James Lees-Milne (1908--97) has been hailed as the greatest English diarist of the twentieth century. Funny, indiscreet, candid, touching and sharply observed, his journals both reveal a fascinating personality and hold up a mirror to the times. This second compilation from the original twelve volumes (also incorporating interesting new material), covers his life during his sixties and early seventies, when he was living in Gloucestershire with his formidable wife Alvilde. Having made his name as the country house expert of the National Trust and a writer on architecture, he sought to establish himself as a novelist and biographer. With some misgivings he published his wartime diaries, little imagining that it was as a diarist that he would achieve lasting fame. These diaries vividly portray the vicissitudes of a writer's lot, the merry-go-round of life on the Badminton estate of the eccentric Duke of Beaufort, and meetings with many friends including John Betjeman, Bruce Chatwin and the Mitford sisters.But perhaps they are most remarkable for the poignancy with which they depict the writer's own feelings of joy, regret, frustration, amusement and love -- including a tendresse for the editor of this volume.
Michael Bloch read law at St John's College, Cambridge, and was called to the bar by the Inner Temple. Appointed James Lees-Milne's literary executor in 1997, he edited the final five volumes of the complete diary and is currently writing his biography.