It’s a wonder any of our great country houses survived the 20th century

One of Adrian Tinniswood’s recent books, The Long Weekend, is a portrait of country house life in the interwar years. Hedonistic, carefree, fuelled by an army of servants, such an existence now seems a distant dream. In this companion volume he takes the story further, looking at what happened to the country house after 1945. (By country house, he does not mean ‘The Old Rectory’ or ‘The Elms’ but something that tends to end in ‘Hall’, ‘Park’, ‘Court’ or ‘Castle’). Immediately after the war, the outlook for these splendid buildings was bleak. Some had been affected by the Depression of the early 1930s and many fell victim to the penal

The high and low life of John Craxton

Charm is a weasel word; it can evoke the superficial and insincere, and engender suspicion and mistrust. But charm in its most authentic sense was surely the defining quality of the painter John Craxton, and it flavours this lively and richly coloured account of his life. Ian Collins only met the elderly Craxton — by now sporting the moustaches, shepherd’s stick and general demeanour of a Cretan chieftain — in the last decade of his life (he lived to 88), and was immediately seduced by his joie de vivre and his fund of recondite knowledge, stories and jokes, and drawn into Craxton’s charmed circle. He became the artist’s Boswell, taping