The editor of the diaries allows many howlers to remain in the text and adds some of his own in footnotes. Here we read that the Queen Mother’s father was the Duke of York. We find King George V present at the Battle of Jutland. Magdalen College, Oxford acquires a Cambridgey “e” at the end of its name. Anthony Eden finds himself without a Chancellor of the Exchequer to appoint him to the Chiltern Hundreds – Lord Chancellor is meant. Beatrice Webb is described as having servants in slavery, but surely “livery” is meant: a hypocrite she may have been, but not on such a gruesome scale as that. John Grigg’s grandmother, not his mother-in-law, was Lady Islington. These details are all trivial, no doubt, but they were precisely the sort of trivia that were Kenneth Rose’s daily bread.
Kenneth Rose’s diaries do not make history and do not set out to do so. There are no significant revelations which will change the way we look at events or radically alter our judgments of important public figures. But they do illuminate history and give it life. If one cannot be there oneself then Rose provides as good an apparatus for eaves-dropping as can well be conceived. He deserves our gratitude.
These journals kept by the royal biographer and journalist Kenneth Rose — who liked nothing so much as to dine in a London club with someone in the know about the world of high politics or royalty — make highly amusing and enlightening reading... The journal entries are never more than a short paragraph long: ideal bedtime reading for anyone who relishes the unguarded utterances of the rich and well-connected.
As a history of the Establishment in the second half of the 20th century, these journals will become indispensable and definitive. They are the equivalent for that period of the journals of Harold Nicolson and Chips Channon for the first half, combining sharp observation and anecdote with political and social insights. They are also extremely entertaining. Rose was right to think that they were his most important and lasting contribution. D R Thorpe has done a great job of editing them. He has a light touch.
One of Winston Churchill’s intimates observed contemptuously after the publication of the diaries of his personal physician, Lord Moran, that the Greatest Englishman’s doctor never attended any wartime encounter of significance, but was sometimes invited to dinner afterwards. It might be said of royal biographer and journalist Kenneth Rose that, while he aspired to become his generation’s Pepys, his journals come closer to the work of Charles Pooter, had he been a habitué of the Beefsteak club...More than a few grand people — the Duke of Kent, Harold Macmillan, Princess Margaret, exalted churchmen and many clever gays — found Rose a serviceable companion, but there is little evidence here that their society yielded memorable insights either into their lives, or his own.
Some people just have more talent for writing paragraphs than books.
What lovely paragraphs they are, though. Dip into the book at random and you often pull out a plum, seldom earth-shattering, but nonetheless fun, the essential for a diary story. He notes, for instance, that Noël Coward, whenever he wanted to go to the lavatory at a social gathering, would tell guests, “I must telephone the Vatican”; while lunch with Ralph Richardson brings the advice that raw mutton is the best material to use for removing stage make-up.