Captain Moonlight: Mean minds who would silence a Duchess

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FOLLOWING calls by Equity for curbs on dramatic appearances by politicians and the like on TV, it has been brought to my attention that some of my colleagues have expressed the wish for a similar ban on the many writers in our periodicals whose principal art is practised in other fora. This is not a good idea. Think of the incalculable gaps in our dull grey lives if we could no longer read the wit and acuity of Anne Diamond, Robert Kilroy-Silk, Jimmy Greaves, the popular historian Paul Johnson, and Lord Rees- Mogg, the well-known if not particularly successful antiquarian bookshop owner. Dave Mellor has a killing way with a phrase; Roy Hattersley is another giant whose absence would be sorely felt (I must also say, in this connection, how unfair it is to draw attention to the coincidence of the sudden disappearance of the Prince of Wales's Jack Russell shortly after encountering Mr Hattersley, who was interviewing his master). Closer to home, I doubt whether the great Mr Wallace Arnold would welcome the job description 'journalist'; there are those, here, too, who have been heard to wonder what else the Captain does all day. But for me the greatest loss would be the Duchess of Devonshire, Chatsworth chatelaine, whose incursions into the word game are a particular delight, especially since her proud boast is never to have read a book. Nowhere else in journalism will one come across a paragraph like this, taken from her column in the Daily Telegraph last week: 'Could some clever reader tell me what a quantum leap is and where I can see one performed? Who the chattering classes are and where I can listen to them? And what a learning curve is and how I can climb on to it?'

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