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Wake up. Foul mood. Detest myself

Ysenda Maxtone Graham: ‘Lost Girls’, 19 December 2019

Lost Girls: Love, War and Literature, 1939-51 
by D.J. Taylor.
Constable, 388 pp., £25, September 2019, 978 1 4721 2686 3
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... his affair with Lys (while still married to Jean and while Lys was still married to Ian)? Was Barbara Skelton having an affair with the Polish war artist Feliks Topolski when Peter Quennell came onto the scene, still married to his third wife, Glur, but making Topolski so jealous that the men resorted to fisticuffs over ...

Seriously ugly

Gabriele Annan, 11 January 1990

Weep no more 
by Barbara Skelton.
Hamish Hamilton, 166 pp., £14.95, November 1989, 0 241 12200 7
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... This, say Barbara Skelton’s publishers, is the ‘second – and some people will be relieved to hear, final – volume of her riotous autobiography’. On page one of volume one there is a quotation from Harriette Wilson about the meaning of the term ‘gentleman’ – a subject not really very close to Skelton’s heart ...

Quarrelling

Mary-Kay Wilmers, 29 October 1987

Tears before Bedtime 
by Barbara Skelton.
Hamish Hamilton, 205 pp., £12.95, September 1987, 0 241 12326 7
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In the Pink 
by Caroline Blackwood.
Bloomsbury, 164 pp., £11.95, October 1987, 0 7475 0050 9
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... You must explain to me why Cyril wants Barbara,’ Evelyn Waugh wrote to Ann Fleming in September 1955, a year after Barbara Skelton’s marriage to Cyril Connolly had formally ended. ‘It’s not as though she were rich or a good housekeeper or the mother of his children ...

When the Mediterranean Was Blue

John Bayley, 23 March 1995

Cyril Connolly: A Nostalgic Life 
by Clive Fisher.
Macmillan, 304 pp., £20, March 1995, 0 333 57813 9
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... and worth six of Quennell.’ It was Peter Quennell who had christened Connolly’s next wife, Barbara Skelton, ‘Baby’, although as Clive Fisher not inaptly puts it, ‘it was hard to imagine she had ever been pink and predictable and defenceless.’ No doubt the Furies were christened ‘the Kindly Ones’ in the same spirit. Her activities ...
Friends of Promise: Cyril Connolly and the World of ‘Horizon’ 
by Michael Shelden.
Hamish Hamilton, 254 pp., £15.95, February 1989, 0 241 12647 9
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Coastwise Lights 
by Alan Ross.
Collins Harvill, 254 pp., £12.95, June 1988, 0 00 271767 0
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William Plomer 
by Peter Alexander.
Oxford, 397 pp., £25, March 1989, 0 19 212243 6
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... it would attract few readers today, the book had something genuinely winning and intime about it. Barbara Pym’s journal records her love of it, as of the books of Denton Welch, another colourful figure from Horizon and the Connolly epoch. That common Mauritanian lobster, apparent survivor from the days of Gérard de Nerval and the dandies of Paris, touched ...

‘Derek, please, not so fast’

Ferdinand Mount: Derek Jackson, 7 February 2008

As I Was Going to St Ives: A Life of Derek Jackson 
by Simon Courtauld.
Michael Russell, 192 pp., £17.50, October 2007, 978 0 85955 311 7
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... Then he made a pass at Eyre. He took on tougher opposition with Number Six, the ferocious minx Barbara Skelton, part-original of the lethal Pamela Flitton in A Dance to the Music of Time. She had already scored with a whole bestiary of sacred monsters. Jackson would boast that ‘after King Farouk, Cyril Connolly and George Weidenfeld, I was the ...

Entitlement

Jenny Diski: Caroline Blackwood, 18 October 2001

Dangerous Muse: A Life of Caroline Blackwood 
by Nancy Schoenberger.
Weidenfeld, 336 pp., £20, June 2001, 0 297 84101 7
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... world and the people in it, and it is surely from that place in her that she writes. According to Barbara Skelton, ‘on hearing of someone’s ghastly misfortune,’ Blackwood ‘would double up laughing’. She maintains the coldest eye she can manage, shying away from sentimentality as if it were death itself. Death, indeed, seems to be ...

D&O

John Lanchester, 5 June 1997

Journals 1990-92 
by Anthony Powell.
Heinemann, 238 pp., £20, May 1997, 0 434 00430 8
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... he goes by the nickname The Papal Bun). There is also a hint, or at least a non-denial, that Barbara Skelton was the model for Pamela Widmerpool, the unforgettably nasty, semi-necrophile nymphomaniac who is one of the sequence’s great triumphs. These might not sound like high-level insights, and perhaps they aren’t: it would be silly to pretend ...

Kitty still pines for his dearest Dub

Andrew O’Hagan: Gossip, 6 February 2014

Becoming a Londoner: A Diary 
by David Plante.
Bloomsbury, 534 pp., £20, September 2013, 978 1 4088 3975 1
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The Animals: Love Letters between Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy 
edited by Katherine Bucknell.
Chatto, 481 pp., £25, September 2013, 978 0 7011 8678 4
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... things were best said by not being said at all. Plante, however, is a throwback to the days of Barbara Skelton and the Comtesse de Boigne. In the years covered by his diary, he seems to have had an ear permanently cocked. Or was it his leg? Or was it his cock? Whichever, he was alert to the possibility that somebody close at hand might be about to ...

Raging towards Utopia

Neal Ascherson: Koestler, 22 April 2010

Koestler: The Indispensable Intellectual 
by Michael Scammell.
Faber, 689 pp., £25, February 2010, 978 0 571 13853 1
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... him, or at least never set about him, remains a mystery. Connolly, unaware that he was sharing Barbara Skelton with Koestler, wrote: Like everyone who talks of ethics all day long, one could not trust him half an hour with one’s wife, one’s best friend, one’s manuscripts or one’s wine merchant – he’d lose them all. He burns with ...

Poetry and Soda

Barbara Everett, 5 February 1981

The Penguin Book of Unrespectable Verse 
edited by Geoffrey Grigson.
Penguin, 335 pp., £1.75, November 1980, 0 14 042142 4
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The Penguin Book of Light Verse 
edited by Gavin Ewart.
Penguin, 639 pp., £9.50, October 1980, 0 14 042270 6
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... written by monks for monks. Similarly, to call medieval poems like ‘Adam lay y-bounden’ and Skelton’s ‘Merry Margaret’ light is to seem to suggest that this all-too-sophisticated, even decadent culture must be, because distant, something like quaint – that Merry Margaret lived in Merrie England. And if this is true of ...

Saint Shakespeare

Barbara Everett, 19 August 2010

... Torregiano was sculpting Henry VII for Westminster Abbey. But, though there were notable writers (Skelton, Wyatt, More, the great translators of the Bible like Tyndale), the country’s literary culture was relatively thin: it lacked character and cohesion. By the end of the 16th century, the picture had reversed. The great architectural and sculptural ...

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