Back in September 2013, Frank Key posted on The Dabbler his idea of writing a book of very, very brief lives. Thanks in part to the enthusiastic reaction of the Dabbler audience and commenters, this idea has now become a reality, and Mr Key’s Shorter Potted Brief, Brief Lives will be published by Constable in October (with an introduction by our own Brit).
You can pre-order it on Amazon here. In the meantime, following the initial taster a few weeks ago, here are some more extracts…
Brooke, Charles (British, Rajah of Sarawak, 1829 – 1917). An austere character, Brooke deemed jam “effeminate” and replaced his glass eye with one taken from a stuffed albatross.
Callaghan, James (British politician and Prime Minister, 1912 – 2005). When Tom Driberg married Ena Binfield in 1951, Callaghan gave them as a wedding present four ashtrays, two of which were broken.
Charles I (British king, 1600 – 1649). According to John Selden, during Charles’ reign, there was “nothing but Trenchmore & the Cushion dance, Omnium gatherum, tolly polly, hoyte come toyte”.
Gibson, Willie (Irish, 2nd Baron Ashbourne, 1868 – 1942). An enthusiastic Gaelic nationalist, Gibson was rumoured to keep a tortoise in his sporran.
Leopold II (Belgian king, 1835 – 1909). King Leopold’s daily breakfast consisted of six poached eggs, an enormous number of slices of toast, and an entire jar of marmalade.
Russell, Ken (British film director, 1927 – 2011). According to Glenda Jackson, the only direction Russell ever gave to his actors was to say “It needs to be a bit more … urrrgh”, or “a bit less hmmm”.
Stein, Gertrude (American writer, 1874 – 1946). Stein liked to write while looking at cows. She and Alice B Toklas would drive around until they found a suitable spot, then Stein would sit on a campstool armed witb pad and pencil, while Toklas coaxed a cow into her line of vision.
Wesley, Samuel (British clergyman and poet, 1662 – 1735). On Christmas Day 1716, Wesley was haunted by an apparition of a badger with no head. It was called Jeffrey.