‘One of the best 20th-century English diarists’ A. N. Wilson, The Times
James Lees-Milne, writer and architectural historian, is probably best remembered for his mischievously perceptive diaries, which chronicled the doings of upper-class English society from the Second World War onwards in twelve addictive volumes. Another Self, his fanciful, funny, yet poignant account of his early years, has the same gripping quality.
A deeply religious child, Jim spent much of his childhood wandering dreamily in the grounds of his parents’ medieval manor house, Wickhamford Manor in Worcestershire. It gave him a nostalgia for the past and a love of historic buildings which would lead to his later distinguished career with the National Trust. His father, however, had no time whatsoever for such arty attitudes. He determined that, after leaving Eton in 1926, Jim should ‘stand on his own feet’ and accordingly enrolled him in Miss Blakeney’s Stenography School for Young Ladies in Chelsea where, as the only male student, he spent a lonely year learning shorthand and typing.
Thanks to his mother he escaped to Oxford (a disappointment) and thence to London, where he had another searing experience as assistant to Sir Roderick Jones, the boorish and dyspeptic chairman of Reuters. Droll, shy and sexually ambivalent, James Lees-Milne wrote that he ‘always felt an outsider in every circle’. It was this, combined with his eye for detail and highly developed sense of the ridiculous, that made him such a wonderful comic writer. John Betjeman compared the impact of Another Self to that of Evelyn Waugh’s Decline and Fall.
‘Another Self offers an absorbing image of England in the early decades of this century, often splendidly funny and occasionally deeply moving.’ Irish Times
‘Any admirer of the diaries should also seek out Another Self, Lees-Milne’s hilarious, half-truthful, half-fantastic memoir of his childhood and youth.’ Barnes & Noble Review
There are three good reasons for taking take Jim [James] Lees-Milne to one’s heart. First there’s his work for the fledgling National Trust. When he joined it before the War, the Trust employed...Read more
Another Self | Chapter I: Tobias and the Angel
My world was the only real world. Nothing about it seemed incongruous; and those events which happened in it were never inconsequential. Its relation with the great outside world was tenuous. By...Read more
From National Trust . . .
Not everyone has dinner with Winston Churchill and watches him re-enact the Battle of Jutland with wine glasses and decanters, puffing cigar smoke to represent the guns; or gets into a spitting match...Read more
. . . to National Treasure
When Ancestral Voices was first to be published in 1975, Chatto & Windus knew that it was ‘Heywood Hill’s sort of book’. I asked for the earliest possible proof copy and signed up a large...Read more