In the spirit of Plato’s Symposium, the Slightly Foxed team enter into lively dialogue with Tom Hodgkinson of the Idler and Harry Mount of the Oldie, and learn lessons from notable loafers in literature. We begin with Doctor Johnson, an icon of indolence who wrote an essay called ‘The Idler’ and liked time to ponder; this lazy lexicographer claimed his dictionary would take three years to write when in fact it would take nine . . .
We enjoy a leisurely spell with loungers in fiction, visiting Lady Bertram and her pug in Mansfield Park, taking to Lady Diana Cooper’s bed in A Handful of Dust, retreating to Aunt Ada Doom’s room in Cold Comfort Farm, settling into the quiet comfort of Mycroft Holmes’s Diogenes Club and meeting Thomas Love Peacock’s Honourable Mr Listless along the way. And, to finish, there are the usual wide-ranging reading recommendations for when you have an idle moment.
Booze as muse or a sure road to ruin? In this month’s episode, William Palmer – author of In Love with Hell: Drink in the Lives and Work of Eleven Writers – and Henry Jeffreys – author of Empire of Booze and The Cocktail Dictionary – join the Slightly Foxed team to mull over why alcohol is such an enduring feature in literature.
From the omnipresence of cocktails in John Cheever’s short stories and ritual aperitifs in Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley novels to Mr Picksniff falling into Mrs Todger’s fireplace in Martin Chuzzlewit and P. G. Wodehouse’s hangover remedies for booze-soaked Bertie Wooster, drinks are social signifiers in fiction. Charles Dickens was fond of sherry cobblers and Jean Rhys knocked back Pernod in Paris, while Malcolm Lowry was a dipsomaniac and Flann O’Brien dreamed up alcoholic ink for the Irish Times, rendering readers drunk from fumes. We ask why gin denotes despair and port is always jovial, and question whether hitting the bottle helps or hinders the creative process in writers.
Between early 1945 and autumn 1947, Charles Phillipson, an illustrator in the publicity department of an electrical company, wrote 150 letters to his young son, Michael – amusing drawings of daily life accompanied by a few cheerful words . . . they have been gathered into an exquisite book, Letters to Michael, published by Slightly Foxed.
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