Tag Archives: John Murray

Dear Mr Murray

David McClay is the former curator of the John Murray archive located at the National Library of Scotland which includes Paddy’s papers which were donated to the archive by Paddy in his will. This book may be of general interest to some of you.

by Rosemary Hill

First published in the London Review of Books

Some things in the relations between authors and publishers never change. Dear Mr Murray: Letters to a Gentleman Publisher, edited by David McClay, a collection of letters written to six generations of the Murray family, is full of familiar complaints. Jane Austen was ‘very much disappointed … by the delays of the printers’. Maria Rundell, author of A New System of Domestic Cookery (1805), was furious about misprints in the second edition, including an unfortunate mistake in a recipe for rice pudding. Byron objected to cuts in his work, as did David Livingstone, who also took exception to the ‘absolutely abominable’ illustrations of his Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa, in particular the scene of his own encounter with a lion: ‘Everyone … will die with laughing … It’s like a dray horse.’ On the other side of the editorial desk successive John Murrays had their own difficulties. Rundell’s editor, Murray II, told his wife that ‘her conceit surpasses anything.’ Whitwell Elwin, the reader to whom Murray III sent the manuscript of On the Origin of Species, wrote back that, despite ‘the very high opinion’ he had of Darwin, he felt the book lacked substance. There was no proof of the argument. It would be better, he thought, to concentrate on one species, such as pigeons: ‘Everybody is interested in pigeons.’ Fortunately for Murray’s reputation, Whitwell was overruled.

Murray I began life as John McMurray in Edinburgh in 1737. On a friend’s advice he dropped the ‘wild Highland Mac’ when he came to London, setting up business in Fleet Street in 1768, at a time when publishers, booksellers, journalists and printers were often the same people. It was the age of Grub Street, of Boswell and Johnson, coffee houses, clay pipes and gallons of port. In 1812 Murray II moved the firm to Albemarle Street in the more respectable West End, where it remained until the seventh John Murray sold up in 2002. Here Murray’s built a list that included some of the best and most popular authors of their day, from Byron and Walter Scott to Patrick Leigh-Fermor and Freya Stark. It was Murray’s reputation for solid, conservative values that led both the geologist Charles Lyell and then Darwin to publish their potentially disruptive theories under its aegis. No. 50 Albemarle Street became famous for the great writers who passed through its door and notorious for its drawing-room fireplace in which Murray II burned Byron’s memoirs. Byron had wanted him to publish them but they were destroyed in deference to the family’s feelings about what David McClay refers to laconically as the ‘many ups and downs’ of Byron’s career.

McClay is an exasperating editor, vague about dates and details. The book is arranged thematically so that authors often feature in more than one section, but without an index it is hard to follow them. While he makes no claim to have done more than pick a few cherries from a vast archive, he seems unsure who they are for and the book is neither serious history nor stocking-filler. The reader who needs to be told that Alexander Pope was ‘an early 18th-century poet’ cannot be expected to know who ‘dear old Panizzi’ is in the same letter. His is one of many un-glossed names, some of them important. The ‘Owen’ referred to by Joseph Hooker in a letter to Murray III about Samuel Wilberforce’s hostile review of Origin of Species is Richard Owen, the palaeontologist who coined the word ‘dinosaur’, and who disagreed with Darwin about the transmutation of species. Hooker’s suggestion that Wilberforce, who is too often cast as merely a bigoted reactionary, had been ‘made a tool of’ by Owen for his rival evolutionary theory, is therefore significant. It is also interesting that the article, which sparked widespread controversy and led several months later to the famous debate on evolution between Wilberforce and Thomas Huxley at the Oxford Museum, appeared in the Quarterly Review, which was published by Murray’s. The editor was John Gibson Lockhart, but we aren’t told why he chose to commission what was guaranteed to be a savage review.

The Quarterly was founded by Murray II in 1809 when publishers’ operations in the last Georgian decades, if they were not as multifarious as in the first John Murray’s day, still extended beyond books. Archibald Constable, Walter Scott’s Scottish publisher, was also the publisher of the Whig Edinburgh Review, edited by Francis Jeffrey with the frequent assistance of Sydney Smith. The Quarterly was intended as a Tory rival and enjoyed Scott’s close co-operation. After an erratic start, its middlebrow conservatism built a large and loyal readership. The correspondence suggests, however, that as with books, a lot of time was spent on complaints: a subscriber cancelling because the titles chosen for review were so ‘utterly destitute of interest’, or a furious James Hogg in Edinburgh alleging Anglocentric bias in a review of Scott’s second novel, Guy Mannering: ‘How I do despise your London critics.’ Murray II sent a reply that was even-handedly disparaging of reviewer, author and complainant: ‘Our article is not good, & our praise is by no means adequate, but I suspect that you very greatly overrate the novel.’

In the days of anonymous reviewing editorial standards of impartiality were often compromised. Scott’s authorship of the Waverley novels was an open secret in the literary world but in 1816 Murray co-published his collected Tales of My Landlord, which carried no claim to be ‘by the author of Waverley’. Murray was sure it was ‘either by Walter Scott or the devil’, but Scott assured him it wasn’t and ingeniously suggested he should prove the point by reviewing it himself. He did and found he didn’t like it much: ‘unusually artificial; neither hero nor heroine excites interest of any sort.’ The piece concluded with a hefty hint that the author was his brother, Thomas Scott. The subterfuge worked and Murray was convinced, ‘to within an inch of [his] life’, that it was true.

The 19th century was Murray’s heyday, culminating in a selection of The Letters of Queen Victoria, which appeared in 1907, after the many exasperating delays and alterations attendant on all royal publications. As the editor A.C. Benson wrote to Murray in the course of a letter threatening to resign, ‘Royalty have no conception how much trouble they give.’ With the new century the correspondence changed in various ways. Telegrams began to appear, film rights became a consideration and so did commercial sponsorship. NBC paid $1000 for a radio adaptation of Beau Geste to be broadcast in the Campbell Soup Hour and Murray VI got his Oxford friend John Betjeman’s poems published by promising his uncle, who was then at the helm, that he would underwrite them with his own shares in Bovril. ‘I do appreciate the charity,’ Betjeman wrote when the book appeared, ‘for I can only call it that.’ In fact it was an instance of the benign self-interest that makes a far-sighted publisher succeed. As poet laureate Betjeman was worth his weight in Bovril.

Over its long life John Murray produced not only new books, but whole new genres. The famous red Murray’s handbooks were the original foreign guidebooks, a model for Baedeker. Samuel Smiles’s Self-Help of 1859 has had many successors. But this somewhat haphazard collection, intended as a tribute, has more the air of an obituary, and a lacklustre one at that.

Buy Dear Mr Murray: Letters to a Gentleman Publisher

Edit 19 Nov – it has been brought to my attention that David McClay is the former curator of the John Murray Archive. More positive reviews of Dear Mr Murray may be found in the Scottish Review of Books and a 5 star review in the Telegraph.

https://www.scottishreviewofbooks.org/2018/11/correspondence-course/

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/books/what-to-read/darwins-pigeons-inventing-self-help-book-john-murray-letters/

Until I have reached Constantinople

Patrick Leigh Fermor working at his home studio on 3 October 2004, then aged 89. Kardamyli. by Sean Deany Copyright 2012

In the catalogue to the exhibition Charmed Lives in Greece: Ghika, Craxton, Leigh Fermor (at the British Museum until July 15), Michael Llewellyn-Smith writes that, in his later years, Patrick Leigh Fermor “had an all-purpose excuse to send to pesterers”. The note read: “It was very kind of you to write. The trouble is that I am having to work to a strict deadline for the completion of my new book. This makes me a poor correspondent until I have finished it and have reached Constantinople – I am not sure when this will be”.

By James Campbell

First Published in The Times Literary Supplement 12 April 2018

The warning to inquisitive readers, colour-supplement journalists, adventurous holidaymakers and others was despatched from Kardamyli in Mani, in the Southern Peloponnese, from the house which Fermor had built himself, with local labour and expertise, in the mid-1960s. It was where he had completed the first two parts of his account of the “great trudge” across ­Central Europe in the 1930s, projected to end, in a long-anticipated third volume, in “Constantinople”. The book itself had become something of a pest, and he failed to complete it before his death in 2011, aged ninety-six. His wife Joan had died there eight years earlier.

I knew nothing of this when I posted a letter to Kardamyli in the autumn of 2003. I was not a Fermor devotee (there were many, though nothing like the numbers that exist today) and had read scarcely anything he had written. It was not my idea to seek him out, but that of my editor at the Guardian Saturday Review, for which I was at the time a contracted writer. The regular task was a literary profile, of a good length – 4,000 words – and of a certain seriousness. Starting from a position of ignorance didn’t bother me. I liked “finding out”, and enjoyed the homework.

Suggestions from Farringdon Road came by telephone, later email, and were always to the point. “How about Patrick Leigh Fermor?” That was it. No address, no telephone number, no deadline. The rest was up to me, but I was free to go where I liked and when I liked. I had fulfilled many commissions in this way, and had discovered something: it works better when you contact the intended subject yourself to make arrangements, rather than going through the publisher’s press office. The people there do necessary work, but with their more valued (and venerable) charges there is a protective instinct, and a need to control the show.

Fermor was definitely a protected species. His ninetieth birthday was approaching. His publisher John Murray was desperate for him to reach Constantinople. The journey, which had taken place in the 1930s, had been given elegant shape in two books written forty and fifty years after the events described: A Time of Gifts (1977) and Between the Woods and the Water (1986). The final volume, endlessly, pestiferously, inquired about, was said to be inching forwards. Both my editor and I made approaches to the publicity department; both received vague promises of representation. In the end, both were urged to think about volume 3, like everybody else.

I decided to take the direct route. But how to find him? I tried some acquaintances who might know his address. None did. Someone suggested Elizabeth Chatwin, widow of Bruce, Continue reading

Dashing for the Post

dashing for postJohn Murray continues to offer us new insights into Paddy’s life and times. They will publish a collection of letters penned by Paddy on 6 October 2016.

The collection entitled Dashing for the Post was announced on 11th February on what would have been Leigh Fermor’s 101st birthday.

John Murray says the letters will exhibit many of his “endearing characteristics”, including “his zest for life, his unending curiosity, his keen sense of place, his lyrical descriptive powers, his love of words, his fluency in a remarkable range of languages, his boyish exuberance, and his sense of fun”.

Many of the letters are written to friends and family, but the collection also includes correspondence with Ian Fleming, Nancy Mitford, Lawrence Durrell, Diana Cooper and Deborah Devonshire.

Exclusive material will be taken from the National Library of Scotland, as well as letters drawn from private collections in the UK and abroad.

Adam Sisman, the book’s editor, is an honorary fellow of the University of St Andrews and a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

Dashing for the Post will be published in hardback and e-book on 6th October 2016. John Murray publisher Roland Philipps bought world rights from the Leigh Fermor estate.

Philipps said: “Paddy Leigh Fermor was one of the greatest prose stylists of the twentieth century. His letters have his hallmark high spirits, marvellous humour, magpie-like mind for the telling fact, erudition, linguistic mastery and sheer brilliance. Eight years ago In Tearing Haste (John Murray) Paddy’s letters to and from the Duchess of Devonshire, was a major bestseller. Dashing for the Post has his full range of correspondents, and is even more of a joy than that first book.”

You can pre-order Dashing for the Post: The Letters of Patrick Leigh Fermor by clicking here.

Painting the John Murray archive

Buchannan PaddyIn January’s report on the presentation by David McClay, the curator of the John Murray archive at the National Library of Scotland, I mentioned an exhibition of watercolours by Hugh Buchannan which is now moving to the John Martin Gallery in Albemarle Street from 18 September.

Buchannan’s paintings include details from a wide range of author material included within the archive from Byron, Austin, Sir Walter Scott, Irving and of course Paddy’s legacy.

The exhibition runs from 18 September to 10 October 2015 at the John Martin Gallery, 38 Albemarle St, London, W1S 4JG. Further details here.

You can download the catalogue as a pdf here.

Audible

A new book by Patrick Leigh Fermor- Abducting a General – to be published in October

'Billy' Moss and Paddy Leigh Fermor

‘Billy’ Moss and Paddy Leigh Fermor

I have just learned that we can look forward to a new book by Paddy relating the events of the Kreipe kidnap. Based upon his own account called Abducting a General, the book is due to be published by John Murray in October 2014. A pity it misses the precise date of the 70th anniversary, but welcome nonetheless.

We will be blessed with a lot of new material about the abduction and its key players this year. We have already had the new book by Wes Davis, The Ariadne Objective, which contains a lot of new material after painstaking research, and ‘Billy’ Moss’ account of his time in SOE after the exploits on Crete, A War of Shadows, is also due for republication in April.

The John Murray website tells us this:

A daring behind-enemy-lines mission from the author of A Time of Gifts and The Broken Road.

One of the greatest feats in Patrick Leigh Fermor’s remarkable life was the kidnapping of General Kreipe, the German commander in Crete, on 26 April 1944. He and Captain Billy Moss hatched a daring plan to abduct the general, while ensuring that no reprisals were taken against the Cretan population. Dressed as German military police, they stopped and took control of Kreipe’s car, drove through twenty-two German checkpoints, then succeeded in hiding from the German army before finally being picked up on a beach in the south of the island and transported to safety in Egypt on 14 May.

Abducting a General is Leigh Fermor’s own account of the kidnap, published for the first time. Written in his inimitable prose, and introduced by acclaimed SOE historian Professor Roderick Bailey, it is a glorious first-hand account of one of the great adventures of the Second World War. Also included in this book are Leigh Fermor’s intelligence reports, sent from caves deep within Crete yet still retaining his remarkable prose skills, which bring the immediacy of SOE operations vividly alive, as well as the peril which the SOE and Resistance were operating under; and a guide to the journey that Kreipe was taken on from the abandonment of his car to the embarkation site so that the modern visitor can relive this extraordinary event.

The publication date for Abducting a General is set for 9 October.

Preview copy of The Broken Road

The Broken Road book cover

The Broken Road book cover

Not only did I have a lovely meal last night with friends, and awoke to a beautiful English summer’s morning, but my preview copy of The Broken Road was delivered this morning. It looks as beautiful as you would expect and I was pleased to see that Colin Thubron is given “lead billing” as editor; Colin has sometimes been overlooked but this is very much a joint project with Artemis Cooper.

I am looking forward to reading it in my lunch break today!!

The book is available to pre-order from Amazon, just click here The Broken Road: From the Iron Gates to Mount Athos

More pictures from the launch of Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure

Some further pictures from the launch of the biography last week in Paddy’s old Club, The Travellers, in Pall Mall.

Read Patrick Leigh Fermor’s ‘magical’ tour here and listen to the Radio 4 Today programme recording.

 

 

Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure will also be the BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week from 19th November onwards.

You can buy Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure here.

Don’t forget to visit Artemis Cooper’s Facebook page for further information.

Worldwide availability of An Adventure by Artemis Cooper

A short update to follow-up the question asked by many of you unlucky enough not to be resident in this wet and sceptered isle; will An Adventure be published elsewhere other than in the UK in October?

The answer is yes, and certainly for the following countries. I am informed that it will appear in bookshops in Canada, Germany, France, Greece, New Zealand (especially for you Maggie), and of course Australia. In the US it will be published by the New York Review of Books.

One would imagine that copies may only be available in English at this stage. I will keep you all updated.

To pre-order or purchase your copy of An Adventure click here.

An Adventure

Artemis Cooper

Word has reached me that the biography of Paddy by Artemis Cooper is now completed and is going through the final editorial stages. The much anticipated book will be published by John Murray and is likely to hit the bookshops in October.

Artemis is Paddy’s literary executor and a good friend. Her father, the historian John Julius Norwich being a friend of Paddy’s for many years. She has had exclusive access to Paddy’s archive and will be able to fill in many of the gaps in his life story, including more details about the last stage of his 1934 journey through Bulgaria, Romania, and Thrace to Constantinople. We are all hopeful that her next project will be the completion of ‘Volume Three’, the book that Paddy was unable to complete despite attempts over many years.

I hope to bring you more news about the biography, which will be called ‘An Adventure’, in the coming months.

To pre-order or purchase your copy click here.

John Murray – “Patrick Leigh Fermor’s final volume will be published”

It is interesting that twice in one week we have a story about the publication of Vol 3. Is this the result of the commencement of the long, slow cranking up of the marketing machine, or one story leading to another as journalists follow each other’s tails in a quiet week for news? What we do now appear to know is that John Murray are now officially commenting so there is some real substance to the old rumours. Let’s not forget that we have Artemis Cooper’s biography to look forward to this time next year.

by Alison Flood

First published in guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 20 December 2011

Patrick Leigh Fermor’s final volume will be published Long-awaited conclusion to revered account of walk across Europe set to come out in 2013

Readers stranded on the edge of Bulgaria since 1986 by the travel writing great Patrick Leigh Fermor are set to be rewarded at last with the third and final volume chronicling the late author’s European odyssey.

Leigh Fermor, who died in June aged 96, was the author of what his biographer Artemis Cooper described as “two of the greatest travel books of the 20th century”, A Time of Gifts and Between the Woods and the Water. They trace his journey on foot from the Hook of Holland to Istanbul at the age of “18 and three-quarters”, how he travelled “south-east through the snow into Germany, then up the Rhine and eastwards down the Danube … in Hungary I borrowed a horse, then plunged into Transylvania; from Romania, on into Bulgaria”, with the second volume, published in 1986, ending as he was about to cross the Danube from Romania into Bulgaria.

Leigh Fermor always promised a final volume, announcing in 2007 that he had even bought a typewriter and was learning to type in order to complete it. “I’m going to finish that book,” he said. “I’m going home and I’m going to work really hard.”

His publisher John Murray has now announced that it will publish the final volume in 2013, drawing from Leigh Fermor’s diary at the time and an early draft of the book he wrote in the 1960s.

“His devoted readership have been stuck midstream, as it were, for over 20 years. A painstaking perfectionist, Leigh Fermor never did finish the final volume though he was working on it up to his death in June 2011,” said Cooper, whose biography of the author will be published in September 2012. “Based on the original diary he kept at the time and an early draft of the book written in the 1960s, this book takes up the story, and carries the reader to Constantinople and beyond.”

Roland Philipps, managing director of John Murray, called it “a treat to be back, immersed once again in this great pre-war walk across Europe”. It is “wonderful for his many admirers that this book will be published,” added Murray.

Final volume from Patrick Leigh Fermor

The latest snippet about Vol 3 from The Bookseller.

John Murray is to publish a posthumous book by travel writer Patrick Leigh Fermor, who died in June [Edit – the article says July – good research!!].

by Benedicte Page

First published in The Bookseller, 16 December 2011

The book will complete the story of the journey Leigh Fermor made on foot from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople at the age of 18, as told in his previous works A Time of Gifts and Between the Woods and the Water. The currently untitled volume will be published in September 2013.

Artemis Cooper, whose biography of Leigh Fermor will be published in September 2012, said: “By the end of the second volume, he was about to cross the Danube from Romania and plunge into Bulgaria; and his devoted readership have been stuck midstream, as it were, for over 20 years. A painstaking perfectionist, Leigh Fermor never did finish the final volume though he was working on it up to his death in June 2011.”

Based on the original diary he kept at the time and an early draft of the book written in the 1960s, this book takes up the story, and carries the reader to Constantinople and beyond.

John Murray m.d. Roland Philipps said: “I was told of the existence of a manuscript on the day that Sir Patrick died in June of this year, and read it shortly afterwards. It is a treat to be back, immersed once again in this great pre-War walk across Europe and wonderful for his many admirers that this book will be published.”

The publisher describes Leigh Fermor as “one of the outstanding prose stylists of modern time”.

The grandest family in publishing

Jock Murray in 1983 (Mercer photography)

A review of a book about Paddy’s publishing house – John Murray. They have quite a line-up of authors, including Jane Austen, Byron, Darwin, Freya Stark and John Betjeman, as well as Paddy.

Jeremy Lewis reviews The Seven Lives of John Murray: the Story of a Publishing Dynasty, 1768-2002 by Humphrey Carpenter

First published in The Telegraph 5 July 2008.

When I started out in publishing 40 years ago, most of the famous firms were fiercely independent, and were housed in elegant if often dilapidated Georgian houses in Bloomsbury, Soho or Covent Garden.

Some, such as André Deutsch or Hamish Hamilton, were run by their founding fathers; others were still family firms, of which Collins was the most muscular, and John Murray the grandest and most upper class.

Murray was famed as the publisher of Byron, Darwin and, more recently, John Betjeman, Kenneth Clark, Osbert Lancaster and Patrick Leigh Fermor; and it had the inestimable advantage of being housed at 50 Albemarle Street, a treasure trove crammed with Byronic memorabilia, marble busts and gold-framed portraits of eminent authors.

Six years ago, the firm was swallowed up by a giant conglomerate and it now operates from a tower block on the Euston Road; Humphrey Carpenter’s history of the firm, completed by other hands after his death in 2005, is an evocation of a vanished age.

Like many of the best-known publishing houses, Murray has strong Scottish connections – reflected most recently in the decision to sell its archives to the National Library of Scotland.

A former Marine from Edinburgh, John McMurray bought a bookselling business in Fleet Street in 1768, dropped the “Mc” in response to an outbreak of Scottophobia, and inaugurated the dynasty that ended with John Murray VII.

As Carpenter observes, “Bookselling and publishing do not necessarily involve the intellect or the imagination; the story of the Murrays is not chiefly about the life of the mind.”

John Murray I’s adage that “if you are able to entertain the ladies your business is done” remains as pertinent as ever, and although Byron berated John Murray II for being “shuffling” and “time-serving”, the family manifested all those qualities traditionally associated with publishers, in that, as Carpenter says, they were both “cautious and adventurous”, and “conservative and innovative at the same time”.

John Murray II was a much more respectable figure than his rakish father. He moved west to Albemarle Street, published Jane Austen’s Emma, rejected a clergyman’s Observations on Diarrhoea, and is best remembered for his turbulent relations with Lord Byron.

He worried about publishing Byron’s more risqué verses, but more often than not the businessman prevailed, and “my sordid propensities got the better of me”.

After the poet’s death, Murray masterminded the burning of his memoirs: he hadn’t read them, but was worried that they might contain references to anal intercourse and incest with his half-sister. Carpenter suggests that putting a match to them enabled Murray to cross the great gulf that separated the tradesman from the gentleman.

Succeeding Murrays liked to think that the memoirs had somehow survived, peering into cupboards and under floorboards in the hope of finding them.

During the 19th century, Murray published On the Origin of Species and travel books by, among others, Isabella Bird and David Livingstone. Fiction received short shrift, but as the firm became ever more established, with royal and aristocratic memoirs looming large, Humphrey Carpenter’s eyes began to glaze over and he found himself writing imaginative accounts of life in Albemarle Street; these have been retained as appendices to a book that is lively enough in its own right and has no need for fictional embellishments.

The revival of the firm in the last century was thanks to the bow-tied, bustling “Jock” Murray, who persuaded his cautious seniors to take on the best-selling Story of San Michele, put up his own money (100 shares in Bovril) to secure the rights to publish Betjeman’s Continual Dew, nudged Freya Stark into print, spotted the potential in Parkinson’s Law, and modestly declared that his “main claim to fame is that I am the only publisher who has typeset in the nude”.

No mention is made of the great diarist James Lees-Milne: a contemporary of Jock at Eton and Magdalen who came to the firm late in his career, he regarded Albemarle Street as his spiritual home, and wrote entertainingly about it.

John Murray VII sold the firm partly because he felt it was increasingly difficult for independent firms to survive, and partly because he didn’t want his sons to have to take up the burden of the family firm.

The Daily Telegraph suggested at the time that “there are fears that its identity could disappear”, and the John Murray of today is less “carriage trade” than it was, and indistinguishable from any other firm of publishers.

Obituary: Jock Murray

Jock Murray in 1983 (Mercer photography)

by Patrick Leigh Fermor

First published in The Independent 24 July 1993

John Arnaud Robin Grey (Jock Murray), publisher: born 23 September 1908; MBE 1945, CBE 1975; Senior Director, John Murray 1968-93; married 1939 Diana James (two sons, two daughters); died London 22 July 1993.

JOCK MURRAY took such trouble about his authors, and in so many ways, and so unobtrusively, that perhaps they – or we , for I am one of them – were inclined to take it for granted, writes Patrick Leigh Fermor. But not quite: other publishers at home or abroad – not that I know much about them as I have only had one – would remind us now and then of our luck and our spoiled and privileged estate. This was because of Jock’s passionate interest in the work of his authors, his great kindness, and his gift for friendship. Nobody, in the Doctor Johnson sense, kept his friendships in a state of better repair.

It is hard to think of a more apt setting for him than No 50 Albemarle Street, with its beautiful rooms, and portraits and books and cases of mementoes, and its mixture of archaic style and informality, of activity and unhurried leisure. The traditions of Byron’s friendship with Jock Murray’s ancestor played a great part in the life of No 50, and the poet’s spirit seems to pervade those rooms. Looking through typescript, then galleys then page proofs there with Jock was a great delight. Especially when they were tossed aside to make room for tea or sherry or whisky and soda, and Osbert Lancaster on the way back from drawing his daily caricature would wander in full of marvellous gossip; or Kenneth Clark with an armful of illustrations or John Betjeman with news of a new Early English discovery in some remote Fenland parish – could they talk about it with John Piper? (Betjeman and Jock shared an expert knowledge of campanology.)

Cannon Lodge, halfway between Hampstead Heath and a slender steeple, with its Keats’-eye view of all London, had a similar uncontemporary charm. At the end of a day of last- minute corrections, under one of the tall trees, or by a blazing fire, any of the above might come to dinner, or Freya Strak fresh from Asia Minor, Ruth Jhabvala from Rajasthan or Dervla Murphy from the Andes and, very often, Jock and Diana’s favourite neighbour, Peggy Ashcroft.

Jock and Diana came several times to Greece and it was a great surprise to discover that Jock was an accomplished tree surgeon: one glance at an ailing growth would send him shinning up into the branches and putting things most knowledgeably to right with saw, twine, bast and tar.

Five weeks ago we were talking about the ravages of time that we noticed in ourselves and he said, halfway between a sigh and a laugh, ‘Yes. Old age is not for sissies.’ He confronted his own with great Stoicism, and leaves us all diminished.

I say, old chap, that’s my favourite Horatian ode too! By Justin Cartwright

A review of Words of Mercury by Patrick Leigh Fermor, ed Artemis Cooper first published in the Independent

Sunday, 2 November 2003

The overwhelming impression this book left on me was of a lost world of aesthetic public schoolboys, powerful newspaper editors, friendly ambassadors, and an unspoken understanding of what it meant to be upper- middle-class and English. What it meant was easy access to embassies and aristocratic houses around Europe, bicycle polo in Hungary, and the possibility that the next shepherd you met would be an Etonian Special Operations officer, speaking classical Greek. Here you will find the term “middle class” applied in a pejorative sense, rather than in the current usage which has such a wide catchment. That John Murray, the publishers of this book and upper-middle-class publishers par excellence, are no longer family-owned, perhaps confirms that this world has passed. And with it a love of language and literary decoration.

To quote Jan Morris, Paddy Leigh Fermor is beyond doubt the greatest of living travel writers, although the term “travel writing” barely does justice to the beauty, the lustrousness and sensuality of his writing. Take this, for example, speaking of how Greek temples once looked before they were stark ruins: “But the reality of the ruins, re-cohering in cobalt and blood-red, studded with metal, gaudy with idols, shiny with spilt honey and blood and reeking with sacrificial smoke, will have replaced the tinted ivory artefacts that had stolen their place and the void between the cutting of the flutes on the columns and the laying of the tramlines begins to fill up with people and events.”

There are about 40 short pieces divided into headings: Travels, Greece, People, Books and Flotsam. Many of these pieces are from Leigh Fermor’s great books, Mani, Roumeli and A Time of Gifts. (In 55 years he has only written eight books.) Others are from scattered newspaper pieces and obituaries. All the major phases of his life are represented here: the wandering schoolboy heading for Istanbul, the two years just before the war he spent in Romania with a doomed aristocratic family after meeting the daughter of the family in Athens (the woman Artemis Cooper describes as the love of his life), the extraordinary exploits in war-time Special Operations in Crete, where he captured the German General, Heinrich Kreipe, and his post-war exploration of Greece, particularly Mani where he has lived for 40 years in a house he built with his wife Joan, who died recently. Their story will be told by Artemis Cooper in a biography to be published after his death.

Read more!