstaff's 'If I do, fillip me with a three-man beetle'.


16 April 1961

that beautiful church opposite Lord's

St John's Wood church, designed by Thomas Hardwick and built between 1812 and 1814, is a neo-classical building with a large and attractive garden.

to make a Sunday-school holiday

cf Byron, Childe Harold 4:141: 'Butcher'd to make a Roman holiday'.

Clarke Lectures

A long established series of annual lectures under Cambridge auspices, with an impressive list of guest lecturers.


20 April 1961

his forthcoming word-book

Words in Season, published by RH-D in December 1961. The dedication, recorded by RH-D in a note to his 30 September letter, is, 'To George Lyttelton, whose teaching of English has done so much for others in youth and for me in age.'


27 April 1961

that letter from K. Tynan and others about Cuba

A letter in The Times on 19 April headed 'Revolt In Cuba' was signed by Kenneth Tynan, Anthony Wedgwood Benn, John Berger, Constance Cummings, John Freeman, Michael Foot, Penelope Gilliatt, E J Hobsbawm, Paul Johnson, Terence Kilmartin, Doris Lessing, Benn W Levy, Kingsley Martin, John Osborne, Alan Sillitoe, and the cartoonist, Vicky. It accused the USA of improperly engaging in armed intervention in Cuba, and asserted that the Castro regime enjoyed local support.


29 April 1961

La Dolce Vita

1960 film directed by Federico Fellini, written by Fellini and others. Drama about a journalist's search for the meaning of life amid the worldly preoccupations of 1950s Rome. Starring Marcello Mastroianni, Yvonne Furneaux, Anouk Aimée and Anita Ekberg.

the other speeches

In addition to Harold Macmillan and Malcolm Sargent, the third speaker was Air Chief Marshal Sir Thomas Pike.


29 April 1961

Birkbeck Hill's Boswell

George Birkbeck Hill's authoritative edition of Boswell's Life of Johnson was published in 1887 in six volumes. In its second edition, edited by L F Powell (published 1934-50) it retains its pre-eminence.

double pluperfect

e.g. 'if you had have been there'.


3/4 May 1961

who is humble and I am not humble?, as St Paul obscurely put it

I can find no passage remotely like this in the Epistles or anywhere else in the Authorised Version or the Book of Common Prayer.


Fulsome enthusiasm.

in that admirable second act of The Truth about Blayds the old man’s answer...

In fact the line comes from the first act; the old man is dead by the start of the second act.


11 May 1961

Labby's bill

Labouchère, despite his own irregular private life, was responsible for a last minute amendment to the Criminal Law Amendment Bill in 1885, allowing the prosecution of men for acts of 'gross indecency'. This law, which was used to prosecute Wilde, was not swept away until the 1960s.

he was conspicuously idle in school

The Times (4 June 1977) said of Headlam, 'He had the reputation, not wholly undeserved, of being the laziest master on the staff.'


13 May 1961

wrongly believing it to be Lafitte

GWL was not wholly wrong: before the twentieth century, Château Lafite (a first growth claret of the highest quality) was regularly spelt with a double t.

Geoffrey Faber's Memorial Service, at which T.S.E. spoke well

Eliot was a director of the publishing house of which Faber was the founding chairman.


24 May 1961

Have you passed the Strand Theatre recently?

The press quotes to which GWL objected were for the show Belle, by Wolf Mankowitz and Monty Norman, retelling the story of Dr Crippen in the form of music hall pastiche. It was not a success and closed the next month.

the Parks … Fenner's

Cricket grounds of Oxford and Cambridge universities.


28 May 1961

a Rover for Ruth

An advance-booked ticket for the guest of a member of MCC.

Beyond the Fringe

Revue written and performed by Alan Bennett, Peter Cook, Jonathan Miller and Dudley Moore. The skit of the Prime Ministerial broadcast was by Cook; the mock sermon by Bennett.


31 May 1961

the latter's unspeakable letter to K. Mansfield

See GWL's letter of 18 January 1961.

sheer imbecility, in which class I unhesitatingly put 'The Turn of the Screw' set to music

Britten's 1954 opera The Turn of the Screw, with a libretto by Myfanwy Piper, is now probably more famous internationally than the Henry James story on which it is based (and is generally agreed to be every bit as disturbing).


4 June 1961

the play Tennyson wrote when he was fourteen

The Devil and the Lady, in blank verse throughout.

the Lord Mayor

Sir Bernard Waley-Cohen.

perhaps you saw the list of guests in Thursday's Times?

The immense list of guests included John Sparrow, Osbert Lancaster, Lord Adrian, John Barbirolli, John Betjeman, Kenneth Clark, Clifford Curzon, Lord David Cecil, Ninette de Valois, T S Eliot, Margot Fonteyn, Leon Goossens, Peter Hall, Barbara Hepworth, Fred Hoyle, Peter Medawar, Yehudi Menuhin, Henry Moore, Malcolm Sargent, C P Snow, Basil Spence, Eva Turner, Evelyn Waugh, C V Wedgwood, Norman Wilkinson and Solly Zuckerman.


7 June 1961

a backfisch

A teenage girl (German—lit. a fish for baking) The OED quotes The Pall Mall Gazette, 29 August 1891:

Let us introduce the word 'Backfisch', for we have the Backfisch always with us. She ranges from fifteen to eighteen years of age, keeps a diary, climbs trees secretly, blushes on the smallest provocation, and has no conversation.


11 June 1961 

I overheard the latest Test Score

The first Test against Australia at Edgbaston. The visitors looked set to win when Ruth Simon heard the score, but England later rallied strongly and the game was drawn. Australia won the series 2:1, with two draws.


23 June 1961

our fourteenth-century wall-paintings

St Mary's church, Grundisburgh, had and has several such paintings, including a striking picture of St Christopher, uncovered in the 1950s.

what sort of a night the wicket had below its covers.

In 1961 the practice of covering wickets overnight was still regarded as an innovation; it tends to make conditions more even for batsmen and less helpful for bowlers, particularly the spinners.


1 July 1961

bird lover and for fifty years dear wife of John Dover Wilson

The notice of Dorothy Dover Wilson's death read 'bird lover and for 55' years etc.


5 July 1961

What is the new life of M. like?

By Richard Cordell (1961).

like Douglas Jerrold after reading 'Sordello'

Abstruse philosophical poem by Browning. Tennyson said he understood only two lines, and Jane Carlyle had no idea after reading it whether Sordello was a place, a man or a river. Douglas Jerrold tried to read it when recovering from a serious illness. Failing to understand any of it and fearing his wits had gone, he asked his wife to read it and was much relieved when she too was baffled. ('Thank God! I am not an idiot!')

Wardour Street

In GWL's youth the location of many antique (and faux-antique) shops, hence an adjective meaning quaintly old-fashioned.


King Arthur, in The Idylls of the King.

Merton Street to Carfax

A distance of about 300 metres.


8 July 1961

winning the toss…seems to be fatal

Australia won the toss for the Headingley Test, chose to bat, and collapsed from 183 for two to 208 for nine, and were all out for 237.


13 July 1961

A Passage to India 

E M Forster's 1924 novel.

Christ Church college

Historically the college is part of the cathedral foundation and it is traditionally considered incorrect to accord it a separate identity.


20 July 1961

our Lady of Pain

Dolores in Swinburne's poem of that name is called 'Our Lady of Pain'.

Waugh on old Wodehouse

On 15 July Evelyn Waugh broadcast on the BBC an 'act of homage and reparation to P G Wodehouse' twenty years after Wodehouse had been vilified (at the instigation of Duff Cooper) for broadcasting on an enemy radio station, an act soon generally acknowledged to be one of naïve stupidity rather than treachery.


22 July 1961

The Pilgrim Daughters

What The Times described as 'gossipy rambles' round twenty six American women, including Lady Randolph Churchill and the Duchess of Windsor, who married into the British establishment.


25 June 1961

I cavil hotly at the editing

By Cecil Y Lang.

W-D's sexual habits

Some writers have speculated that Watts-Dunton was in a sexual relationship with Swinburne, who was almost certainly gay. Others think such a relationship unlikely. See Arnold T. Schwab, ‘Wilde and Swinburne: part III’, The Wildean, July 2007, pp. 23–38.

Old Mortality

1816 novel by Walter Scott.


In his 1915 novel Boon, Wells based the character George Boon on Henry James. James was not amused, particularly as Boon argued most un-Jamesianly that novels should be propaganda, not art.


30 July 1961

a non dies

dies non (short for dies non juridicus), lawyers' jargon for a day on which no business is transacted.

a minor recommendation which the members rejected

The proposal was to allow public libraries access to rare books held by the London Library.


1 August 1961

a stuffy little review of old Agate in the T.L.S.

Review of James Agate – An Anthology, edited by Herbert van Thal and published by RH-D. The (anonymous) review was generally favourable.

Ten Modern Poets

Possibly Ten Modern Poets (1930) edited by Rica Brenner: essays on five American and five English poets: Robert Frost, Amy Lowell, Edna St Vincent Millay, Edwin Arlington Robinson and Carl Sandburg; and Walter De La Mare, A E Housman, Rudyard Kipling, John Masefield and Alfred Noyes.


5 August 1961

That last day was pretty exciting

The fourth Test, at Old Trafford, was won by the Australians in what The Times described as 'one of the most dramatic afternoon's cricket of this or any other age'. England had seemed headed for victory, but Benaud's spin bowling (six for 70) won the day.

drive to Scotland for the Twelfth

The 'glorious' 12 August is the first day of the grouse-shooting season.


9 August 1961

I know just as little about diverticula as Mr Micawber did about gowans

Dickens, David Copperfield, Ch 28:

'I am not exactly aware,' said Mr Micawber, with the old roll in his voice, and the old indescribable air of saying something genteel, 'what gowans may be, but I have no doubt that Copperfield and myself would frequently have taken a pull at them, if it had been feasible.'

David by your uncle

Duff Cooper's David, written in 1944, was a biographical study of the biblical king.


12 August 1961

Norway … all those children crashed there

34 schoolboys and two teachers from Lanfranc School, Croydon were killed in a plane crash near Stavanger on 9 August.


16 August 1961

Lebanon leaving the Commonwealth—which I never knew they were in

They weren't in and never had been (GWL's tongue was evidently in his cheek).

Corno di Bassetto

The name under which Bernard Shaw wrote music criticism in The Pall Mall Gazette in the 1880s. Shaw's complete music criticism was published in various volumes from 1937. The most comprehensive edition, edited by Dan H Laurence, was published by the Bodley Head in three volumes in 1981 as Shaw's Music.


20 August 1961

Pater's Imaginary Portraits

Four biographical-style sketches of imaginary figures.


27 August 1961

Ce qui est trop bête pour être joué, on le chante

What is too stupid to be acted is sung.


31 August 1961

light 'middle'

A short piece on a social, ethical, or literary subject (originally placed between the leading articles and the reviews in a newspaper).


3 September 1961

Hampshire's triumph

Hampshire County Cricket Club won the County Championship for the first time in the club's history, after 66 years of trying.


10 September 1961

Tempora mutantur

… et nos mutamur in illis. Times are changing and we are changing with them. (Ovid)


St Catherine's College, Cambridge.


14 September 1961




21 September 1961

Christabel Pankhurst … was a lesbian.

There is strong evidence to support this assertion, but no firm proof. (The Observer, 11 June 2000 on the diaries of Mary Blathwayt.)


7 October 1961

a spectator's leg was broken from just merely looking on

A B 'Banjo' Paterson, 'The Geebung Polo Club':

And the game was so terrific that ere half the time was gone
A spectator's leg was broken—just from merely looking on.


12 October 1961


A game played on a billiard table with six coloured balls and one cue ball, with which players try to pocket the coloured balls in a prescribed order.

How right the Synge character was in describing old age as 'a poor untidy thing'.

In fact it is death that is so described, in Deirdre of the Sorrows (Act 2).


18 October 1961

quam primum

As soon as possible.

the only word with which Stevenson could stimulate his donkey

Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes, Ch 2, 'The Green Donkey Driver'. 'Proot' ('the true cry or masonic word of donkey-drivers') fails to make Modestine, the donkey, move.


21 October 1961

Baker Street Irregulars

The original irregulars were a group of street urchins employed by Sherlock Holmes from time to time. Their title was adopted by a group of Holmes enthusiasts founded in 1934 by Christopher Morley.


25 October 1961

the sight of a double bed

Richard Usborne, in Wodehouse at Work (1961), observed, 'There is no suggestion that either clubman or girl would recognise a double bed except as so much extra sweat to make an apple-pie of.'

Mark Twain called 'a spell of the dry grins.'

Actually Joel Chandler Harris: 'Brer Rabbit, he'd git a spell er de dry grins.' (from the Uncle Remus story, Old Mr Rabbit, He's a Good Fisherman).

Adventures and Memoirs

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1892) and The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (1894) were the first two (of five) collections of Holmes short stories, and are widely thought to contain the pick of the crop, though 'The Noble Bachelor', scorned by GWL, is in The Adventures. The later collections were The Return of Sherlock Holmes (1905), His Last Bow (1917) and The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes (1927).

Full Moon

1947 novel featuring Lord Emsworth and the Blandings Castle characters. It is surprising that a connoisseur of Wodehouse like GWL missed it on its first appearance.


1 November 1961

a pleasant vignette of old Doyle in P.G. Wodehouse's Performing Flea

Performing Flea was a collection of letters written by Wodehouse to an old schoolfriend between 1920 and 1953; the title was a genial reference to the gibe by the writer Seán O'Casey in his long decline that Wodehouse was 'English literature's performing flea.' The vignette of Doyle was in a letter of April 1925. PGW wrote that though most writers one admires in one's youth seem unadmirable when one grows up, 'with Doyle I don't have this feeling. I still revere his work as much as ever.' He added that he also admired Doyle as a man:

I should call him definitely a great man… I love that solid precise way he has of talking, like Sherlock Holmes … He saw an advertisement in a paper … some blighter was using his name to swindle the public. Well, what most people in his place would have said would have been, 'Hullo! This looks fishy!' The way he put it when telling me the story was, 'I said to myself, “Ha! There is villainy afoot.”'


9 November 1961

Vice Versa … I suppose it is dead now.

The novel remains in print and has reached new audiences in several television adaptations.

the imbecile Conan Doyle

Adrian Conan Doyle, the author's son.

'Sir, we were a nest of singing birds'

Boswell, Life of Johnson, introduction:

Being himself a poet, Johnson was peculiarly happy in mentioning how many of the sons of Pembroke [College] were poets; adding, with a smile of sportive triumph, 'Sir, we are a nest of singing birds.'


11 November 1961


In his first Christmas Crackers book, John Julius Norwich gave other examples of his mother's windscreen notes, including:

Dear Warden—Only a minute. Horribly old (80) and frightfully lame. Beware of the DOG. [A foot-long chihuahua, Lord Norwich noted].

Laurence Stone, a very nice historian

Correctly Lawrence Stone.


17 November 1961


A game played on a billiard table with six coloured balls and one cue ball, with which players try to pocket the coloured balls in a prescribed order.


23 November 1961

Cardinal Wolsey … supposed to have founded the school—erroneously.

Wolsey founded the current school in 1528; it was based on existing schools, the earliest of which was in existence in the thirteenth century.


25 November 1961

the leader about Henry James in this morning's Times

The Times leader remarked that though James's novels were accessible, his short stories were badly served. 'Mr Rupert Hart-Davis has courageously undertaken to publish The Complete Tales of Henry James in twelve volumes…Publication is to be spread over three years.'

'Puff Preliminary'

Sheridan, The Critic (1779): Mr Puff lists variations on the type: 'the puff direct, the puff preliminary, the puff collateral, the puff collusive, and the puff oblique, or puff by implication. These all assume, as circumstances require, the various forms of Letter to the Editor, Occasional Anecdote, Impartial Critique, Observation from Correspondent, or Advertisement from the Party'.

superb El Greco … the Rubens and King's.

Major A E Allnatt presented El Greco's The Apostle St James to New College, Oxford, and Rubens's Adoration of the Magi to King's College, Cambridge in 1961.


30 November 1961

Pelican Modern Age in their Guides to Eng. Lit

Edited by Boris Ford (1961). The Review of English Studies, May, 1963 said of the volume (after complaining of sloppy proof-reading) that the articles varied in quality, but 'only one—a squalid and hysterical essay on Dylan Thomas and T F Powys by Mr David Holbrook—is unequivocally bad and should not have been printed'.


3 December 1961

dramatisation of C.P. Snow's novel The Affair

Dramatised by Ronald Millar, starring John Clements as the central figure, Lewis Eliot.


14 December 1961

'In Charles II's navy…'

'There were gentlemen and there were seamen in the navy of Charles the Second. But the seamen were not gentlemen; and the gentlemen were not seamen.'


26 December 1961

Your description of the Grundisburgh Parish Council

Not in the published letters.

the second autobiographical venture of Vyvyan Holland

RH-D evidently convinced Vyvyan Holland: no second volume of autobiography is listed among the latter's publications in his Who's Who entry.


28 December 1961


A highly-spiced stew: the word literally means 'rotten pot'.

sold his birthright for a pot of message

Variously ascribed to Neville Coghill, C S Lewis, and Theodore Sturgeon who used it in a 1948 short story.


3 January 1962

Johnson … regarding an ill man as a scoundrel

Boswell, Life of Johnson 1776 section:

'Ready to become a scoundrel, Madam; with a little more spoiling you will, I think, make me a complete rascal.' He meant, easy to become a capricious and self-indulgent valetudinarian; a character for which I have heard him express great disgust.

he won't hit any sixes against a visiting team

The outgoing Governor General, Lord Cobham, had done so. A Wellington newspaper quoted by The Times (11 September 1962) said of him, '…it takes a man's man to don the pads, step out of retirement, and hit a sizzling six at Eden Park.'

he so bungled his speech in the prayer-book debate

Before his elevation to the peerage Lord Hugh Cecil was an MP and a leading member of the Assembly of the Church of England. In 1927 and again in 1928 he failed to persuade the Commons to accept the revised Book of Common Prayer. Low-church opinion felt that the revised book opened the door to 'papistical' practices.

How right you are about Kitchener

RH-D evidently removed his comments about Kitchener when editing the letters for publication.

My old uncle, the general

General Sir Neville Lyttelton.

My old friend Admiral William Fisher

There were three Admiral William Fishers who could have been a friend of GWL: Admiral Sir William Wordsworth Fisher (1875-1937) seems perhaps the most likely, as a near-contemporary.


6 January 1962

Edwin Drood

Dickens's last, unfinished novel.

Stop the World, I Want to Get Off

Book, music, and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley. The show ran at the Queen's Theatre from July 1961 to November 1962, and transferred to New York for a successful Broadway run.


18 January 1962

vertigo … the is long and not short

The OED (2008) allows both pronunciations but the one with the short i is listed first. The 1933 edition of the Shorter Oxford also puts the short i version first.


The OED is unequivocally of GWL's opinion.

'such a mistake' as old Sir G. Sitwell would have said

'Such a mistake' was a phrase much used by Sir George Sitwell:  'Such a mistake to build a house without a gallery for wet days' … 'Such a mistake that Edith gave up her music; at one time she had quite a pretty touch on the pianoforte'  … 'Such a mistake to have friends' … 'Such a mistake not to ask me' . See Roger Fulford, Osbert Sitwell (1951), p 32.

The cello is (to me) the most splendid of all instruments

GWL played the cello when he was a young man, though a Cambridge University magazine commented: 'When George Lyttelton practises the 'cello, all the cats in the district converge upon his rooms in the belief that one of their number is in distress.' (Humphrey Lyttelton, It Just Occurred to Me, 2007, p 57.)


21 January 1962

à vive voix

Out loud.


24 January 1962

With what I most enjoy contented least

Sonnet 29.

something much more portentous than 1914 or 1939 is on the way

Astrologers were predicting dire consequences from the imminent concatenation of eight planets in the house of Capricorn.


27 January 1962

dressed in a space-suit and waiting to be rocketed to blazes

Colonel John Glenn was about to be the USA's first astronaut in orbital flight.

an excellent movie that has been made from … The Custard Boys

Reach for Glory (1962), directed by Philip Leacock, with a screenplay adapted from John Rae's novel by Jud Kimberg and John Kohn, starring Harry Andrews and Kay Walsh.


1 February 1962

the Prince is not going to Eton

It had been announced that the Prince of Wales would attend Gordonstoun school.


4 February 1962

'the visitable past'

The Aspern Papers (preface) 'I delight in a palpable imaginable visitable past … the marks and signs of a world we may reach over to as by making a long arm we grasp an object at the other end of our own table.' The visitable past was 'the poetry of the thing outlived and lost and gone.'

Indian reactions … the efficacy of their own prayers.

The Times of 1 February carried a piece about the forthcoming concatenation of the astrologers' eight planets under the headline, 'Asian fears at predictions of doom—Mass prayers by Buddhists.'

Monday's traffic-chaos in London

There was a strike by workers on the London Underground and some commuter railways.


8 February 1962

Unhouseled … unaneled

Both used of the dying—without the last sacrament and without extreme unction.


10 February 1962

The Cherry Orchard

Michel Saint-Denis' production for the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Aldwych Theatre, with a cast led by Peggy Ashcroft and John Gielgud as Ranevskaya and Gaev, and including Dorothy Tutin, Patrick Wymark, Judi Dench, Ian Holm and Roy Dotrice.


12 February 1962

qua … a fortiori

as for … even more so

T.E. Brown … God wot … And I not there

Manx writer, famous for 'My Garden' ('A garden is a lovesome thing, God wot!'). The phrase 'And I not there' occurs twice in William Cory's 'Ionica', but I cannot find any poem by T E Brown with that refrain.

The Bothie

'The Bothie of Toper-na-Fuosich', a poem in a type of post-classical hexameter.


Schule Schloß Salem, a boarding school in Baden-Württemberg, founded by Kurt Hahn, as was its British offshoot at Gordonstoun.

'Amours de voyage'

Epistolary poem, in which the main voices are those of Claude and Eustace


17 February 1962

Flash Harry, Princess Marina

It is generally accepted that Sargent had an affair with Princess Marina before WW2, and there is no question that they were firm friends until his death.


On Broadway the cast included Olivier—first as Becket and then as King Henry. In London the play was presented by the Royal Shakespeare Company, with Eric Porter as Becket and Christopher Plummer as Henry, directed by Peter Hall.

Don Giovanni at Covent Garden

Conducted by Georg Solti, directed by Franco Zeffirelli, with Cesare Siepi as Giovanni, Geraint Evans as Leporello, Sena Jurinac as Elvira, Leyla Gencer as Anna, Richard Lewis as Ottavio and Mirella Freni as Zerlina.


21 February 1962

scored, with startling blasphemies

'There were several books on a shelf; one lay beside the tea-things open, and Utterson was amazed to find it a copy of a pious work, for which Jekyll had several times expressed a great esteem, annotated, in his own hand, with startling blasphemies.'

full measure pressed down and running over

Luke 6:38:

Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.


7 March 1962

A worm and no man

Psalm 22:6


28 March 1962

the still small unanswerable voice of coins

Letter from RLS to Sidney Colvin, January 1875.


31 March 1962

Chaliapin … Boris

Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov, perhaps the great bass's most celebrated role. The production mentioned by RH-D was probably at the Lyceum in May 1931, with an all-Russian cast, in Sir Thomas Beecham's season of Russian opera and ballet.

Tommy and Joan in their royal stables

Sir Alan Lascelles and his wife lived in a grace and favour residence converted from the old stables of Kensington Palace.

Harold Nicolson's magisterial sureness of touch

Nicolson had written the authorised biography of George V, published in 1952.


17 April 1962

possibly apocryphal, 'Come on Wilfred, we'll get 'em in singles.'

GWL had been instrumental in relegating the story to the apocrypha: see note to his letter of 22 October 1959.

Fowler's match

The Eton and Harrow match of 1910. The Harrow side were generally expected to win, and opened their second innings needing only 55 to win, but were bowled out for 45, Robert Fowler of Eton taking 8 for 23.