The agreeable world of Wallace Arnold: A literary friendship

Share
Related Topics
AND STILL I grieve for my old friend and quaffing partner Graham Greene, that veritable master of the written word. A true friend, a terrific admirer of my life and works, an obsessive reader of the many letters and books I sent him, his affection for me will live on in my mind.

I have written before of this essentially private man, so wedded to secrecy that he would allow only two journalists at a time into his flat in Antibes for exclusive interviews, and then only on Tuesdays and Thursdays. (It is, incidentally, often reported that Graham did not care to show his face on the dread gogglebox. This is quite wrong: he appeared twice on Juke Box Jury in the mid-Sixties, the first time with Cilla Black, Lonnie Donnegan and Tommy Steele, the second with Peter Noone, Lulu and Bruce Forsyth: once on Criss Cross Quiz in 1963, achieving full marks in the third round; once on Blue Peter in 1964, assisting veteran presenter Christopher Trace as chief stoker on a traction engine; and once on Tonight in 1965, to argue the toss about Communism with the splendid Fyfe Robertson. He also made a fleeting appearance in November 1968 on ATV's long- running Crossroads as the mysterious Lord Mulliver, who claims to be the first husband of the redoubtable Miss Amy Turtle.)

I raise the subject of the great Greene once again as I have been much struck by a distinguished article in this week's Times Literary Supplement entitled, 'The Marginalia of Graham Greene'. It would appear that Greene's library is soon to be sold, and that many of the dusty tomes therein contained, many presented to him by his fellow authors, are furnished with that scrupulous scrivener's own handwritten comments, be they good, bad or indifferent]

I met the great man only once, at a cocktail party thrown by the late 'Bubbles' Rothermere in the late Fifties. From that brief exchanged glance we struck up an immediate rapport, twin souls startled into mutual recognition through the hubbub and banter of a raucous soiree.

The very next day, I placed my newly-published comical riposte to the female of the species, The Unfairer Sex: Birds of the Unfeathered Variety into an envelope, inscribed it, 'To Graham Greene: Friend, Mentor, Quaffing-Partner' and posted it to his modest digs in Nice. The silence that followed spoke volumes: Greene seemed instinctively to recognise me as his natural ally in the world of letters.

Needless to say, when my next book appeared - Ahoy There Me Hearties] The Punch Book of Life on the Ocean Waves edited by Wallace Arnold - I posted it without delay to The Master, inscribing it with an affectionate, not to say wry: 'Saucy salutations to an old Sea Salt, from his Great Friend and Fellow Yarn-Spinner, Wallace A'. Once again, Graham took care not to respond to this presentation with anything so verbose as a card or letter: he was, after all, the master of the unspoken, and between two such soulmates mere words seemed but flimsy things.

From that point on, our friendship secure, I posted the great man each of my tomes as and when they were published, including Pardon My Aspidistra] - Arnold on Gardening (1975), Of Hedgerows and Hyacinths: The Collected Poems of Wallace Arnold (1983), Norman Fowler: The Man and the Myth (biography, 1988), and my recent Pass the Port, Percival: 500 Ice-breaking Anecdotes for the After-Dinner Speaker (1989). I delighted to think of the celebrated author, tired from a hard day's penmanship, relaxing in bed with his favourite Arnold tome, gaining a few chuckles and/or words of wisdom before lights out.

I have the auction catalogue to the library of Graham Greene in front of me. Between 'Amis, K, with marginalia' and 'Austen, J, fully annotated' is listed 'Arnold, W, 15 volumes, 1959-89, all pristine condition, still sealed in original packaging'. Flattering, indeed, that the great man chose not to muddy my tomes with his inky pen, preferring to savour them unread] Those wishing to know more about this subject should consult my new volume, Arnold and Greene: A Literary Friendship (Hutchinson pounds 14.99).

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

 

General Election 2015: The SNP and an SMC (Salmond-Murdoch Conspiracy)

Matthew Norman
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk