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21 May 2018

A number of people – not all of them respectful

Can it really be almost a year since I last posted a blog? What have I been doing?

Well, lately, I’ve been reading A Number of People, a memoir by Edward Marsh, who was not only Private Secretary to Winston Churchill for much of his early career, but also a poet, editor, translator and friend of everyone from Rupert Brooke to Lady Violet Bonham-Carter. He manages not to have a bad word to say about anyone without ever becoming dull.

I’m reading an elderly copy borrowed from the library; someone before me has read it with a pencil in their hand and made occasional annotations. When Marsh mentions Charles Scott-Moncrieff, whom he describes as ‘Proust’s incomparable translator’, my unknown predecessor has dignified the page with a squiggle under ‘incomparable’ and two question marks in the margin. You’d think – you really would think – that someone who was sufficiently literary-minded to have a view on different translators of Proust would also have more respect for the sanctity of library books. Obviously not.

By the way, as so often, I ought to thank my favourite magazine, Slightly Foxed, for pointing me in the direction of this book.

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