What are you reading?

Beverley Nichols, photographed by Godfrey Argent, in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery

I’ll go first. Books are my joyful distraction from troubled times, they can be other things too, but right now I’m in a it has to be beautiful or funny phase of reading. The gentleman pictured above is Beverley Nichols (1898-1983). He’s the author of several of my favorite escapes into other times and other places. He served in WW1, went to Oxford, wrote prolifically, wittily, and specifically (for the sake of this post) a series on his home renovations and garden designs.

Here’s the “funny” from Laughter on the Stairs (1953), on furnishing his new home, Merry Hall:

“My dear Beverly, it is all junk. And you know it.”

“Perhaps I do, Bob. But…”

Never buy junk. It never pays.”

“I’m sure it doesn’t, Bob. But…”

“There are no ‘buts’ about it. Look at those absurd chairs!” He pointed at the six cane chairs which, apart from the piano, formed almost the sole furniture of the music-room. “How much did you pay for them?”

“I think they were about eight pounds each.”

“Eight pounds each!” He addressed this remark, in outraged accents, to the ceiling. “Eight pounds! I really despair of you, my dear Beverley. Do you realize that you have paid nearly fifty pounds for those chairs?”

“In actual fact, I haven’t paid for them at all, as yet.”

He ignored this quibble. “Nearly fifty pounds. And if you wanted to sell them again…”

“I have no desire to sell them again…”

“…You would get, at the most, twenty pounds!”

He paused and glared at me, in order to allow the full horror of this information to sink in.

“Now if you had bought one chair, or some delicious objet, like that ormulu pineapple I brought back from Copenhagen…”

“But Bob…”

“Have you seen my ormulu pineapple?”

I had indeed seen it, and very elegant it looked, especially since he had placed it on a Louis XV buhl table for which he had paid eight hundred pounds. But, as I should have liked to explain, one could not sit on ormulu pineapples, unless one was a person of the most eccentric tastes.”

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