Sir Hugh Walpole (1884-1941)
From Literary Anecdotes About 20th Century Authors

ONE day at the beginning of October 1918 Walpole arrived at the office `to find that Bennett wants me to do the report on the work of the Ministry for the War Cabinet. A particularly hair-raising job and one for which I feel quite unfitted.' But he did it, and a week later dispatched it to Bennett with a letter:

This has been a beastly job — the worst I've ever attempted. When I began I hoped to make it an individual personal affair as you had suggested. But when I looked at the other chapters in the Blue Book I saw that such a method would be at once ruled out by the War Cabinet. . . Were one writing a complete Blue Book, all by its little self, about the Ministry, one could, I think, make it both poetic and entertaining. Such an account however in this case would look like Titania sleeping with numberless Bottoms.

Rupert Hart-Davis, Hugh Walpole: A Biography (1952), p. 176.

I CAN'T remember if I ever told you about meeting Hugh Walpole when I was at Oxford getting my D.Litt. I was staying with the Vice-Chancellor at Magdalen and he blew in and spent the day. It was just after Hilaire Belloc had said that I was the best living English writer. It was just a gag, of course, but it worried Hugh terribly. He said to me, `Did you see what Belloc said about you?' I said I had. — `I wonder why he said that.' `I wonder,' I said. Long silence. `I can't imagine why he said that,' said Hugh. I said I couldn't, either. Another long silence. `It seems such an extraordinary thing to say!'—'Most extraordinary.' Long silence again. `Ah,well,' said Hugh, having apparently found the solution, `the old man's getting very old.'

P. G. Wodehouse, Performing Flea. A Self-Portrait in Letters, ed. W. Townend (Copyright 1953), p. 128.

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