Henry “Chips” Channon (1897–1958) spent his life inventing himself as an aristocrat. He made no bones about it. More than mere social climbing, this can only have been a personality disorder of a harmless kind. A genial character when all was said and done, he added to the gaiety of the British nation. Some of the world’s most revealing works of literature are first-person accounts of self-discovery, and this diary belongs on the same shelf.

The indispensable first step was to renounce the Chicago into which he was born in 1897; it was a “cauldron of horror.” Life in America, he shuddered, is “unmeaning and void.” Some 231 Americans had been killed at a 1936 Independence Day celebration, and this prompts him to the reflection “what a pity that there were not more.” If America were to triumph, he says in one sweeping statement,...


New to The New Criterion?

Subscribe for one year to receive ten print issues, and gain immediate access to our online archive spanning more than four decades of art and cultural criticism.

Popular Right Now