Media families: 2. The Nicolsons

Sir Harold Nicolson and Vita Sackville-West begat Nigel Nicolson who begat Adam and Rebecca Nicolson

It is now apparent that the Clan Nicolson is taking over The Sunday Telegraph, lock, stock and colour magazine. Adam Nicolson arrived first, hired by the magazine's founding editor Alexander Chancellor to write a back-of-the-book column called Rural Ride. Chancellor has made a speciality over the years of thinking up inspired concepts for columns, including High Life and Low Life in The Spectator and Up and Down the City Road (now The Weasel) in our own Saturday Magazine. Rural Ride was another hit.

Nicolson, now in his late thirties, is a long, lean, languid character who in his youth wrote The National Trust Book of Long Walks, none of which was less than 80 miles and some as long as 500. He is only an adoptive countryman, however, as some of his truly rustic readers discovered to their annoyance. "We of the countryside are not interested in the slush turned out by charlatans such as Adam Nicolson," one wrote to the editor (Nicolson quoted the letter at length in his column), "destroying our rural heritage and everything we hold dear." But whatever Rural Ride may lack in detailed familiarity with the countryside, it makes up for in a descriptive bravura that only occasionally gets out of hand.

Then Dominic Lawson replaced Charles Moore as editor of The Sunday Telegraph, and brought in Adam's sister Rebecca, formerly Lawson's right-hand woman on The Spectator, to edit the paper's Review section. With the no-nonsense favouritism that comes naturally to them, she was soon running feature articles by her father, Nigel Nicolson, the author and partner in the publisher Weidenfeld and Nicolson, on topics such as the benefits of extreme old age (Nigel recently turned 80). "If one hears less well," he wrote, "one can talk more; sleep less, read more; eat less, stay slim ..." And Adam's second wife, Sarah Raven, began writing a gardening column for the Daily Telegraph. Only Adam and Rebecca's older sister, Juliet, who runs her own literary agency, remains unrecruited.

Now Adam has cemented the family's grip on the Telegraph by taking over the space on the Sunday's comment pages vacated so precipitately last month by Sir Peregrine Worsthorne, whom Lawson fired at the climax of a long-running feud.

One hopes Lawson knew what he was doing by bringing in Nicolson, for the tone of the comment section has taken a reckless lurch to the left. Targets have included the American notion of "zero tolerance" when applied to beggars, the Falklands War, the notion that sovereignty matters, and Britain's tenancy of Gibraltar. The man is a dripping-wet liberal.

Perhaps, though, the magic of breeding is considered adequate compensation. "As any fule no" (as Molesworth would put it), Adam is not only the son of Nigel but also the grandson of Sir Harold Nicolson, the diplomat, politician and journalist, and the novelist Vita Sackville-West; the story of their sexual infidelities was published by Nigel Nicolson under the title Portrait of a Marriage in 1973. It was a best-seller, and is still in print.

Neither can it entirely escape our attention that Sir Harold's father, Sir Arthur, was the 11th baronet, and first Baron Carnock; that Nigel is heir presumptive, and that in time Adam, as Nigel's only son, is likely to bear the title.

No one could accuse the Nicolsons of being freeloaders; they are annoyingly good writers, Adam in particular, and they do little to draw attention to their inherited wealth and status. Rebecca once went so far as to describe herself as middle-class (the College of Heralds was up in arms at the idea), and Adam grinds out the columns and feature articles with a fair imitation of meritocratic avidity.

But everyone loves a lord. And while most of the time they may write about indifferent matters - the pleasures of age, the smell of hops, the various approaches to bearing children - once in a while, with a show of reluctance, they will follow the precedent their father set when he exposed the family's scandals for all to see; they will throw open the gates of their glittering history. And like the tourists we are, we will cough up our quids and troop in

News
Denny Miller in 1959 remake of Tarzan, the Ape Man
people
Arts and Entertainment
Cheryl despairs during the arena auditions
tvX Factor review: Drama as Cheryl and Simon spar over girl band

News
Piers Morgan tells Scots they might not have to suffer living on the same island as him if they vote ‘No’ to Scottish Independence
news
News
i100Exclusive interview with the British analyst who helped expose Bashar al-Assad's use of Sarin gas
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Angel Di Maria celebrates his first goal for Manchester United against QPR
Football4-0 victory is team's first win under new manager Louis van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
art
News
newsIn short, yes
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script
tv'Thomas comes right up to the abyss', says the actor
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris claimed the top spot in this week's single charts
music
Sport
BoxingVideo: The incident happened in the very same ring as Tyson-Holyfield II 17 years ago
News
Groundskeeper Willie has backed Scottish independence in a new video
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor poses the question of whether we are every truly alone in 'Listen'
tvReview: Possibly Steven Moffat's most terrifying episode to date
News
i100
Life and Style
Cara Delevigne at the TopShop Unique show during London Fashion Week
fashion
News
The life-sized tribute to Amy Winehouse was designed by Scott Eaton and was erected at the Stables Market in Camden
peopleBut quite what the singer would have made of her new statue...
Sport
England's Andy Sullivan poses with his trophy and an astronaut after winning a trip to space
sport
News
peopleThe actress has agreed to host the Met Gala Ball - but not until 2015
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Resourcer / Junior Recruiter

£15-20k (DOE) + Benefits / Bonus: Guru Careers: Joining as a Resourcer / Juni...

Head of Design & UX / UX Architect

£55 - 70k: Guru Careers: Head of Design & UX / UX Architect is needed to join ...

Media and Entertainment Lawyer - City

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - A specialist opportunity with ...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week
The fall of Rome? Cash-strapped Italy accused of selling its soul to the highest bidder

The fall of Rome?

Italy's fears that corporate-sponsored restoration projects will lead to the Disneyfication of its cultural heritage
Glasgow girl made good

Glasgow girl made good

Kelly Macdonald was a waitress when she made Trainspotting. Now she’s taking Manhattan
Sequins ahoy as Strictly Come Dancing takes to the floor once more

Sequins ahoy as Strictly takes to the floor once more

Judy Murray, Frankie Bridge and co paired with dance partners
Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Alexander Wang pumps it up at New York Fashion Week
The landscape of my imagination

The landscape of my imagination

Author Kate Mosse on the place that taught her to tell stories