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

Life and Style
“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
beauty
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
transfers
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Sport
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
film
News
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Sport
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
tv
Sport
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
News
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
people
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
tech
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

(Junior) IT Systems Administrator / Infrastructure Analyst

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly ...

Sales Engineer - Cowes - £30K-£40K

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Sales Engineer - Cow...

Web / Digital Analyst - Google Analytics, Omniture

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client who are a leading publisher in...

Sales Perfomance Manager. Marylebone, London

£45-£57k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice