Magazine article The Spectator

All of a Tremble

Magazine article The Spectator

All of a Tremble

Article excerpt

It is one thing to keep a diary. It is one thing to sell that diary to Macmillan for publication after one's death. It is one thing to select someone to edit it. It is one thing to wish the Sunday Times to serialise the aforesaid diary in its Review section. It is quite another, however, not to tell your family you are doing any of the above.

I refer, of course, to those Woodrow Wyatt journals. Those scribblings that have been titillating and terrifying the town for the past three weeks. For years little bundles had been leaving our house every few weeks but mother and I were never sure what they contained. We hoped it was cigars or claret or biscuits from Fortnum and Mason.

Much later I discovered these bundles had been delivered to the bank vaults. This was after the will was read, which was when mother and I were told by one of the executors that Volume I of the Woodrow Wyatt Journals was to hit the shops in October. My jaw hit the carpet. Worse, the serialisation rights were apparently being sold to the Sunday Times. Oh God.

I could imagine the frank style in which father's diaries would have been written. Contrary to recent insinuations from those little minnows overwhelmed by father-thewhale, in life he was rarely sycophantic. As a columnist for Rupert Murdoch he risked dismissal by persistently attacking the Sun, and, later, defending Major after the boss had switched allegiance to Tony Blair.

With this in mind I asked the publishers, politely, if mother and I could see an advance copy, just to set our minds at rest. After all we were the family. The publishers said no. I was not allowed to see one on the curious grounds that I was a journalist and might 'scoop' the book. The real reason, however, may have been concern that mother and I would wish some passages removed.

If so they were spot on. As the past three Sundays dawned we trembled like aspen as family friends (now ex) were pinioned to the page like highly coloured butterflies. Lord This and Lady That were revealed as an `ass/humbug/secret paedophile/mass murderer' - not quite, almost though. Worse, various ladies were accused of tampering with their outer structures (wrongly, I'm sure).

Gossip columnists began to telephone. Was I not devastated by the 'revelations' of father's `string-pulling' to acquire me a place at Oxford? …

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