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Here lies Lord Berners/One of life’s learners,
Thanks be to the Lord/He was never bored.
So reads the epitaph on the gravestone of Lord Berners. In its witty way, it hints at his range of accomplishment. He was a composer (admired by Stravinsky), writer, painter, aesthete and eccentric, indeed in Mark Amory’s words ‘The Last Eccentric’, famously dyeing the pigeons at his house, Faringdon, in vibrant colours, and, for a time, having a giraffe as a pet and tea companion. His literary and artistic milieu was glittering: Stravinsky, Picasso, Salvador Dali, Siegfried Sassoon, John Betjeman, the Sitwells, Harold Nicolson, Frederick Ashton and Gertrude Stein – they all belonged to it.
In fiction, he was famously portrayed as Lord Merlin in Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love.
‘As social history and a chronicle of a mad-cap English eccentric this long awaited, much needed and beautifully written book is, to use a simple cliché, indispensable.’ Alexander Waugh, Literary Review
‘In Amory, this engaging character has found the ideal biographer. Getting the exact measure of its subject throughout, written in a dry, wittily ironic prose … the biography offers of sheer bliss.’ Gilbert Adair, Sunday Times
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