GEMS FROM OUR BACKLIST ONE

August 1984 saw the publication of Nicholas Coleridge’s TunnelVision, the product of five years’ professional eavesdropping, and the first book which he ever wrote. During this period Nicholas had basked by swimming pools at Tuscan villas, hitchhiked to Yazd, worked as a waiter in San Lorenzo, snooped backstage at both the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Brompton Oratory, run with the paparazzi pack which hounded Lady Diana Spencer, shared dahl with hippies and bull-shots with playboys, and survived to write it all down. Tunnel Vision could be described as a hit-and-run report.

That month also saw the publication of The Music Monster, a biography by Charles Reid of James William Davison, the music critic of The Times between 1846 and 1878, with excerpts from his critical writings. These threw a sometimes startling light on the abrasive opinions of the most influential music critic of his era. Davison came across as a true monster in critical terms: Chopin was a flea, he declared; Schubert an impostor; Berlioz a lunatic; Wagner was merely puerile while Tchaikovsky was hideous. The extracts – outrageous, exasperating and uproariously amusing by turn – were taken either from his daily column in The Times, which he turned out for over thirty years, or from now forgotten weeklies, such as the Musical World, which he edited himself for forty years.

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