When housekeeping was still difficult after the second war we used to lunch quite often at the Chester Arms, which stood nearly opposite where we lived in Regent's Park. The pub was run by a delightful family, a handsome widow and her two pretty daughters. We once took an American to luncheon there. Could he have been an American officer? I can't remember. When I remarked that it was lucky to find such nice people in the local, he replied: 'I've often heard that said over here. I don't understand it. In the US we go where it suits, and don't bother about the people.' Possibly because the staff was prepossessing, but also because the place was comparatively remote from more frequented scenes, an occasional acquaintance would choose the Chester for lunching someone not his wife. One would look the other way, or give a myopic nod before returning to rationing or bomb damage. Among those who appeared there from time to time with a guest evidently not his wife was Rupert Hart-Davis. He was unique among those couples, with their faintly clandestine air, in boldly underlining his presence within the pub by parking outside the entrance a publisher's van on the side of which was inscribed in large letters: RUPERT HART-DAVIS.
LRB 4 June 1981 | PDF Download