Ffion to Chart 'Gay' 18th Century Affair of Literary Friends

Article excerpt

Byline: Simon Cable Showbusiness Correspondent

SHE won acclaim for her first literary effort, an account of the women in the life of philandering prime minister David Lloyd George.

Now Ffion Hague, wife of Foreign Secretary William Hague, is hoping to repeat her success with a book on the close friendship and possible gay affair between 18th century poet Thomas Gray and Horace Walpole, son of Britain's first premier.

In The Grand Tour, Mrs Hague explores how the pair became inseparable at Eton only to dramatically fall out during a European cultural journey they undertook after university.

There has been speculation among historians that this may have been the result of a lovers' quarrel.

George Haggerty, professor of English at the University of Califorand nia Riverside, said that while Gray and Walpole's close circle of male friends were not identified as gay, several were known to 'feel desire for members of their own sex'.

Other academics have speculated that Walpole - himself a novelist and man of letters - was the first great love of Gray's life.

What conclusion Mrs Hague, 45, has drawn is unknown.

Her first book - The Pain and the Privilege - met with critical approval and eclipsed Cherie Blair's autobiography when it came out in 2008. …