A book or two

Just finished reading Michael Holroyd’s excellent A Book of Secrets on the lives of Lord Grimthorpe and his women, fiancée, Eve Fairfax, his mistress Alice Keppel and their illegitimate daughter Violet Trefusis; their lives all touched by the Villa Cimbrone near Ravello, where the lucky Mr Holroyd, a literary gentleman scholar of the old school, manages to find many of the relevant papers – how very fortunate.

The book is very interesting for its analysis of class, relationships and the early 20th century world of high society and the arts (Rodin makes a key appearance) and the relationship between Violet T and Vita Sackville-West. A sense of place is key, and Knole makes its presence felt, as well as the beguiling Villa Cimbrone. The book is just published in hardback at £16.99.

I am currently working on a major visual history of the interior decoration of the great English country houses which has led me on many adventures this year, and made me aware of how lucky we are to have so much great art and collections in this country, and how these authentic survivals are so very special a part of our island’s story. I am as intrigued by the evidence of individual stories and caprice as I am of the carefully orchestrated set-piece; and while my book will trace the story of interiors from 1600, I am once again rather, moved not just by the dazzling ambition of the 18th century, but by the romantic aestheticism of the early 20th century.

Have been enjoying the winter sun, leaf raking, dog walking on Stourbridge Common and as the sun sets on Midsummer Common, where you can glimpse the sunset on the river and the distant shape of Kings College and Bodley’s All Saints with the skeletal trees. Magical. Archie likes it too.