It has been 15 years in the making but at last Artemis Cooper’s official biography of Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor has got a publication date. Cooper was first contracted to write an account of the life of her friend, the great travel writer, back in the Nineties but Leigh Fermor had requested that it was not to be published until after his death, which came last Friday at the grand age of 96. Cooper, wife of historian Antony Beevor and daughter of John Julius Norwich, is now expecting the book to come out late next year with John Murray, also Sir Paddy’s publisher. The delay is believed to be down to a number of private letters — possibly to his late wife, Joan Leigh Fermor— which he did not want to be in the public sphere while he was still alive. Sir Patrick was in his eighties when the book was commissioned and friends confess that they did not expect such a long wait. As a young man he walked across Europe and swam the Bosphorus. He lived for many years in the Peloponnese. Recently, his correspondence with the Duchess of Devonshire, edited by Charlotte Mosley, was published.Cooper, administrator of the Duff Cooper literary prize in memory of her grandfather, is still holding back the exciting details of the book. “It’s not finished yet,” she tells me, dodging questions about the content. “We’ll do it in time for Christmas next year.” Leigh Fermor’s funeral will be held on Thursday in the village of Dumbleton in Gloucestershire, where Joan is buried.
From the Londoner’s Diary in The Evening Standard, 14 June 2011