FOCUS: A FEW DROPS OF POISON FROM THE DIARISTS OF THE CENTURY

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WITH VAL to see play Look Back in Anger by John Osborne, whom I once interviewed on television without being able to get anything out of him. Play quite execrable - woman ironing, man yelling and snivelling, highbrow smut, "daring" remarks (reading from a Sunday paper; Bishop of ... asks us all to rally round and make hydrogen bombs). Endured play up to point where hero and heroine pretended to be squirrels.

Malcolm Muggeridge, 16 March 1957

IT IS not only Whitehall that is so far away. Everything going on in the world seems remote and unimportant. We have no television, hear no wireless save the shipping forecasts. We get one newspaper, the Aberdeen Press and Journal, which is resolute in its parochialism, and most soothing as a result.

I have to talk to the office occasionally, although I try to do it as little as possible. Judith is telling me that the Westland row, which was smouldering when we broke up, is now ablaze.

People are saying Mr Heseltine is going to resign. I don't believe it. It's just the press stirring. Anyhow, no one resigns when the House is not sitting.

But Michael has always had this slightly scatty side. It is the only even half-endearing trait that he possesses. He is the man who pushed further out the definition of folie de grandeur than it has ever hitherto.

Anyway, so what? If he goes - good riddance.

Alan Clark, 29 December 1985

I FEEL caddish, even treacherous sometimes, keeping this diary from my wife, yet it is our only secret. She knows I keep it, but if she were to read it, and I knew she were, it would lose much of its spontaneity, and cease to be a record of my private thoughts. Once or twice in the past I have dictated a few harmless paragraphs to a secretary - and they have never been the same, becoming impersonal and discreet immediately. And what is more dull than a discreet diary? One might as well have a discreet soul.

"Chips" Channon, 26 July 1935

MARILYN MONROE committed suicide yesterday. The usual overdose. Poor silly creature. I am convinced that what brought her to that final foolish gesture was a steady diet of intellectual pretentiousness pumped into her over the years by Arthur Miller and "The Method". She was, to begin with, a fairly normal little sexpot with exploitable curves and a certain natural talent. I am sure all the idiocies of her last few years, always being late on set etc, plus over-publicity and too many theoretical discussions about acting, were the result of all this constant analysis of every line in every part she ever had to play, and a desperate longing to be "intellectual" without the brain to achieve it. It is a sad comment on contemporary values that a beautiful, famous and wealthy young woman of 36 should capriciously kill herself for want of a little self-discipline and horse-sense.

Noel Coward, 6 August 1962

Extracts from the Faber Book of Diaries

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