OBITUARY: Sir Michael Hordern

Adam Benedick's delightful obituary of Sir Michael Hordern [4 May] mentions his trembles before a difficult Stoppard speech, writes Professor David Nichols. There was another no less charming incident of pre- performance jitters when he was invited to accept an Honorary DLitt at Exeter University 10 years ago.

I was waiting with him for the procession to move to the platform, and he was clearly ill at ease. To my suggestion that he must, surely, be used to delivering speeches from the stage, he insisted that delivering his own words was quite different from performing somebody else's. In the event, having raised his floppy academic hat in all the wrong places and nearly measured his length as he walked on to the platform, he had the audience completely with him, and received a memorable ovation. But waiting to go on, he really seemed scared: ". . . and another thing is this ridiculous hat; you see, I'm far more used to wearing a crown."