In 1992, I told Celwyn of my Latvian forebears and wish to visit the Baltic. He said he knew the area well, volunteered to join me, and made arrangements for a tour. Generously he showed me places I never expected to see. I remember our strolling Bralu Kapi, Latvia’s Arlington, where heroes lie. There I heard Celwyn musing, from his own experience, about what they must have gone through. A veteran had told us of digging ditches in the flat country, against oncoming Russian tanks, in 1945 as the Red Army rolled west.…
Darling Monster: The Letters of Lady Diana Cooper to her Son John Julius Norwich 1939-1952, Chatto & Windus, 2013, 520pp.
Lady Diana Duff Cooper, “the most beautiful woman in England,” had a penetrating mind and brilliant pen, capable as few others of capturing a time, earlier in this century, when women considered the world laden with opportunity for fulfillment. She proved this with her famous seven-year performance in Max Reinhardt’s “The Miracle,” her able collaboration with her husband’s ambassadorship to France, her notable trilogy of memoirs.
St. Paul’s Cathedral, 30 January 1965….
For me it was a life-changing experience. Suddenly, unforgettably, on my flickering black and white TV screen in Staten Island, N.Y., the huge void of England’s grandest cathedral filled with The Battle Hymn of the Republic. He was, we were reminded, half-American, an honorary citizen by Act of Congress.
That day was the start of my 50-year career in search of Churchill—of what his greatest biographer, Sir Martin Gilbert, describes as “labouring in the vineyard.”
After the funeral I picked up The Gathering Storm, the first volume of his World War II memoirs, and was snared by what Robert Pilpel called his “roast beef and pewter phrases.” It’s biased, as Churchill admitted—“This is not history; this is my case.” But it is ordered so as to put you at his side for the “great climacterics” that made us what we are today.…