In the autumn of 1991, I started working for the Royal Society of Literature, one of the strangest and most beguiling organizations in London. Nobody, not even Roy Jenkins, its President, seemed to have much idea of the RSL’s purpose, and so in the evenings, after work, I took to exploring the archives. They lived in a small room over the front door of the Society’s home, 1 Hyde Park Gardens, stuffed into lever arch files whose spines read like a register of literary ghosts: Barrie, Beckett, Beerbohm, Blunden, Brooke . . .