Diary E

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The Independent Online
Stranger than fiction . . .

ONLY two weeksTHER write error before the launch of Baroness Thatcher's memoirs, one of the senior executives of her publishers, HarperCollins has mysteriously resigned. Jonathan Lloyd, 46, managing director of the company's trade division and one of the firm's stalwarts - he joined it 27 years ago as a management trainee - left at the end of last week, stunning colleagues and clients alike.

For the moment, HarperCollins is refusing to comment on the matter, except to say that the position has been filled by Lloyd's former deputy, David Young. However, I'm told a clash of personalities with the company's chairman, Eddie Bell, has something to do with his departure.

The strangest aspect about Lloyd's resignation seems to be its timing. Last Wednesday saw Bell hosting a lavish celebration in the House of Lords marking what was largely Lloyd's achievement - the creation of HarperCollins paperbacks from Fontana and Grafton. He has always been a fiction man, forming a good relationship with the company's star writer, Lord Archer (with whom he plays squash). Cricket is another game, however. A few years ago, he kept wicket for the company in a needle match against the Guardian and gave away 41 byes. I regret to say he was never asked to play for the company again.

MELVILLE's Moby Dick is an all-male novel, but according to a politically correct official at the Royal Shakespeare Company, that is no excuse for Rod Wodden, the director, not casting a woman in the RSC's production, which opens in Stratford-upon-Avon this month. What more could he have done? cried Wodden, who has given parts to two black actors and a Chinese. 'You could have made the whale female,' suggested the official.

Donleavy at law JP DONLEAVY has, I imagine, made a fortune from his books, but he has also made riches from taking people to court. According to the Times Literary Supplement, Donleavy told the Cambridgeshire magazine Passport that he is 'consulting lawyers all the time. I did become familiar with legal matters . . . I got slowly richer, more powerful.'

In one case - shades of Jarndyce v Jarndyce in Bleak House - he was battling away in court for more than 20 years, an experience that increased his withdrawal from the world. He can certainly be self-absorbed. When the Passport journalist arrived to interview him at his mansion outside Dublin, he found an entire room devoted to Donleavy's books and manuscripts, including a copy of The Destinies of Darcy Dancer, Gentleman (author: Donleavy) on the coffee table. If that wasn't enough, all the paintings on the wall seemed to be signed by . . . Donleavy.

ALTHOUGH American apparel already verges on the ludicrous to an English eye - trainers and baseball caps, nylon slacks and luridly coloured anoraks - there is still scope for surprise. At Worcester Cathedral, American tourists are buying pounds 2.50 hand-knitted woolly hats; at least they regard them as hats because they have holes for the ears. The English call them tea cosies.

Carpet bagger NOBODY minds Lord Parkinson's monogrammed shirts too much because he pays for them, after all. But taxpayers didn't take kindly to thousands of pounds spent on a monogrammed carpet at the National Curriculum Council headquarters two years ago. With the dismantling of the NCC, the National Consumer Council and the National Caravan Club were thought to be in the running to take it over. Not possible, I'm afraid. The former press officer, Paul McGill, has been busy with his scissors and has sent a 9in square piece of the carpet to the education desk of every newspaper in the country.

A day like this

5 October 1606 John Chamberlain writes to his friend Dudley Carleton: 'Will Lytton is become, as it were, young Cranborne's mignon, and hath followed him in a long hunting progress out into Stafford, Lancashire, and I know not wither, his father half willy-nilly, being fain to furnish him with new clothes, two men to attend him, two geldings for his own saddle, and all things else answerable. It is thought strange that so wise a father as the Earl of Salisbury should so far humour his son (yet a child) as to let him run these wild courses, and to have all his will; but some that seem to know somewhat make answer that he means to give him his fill, and when he hath taken a surfeit of these pleasures, to recall him to better matters - as though it were not ordinarily seen that men fall from one vanity to another.'