The Last Tuesday Society
Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 20th August, 2007
In London, life is moving East, my friends. First it was the artists who decamped to Hoxton and Shoreditch. And now the literary crew has followed. Last night I attended a Hendrick’s salon (generously sponsored by the eponymous gin-makers) at Bistrotheque in Bethnal Green, one of the ‘happening’ new venues in the capital. Lest anyone get the wrong impression, these evenings are much more than just cocktails and high tea (with strawberry scones and fairy cakes); there is serious content. I attended a number of these events in their previous incarnations at the Café Royal in Regent Street, and 43 South Molton Street, Mayfair, before the Society’s Chancellor, Viktor Wynd (himself a Hackney resident) gently drew the activity eastwards with his magnetic force.
The Last Tuesday Society was founded by Henry James in the 1870s at Harvard (the contemporary progenitor of Facebook, inter alia). As that master author (but less successful dramatist) declared, ‘an achievement in art or in letters grows more interesting when we begin to percive its connections; and indeed it may be said that the study of connections is the recognised function of intelligent crticism.’ Well, in those pre-sound-bite days, even genuises tended to be prolix…
The Society has put on several memorable events, with speakers such as Lord Gawain Douglas on his ancestor ‘Bosie’, Hugo Vickers on Cecil Beaton, and Philip Hoare on the Pemberton Billing Trial and the Cult of the Clitoris. And last night’s extravanganza was no exception, featuring a tour de force by Selina Hastings, biographer of both Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh, appropriately speaking on the friendship between the two — both humorous and poignant. The place was packed, with a predominantly young crowd (some very picturesquely attired). Which only goes to show that those who say that we have turned into a country of philistines (especially the young) are talking tommy-rot. Never have literary festivals in Britain been so numerous or so popular. Or organisations such as The Last Tuesday Society in such demand.