Friday, 20 October 2006

Friends adding value

James Agate (1877–1947), francophile, hedonist and immensely prolific writer, wrote a weekly column of drama criticism for the Manchester Guardian before the First World War, and was theatre critic for the Sunday Times for 24 years from 1923. In 1945 Lord Kemsley, the proprietor, threatened to replace him with a ‘married man’ when he learned, belatedly, of Agate’s homosexuality.

He published, over twelve years from 1935, nine volumes of his diaries under the title Ego; they record chiefly the books, plays, personalities, club talk, and bohemian life of the time. I shared almost none of his passions, which included cricket, show hackneys, Wagner and boxing, but he wrote with scholarship and wit and I devoured all nine volumes of Ego and many collections of his reviews while I was in my teens. I still find them immensely readable.

After the diaries started to become famous he could fill pages of the later volumes simply by reproducing letters which he had received from friends; one reader told him: “I love your diaries: everything people write in them is so good”.

I have often wished I could do the same; so much less effort. But I do not have Agate’s huge circle of witty and erudite friends with fascinating lives who share their entertaining thoughts with me so that I can quote them at length.

However, I do have a few such friends. One is Grumio, the Sage of Soho, and another is George Corrigan, an Englishman now living in San Francisco, formerly involved in something called Logistics and Risk Management consultancy and now very happily working the West Coast clubs and pubs as a stand-up comic. A couple of years ago I wrote a short and not very interesting* post about the famous musical family Goossens, the last member of which had just died; George moved it down a notch and up a level by adding, in a comment, a wild flight of fancy.

[* Though it did contain a link to an MP3 file with a jolly little bit of Scarlatti which would lighten anyone's day.]

No comments: