James Lees-Milne
Ceaseless Turmoil: Diaries 1988-1992,
edited by Michael Bloch.
John Murray, 339 pages, 25 pounds

In a low-keyed and immensely subtle way, James Lees-Milne was one of the most effective Englishmen of his time. In 1988, the year in which he turned eighty, he was still talked of as “the man from the National Trust.” Though no longer strictly exact, this was both a convenient and prestigious appellation. He had turned England’s National Trust into a nationwide talking point.

It had therefore been an exciting moment for me in 1942 when a still youthful fellow lodger of mine in a great London house announced himself to me as “Jim Lees-Milne.” No. 96 Cheyne Walk had belonged to Whistler, and it was said that Oscar Wilde’s son had had his wedding reception in the big room overlooking the Thames on the second...

 

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