C. P. Snow and Pamela Hansford Johnson at Home
I first met Charles Percy Snow in the summer of 1977, when he was seventy-one (he was born in October 1905). He had published his excellent study Trollope two years earlier, and perhaps for that reason chose to review my book Trollope and Politics (1977) in his regular Financial Times column. Tim Farmiloe, my editor at Macmillan, introduced us; Snow’s publisher was also Macmillan, but his editor was Alan Maclean, the brother of the late British spy Donald Maclean. I was duly summoned to Eaton Terrace, where Snow (he was by then a baron, but I will forbear from referring to him here as Lord Snow), his wife the novelist and critic (excellent monograph on Thomas Wolfe) Pamela Hansford Johnson, and I talked books. Like some of his characters in the Strangers and Brothers novels (1940–70), Snow and his wife tossed back the better part of a bottle of whiskey in the course of an hour or two. I was invited again. During that summer I read the entire Strangers and Brothers series (eleven novels) and became convinced that it ranked, in the mass, among the best work in twentieth-century British fiction. The characters, many of whom move from novel to novel, are utterly believable; and if you like realistic novels of politics, as I do — politics both public, as in Corridors of Power, and out of sight, as in The Masters — Snow is your man. (Thus we both loved Trollope.)
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