Peek into the scandalous diaries of Sir Henry 'Chips' Channon with Simon Heffer
“And what is more dull than a discreet diary? One might as well have a discreet soul.”
For those, like me, with a penchant for early twentieth century history, you’ll know that books on this period are usually littered with the pithy phrases of one man. Sir Henry ‘Chips’ Channon was an MP who never achieved ministerial office and wasn’t successful in gaining a peerage. That he was twenty three years as the MP for Southend is often forgotten. Chips was born in Chicago but became strongly anti-American and loved British and European culture. His heavily abridged and censored diaries caused a sensation when they were originally published in 1967. Nancy Mitford called them “vile and spiteful and silly”. Concern was raised for the reputation of Paul Channon, Chips son, himself already a Conservative MP.
So why has BIF2021 author and acclaimed historian Simon Heffer, poured over the ‘poor handwriting’ of the notebooks now, sixty years after Chips death? Largely because so much was missing from the original edit of the diaries (some notebooks turned up at a car boot sale) the players were often still alive and the subsequent libel bill would have destroyed their publisher. Simon was also asked by Channon’s grand children to take on the job. The final published work will run to three volumes, and on the girth of volume one will take up nearly eight inches of shelf space. But my goodness, what fun it is. Dip into any page at random, and you find a gem. Friday 31st May 1935- “We went to the opera, Barber of Seville with Lily Pons and were joined in Emerald’s box by Lord Stonehaven and daughter, the Brazilian Ambassador and the Prince of wales and the ménage Simpson…..I was interested to see what an extraordinary hold Mrs Simpson had on him”. Chips thought Wallis Simpson should have been Queen. Read the book in its entirety and you inhabit a world we shall not see again yet which continues to provide the narrative for the political and upper classes in the twentieth century. As Simon states, the overwhelming majority of the gossip Chips retailed, has been proven by history to have a sound basis in fact.
Government Special Advisor, Evening Standard Journalist and author Julian Glover will be on stage with Simon Heffer at BIF on Friday 23 June, 12pm to celebrate this most lively and sensational of political diaries. And if you’ve enjoyed Simon Heffer with ‘Chips’ then perhaps you might like Simon Heffer ‘in conversation’ with Petroc Trelawny courting controversy themselves in an event titled ‘A Land Without Music?’