When I was 7, I was given The Tree that Sat Down and The Stream that Stood Still, published as companion volumes in an abridged edition and written by Beverley Nichols. Apart from a strange dedication on the flyleaf, there were no clues about the author, no dust-jacket with photograph and potted biography. As a result, for years I assumed that Beverley Nichols, like Evelyn Waugh, was a lady novelist, having seen their names beside those of Marie Corelli, Mary Webb, Clemence Dane and Lady Fortescue on the bookshelves of my grandmother and her contemporaries. This entirely plausible belief lasted until A levels, when Evelyn’s true identity was unmasked in a set text. Beverley too, I now knew, was also male and the author of archly titled books on houses and gardens. But that was all.