Magazine article The Spectator

Bevis Hillier

Magazine article The Spectator

Bevis Hillier

Article excerpt

A lot of people like cats, but 'feline' is a pejorative word when applied to humans. I hesitate to use it of James Lees-Milne, for, with all the blemishes classically sent up in a Craig Brown spoof, he was kind, generous and ethical. But listen to him on Anthony Powell -- one diarist assessing another -- in the final volume of his diaries, The Milk of Paradise (John Murray, £25). He starts with praise, then glissades into attack, like an executioner escorting somebody to the block with reassuring words.

It says much for Britain today that Alan Bennett's Untold Stories (Faber/Profile, £20) rose to the top of the non-fiction bestseller charts, as he is sophisticated and honest. As he states, I was his history pupil at Oxford. It was just before he burst on to the London stage in Beyond the Fringe.

Having no idea of the fame to which he was to climb in the coming year, my friends and I laughed about him a bit and did imitations of him saying, 'Brazil was the ogly dockling of Portuguese diplormacy' (in Leeds they say 'ogly', not 'oogly') or 'I'm sorry about all this 'orse-'air all orver the floor -- I've been onstoffing my sorfa. …

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