My Dear Hugh: Letters from Richard Cobb to Hugh Trevor-Roper and Others

Simon Skinner writes:

Who now, other than historians of modern France, remembers Richard Cobb? Cobb’s Wikipedia entry – the canonical index of posterity’s interest – measures three lines; by contrast, Hugh Trevor-Roper, his principal addressee in this collection, gets five thousand words. Yet Cobb, who died in 1996, was not only a historian of acknowledged genius. As these letters incidentally but consistently demonstrate, he was also a maverick member of the wider cultural world. He chaired the Booker judges (ensuring that Hôtel du Lac prevailed over Empire of the Sun, and relishing the ensuing howls). He wrote for the broadsheets; he featured in and fed material to Private Eye. Introduced in his youth to Fitzrovia, he knew Dylan Thomas, Louis MacNeice and Julian Maclaren-Ross, and wrote with sufficient extra-historical purchase to make it into Margaret Drabble’s Oxford Companion to English Literature (to his immoderate delight). His memoirs were a Book at Bedtime. He received the Légion d’honneur, was an FBA and a CBE. His birthday was in the Times.

(LRB 19 July 2012)