Harold Nicolson (Magill's Literary Annual 1981)
Harold Nicolson told his sons that his Diaries were purely private records for his own reference, “not a work of literature or self-revelation.” The Diaries belie him in small ways. For instance, he carefully notes that he cannot write the truly interesting matters of discussion of Parliament during its secret sessions during World War II. He also comments on the ideal audience a diarist should have in mind (a great-grandson), and Nicolson shows some of the Diaries to James Pope-Hennessy for evaluation, after which he resolves to give them more depth of thought and emotion. Although Nicolson, himself, never rewrote or edited his Diaries, he consented to his son Nigel’s doing so; in addition, when the volumes started being published, he realized that they possibly could be a more lasting claim to fame than any of his other works. Without doubt, they are exactly that: Nicolson’s talent as a diarist places him in the ranks of Sir Fulke Greyville and Samuel Pepys.
The Diaries begin shortly after Nicolson resigned from a promising career in the British diplomatic corps to search for new challenges closer to home and family. His literary options are wide: his Tennyson and Some People were already well received; journalism, criticism, fiction, and biography were all within his ability, if not all to his taste. In politics, too, he had many friends and contacts. Fortunately for succeeding...
(The entire section is 2499 words.)
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