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Aesthetic Epistles of Eternal Friendship
on 25 January 2012
This book is an absolute delight - for those who enjoy revelling in this kind of thing. It goes without saying that in the brave new world of e-mail and instant messaging the talent to express at length personal views or feelings on just about anything will become severely dented. Patrick Leigh Fermor and Deborah Devonshire were the perfect foils for one another, and both in their own style impress one for their sheer ability to make the most of life, with a lot of shared humour rising to the surface.
It would seem at first that PLF was greatly taken by the the spry and comely Duchess but he soon sublimated such affection as he might feel into quite marvellous prose and a deep friendship developped between them. Indeed he became a good friend of her husband Andrew who must have shared with him a certain wanderlust for they made several expeditions together - to the Greek Pindar mountains, the Andes and to the Pyrennees.
Both the Duchess and PLF led privileged lives but any reader of these letters will be surely constrained to concede that they earned and deserved such privileges as they enjoyed. Both were by nature empathetic and caring and perhaps the greatest privilege that life may bestow is the gift of friendship - a multi-faceted sphere of interesting and amusing friends. Neither, in the final analysis, needed the other yet both lives would have been far poorer but for the esteem and support the other gave.
The writing ranges from the heights of Parnassus to the idiosyncratic. There is plenty of banter and humourous exchange right from the early days but as they get older they mock the fate that attends the truly old and their letters become full of references to Dr. Oblivion and Dr. Doze and Admiral Alzheimer. For them, (and many more,) Shakespeare must have written :
High birth, vigour of bone, desert in service,
Love, friendship, charity, are subjects all
To envious and calumniating time."
They were no dupes and so this book takes on a rather nostalgic hue, but buy it because the laughter and song outweigh the sadness of it all.