Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Archive for July 11th, 2013

The Biographers’ Club

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 11th July, 2013

Clementi house KensingtonWriters are like meerkats; we live in holes to escape the heat of the world outside and to get on with our work, emerging occasionally to sniff at the big outdoors, standing on our hindlegs to savour what we find, before scurrying back to the security of our burrows and our research. So it is a good thing that The Biographers’ Club (originally founded by my literary agent, Andrew Lownie) exists, to provide a forum for intellectual and social contact amongst those of us who spend an unhealthy amount of our time in libraries and archives or at our computers. I suspect I am not alone in having a study at home, surrounded by books, with my desk facing the window but with curtains closely drawn, day and night. That way I can carry on, hour after hour, without distraction. Anyway, every summer The Biographers’ Club holds an annual summer party, which this year was in the stupendous house and garden of one of my publishers (and author himself), Tom Stacey. Once the residence of the musician Clementi — as well as playing host to Mendelssohn — the house is a Kensington treasure, not least because of its large secret garden, in which are displayed Tom’s wife’s sculptures. But this evening, with a jazz band playing boisterously in the main sitting room, where I have had many an editorial meeting over a couple of my previous books, the house was thrown open to a motley crew, including Sarah Bradford (whom I worked with on a book on the Sitwells years ago), the art historian Frances Spalding and my fellow patron of the Oscar Wilde Society, Neil McKenna, whose very racy book on the Victorian transvestites, Fanny and Stella, I am currently hugely enjoying. Such occasions are not just for catching up on who is doing what — and who has died — but more importantly to give us the stamina to go back to our holes and carry on.

[water colour of the house, by Gertrude Keeling]


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