In praise of Anne Scott-James
For a provincial newspaper reporter, which is how I started my working life, a public holiday is a working day. As far as I'm concerned, this is an ordinary weekend.
According to the birthday list in yesterday's Daily Telegraph, April 5th was the 94th birthday of Anne Scott-James, one of first women journalists in Fleet Street and greatly admired by my generation of post-WW2 newspaper reporters.
Maddeningly, I missed the book published to mark her 80th birthday, but it shouldn't be difficult to get hold of a copy.
"Anne Scott-James, journalist and gardening writer, was one of the first generation of career girls, rising to become a magazine editor at thirty and later a famous and controversial columnist. She has written her autobiography in the form of letters to her daughter, Clare, a series of memorable sketches of her life and times.
She vividly evokes the period charm of her childhood; growing up in the twenties in town and country; and Oxford - disillusioning, but salvaged by music, tennis and Greek. At a time when a professional woman was something of an oddity, she became one of the first female journalists in Fleet Street, joining Vogue in the 1930s and - a rewarding experience - working for Picture Post during the war.
After marriage (to writer Macdonald Hastings) and children (her son is journalist Max Hastings, Clare works in television), she was Editor of Harper's Bazaar and had columns on the Sunday Express and Daily Mail. This exhilarating career took her worldwide and involved her with such personalities as Bert Hardy, Lesley Blanch, Cecil Beaton, John Betjeman, Nancy Mitford and Rosamond Lehmann. She writes, too, of her marriage to Osbert Lancaster in 1967, of their travels in Europe together and their mutual love of architecture and gardening. Soon afterwards she began to write her well-loved gardening books.
Anne Scott-James recalls with wit and insight a wealth of stimulating experiences, people and places; her rich interests; and the adventures of a career that she adored - a life that, with characteristic modesty, she says has `never been boring'.
Elegant and beautifully written, Sketches From a Life is as engaging and charming as all who have read Anne Scott-James's columns and books will expect."