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.