James Lees-Milne Some Country Houses and Their Owners (2009)
I am completely in love with James Lees-Milne. So witty. So charming. I keep my eye out for cheaper copies of his diaries (recently reissued in less expurgated form) and his biography by Michael Bloch is on the wishlist. This slim volume represents Lees-Milne's wartime activity: travelling around Britain to the country-homes of aristocrats and once wealthy landowners who have fallen on hard times and are considering leaving their properties to the nation. This is the formative phase of the National Trust. Lees-Milne combines a brilliant eye for the absurd with a genuine love of the old, history-filled buildings he visits. The result is sparklingly funny yet quite moving – Lees-Milne, as he knows, is recording the end of an era.
If you liked this… diaries (from which these accounts were extracted), biography, letters, you name it. He's like Patrick Leigh Fermor on speed.