I first read the book when I was 16; later, Gaunt became a recurring figure in my life, cropping up unexpectedly like one of the incidental characters in Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time. It was Mr Sweatman, my art master, who first gave it me to read and it had me utterly enthralled. Mr Sweatman was meant to be conducting the art class, but he was obsessed by a school society called the Marionette Circle. He gave most of his attention to the few boys, members of the Circle, who arrived in class with tiny gibbeted figures dangling from their hands. He and they would disappear behind a lime-green screen, where the marionettes were made to perform their antics and danses macabres. Occasionally Mr Sweatman would emerge from behind the screen to bellow ‘Noisy!’ or ‘Guy Fawkes Night’ (a subject for us to paint). He was equally happy for the non-marionetteers to study art history; and with Gaunt’s book he found a perfect way of keeping me occupied.