TLS Review: Channon
Chris Mullin’s rather snide review (October 7) of the third volume of Henry “Chips” Channon’s diaries does not do them justice. The problem is a mistake about genre, as is evident from Mullin’s preference for diarists such as John Colville and Lord Alanbrooke. Channon’s intention was to record the life that he lived, which happened to include life as an MP, but also much else. The others were political chroniclers with a notice, here and there, of, say, fox-hunting. A better comparison is to the diaries of Harold Nicolson, which, interesting as they are, fail to match the sense of a complete life that Channon’s give us. That Mullin seems to disapprove of that life is his privilege, but it does limit his appreciation of Channon’s account of “the loves, the society, the intelligence, the diplomacy, the literature and the art of the Heartbreak House of capitalist culture”, as Edmund Wilson wrote about Proust’s A la recherche (which was also a touchstone for Channon).
The subtitle of Mullin’s review refers to the diaries as “unexpurgated”. This is not quite true. There are ellipses on nearly every page, many of which apparently conceal details of Channon’s sexual activities. This is one of the few points of Simon Heffer’s heroic editing with which I would quibble.
Briarcliff Manor, New York