Dashing for the Post: The letters of Patrick Leigh Fermor
John Murray, $35 pb, 492 pp, 9781473622470
‘Absolutely charming – slim, handsome, nice speaking voice and manner, a super-gent’: it might be a line from an old-fashioned dalliance column, but it is from one of the letters published in this volume, and Patrick Leigh Fermor, writing to one of his most regular and lustrous correspondents, Debo Devonshire, youngest of the Mitford clan, is not advertising himself – well, not quite – but lavishing his superlatives on another celebrity of the day, film actor Dirk Bogarde. It was 1956, and Bogarde was playing Fermor in the Michael Powell movie Ill Met by Moonlight (1957), based on an incident in World War II when Fermor commanded an Anglo-Cretan contingent that abducted and evacuated a German general. ‘The ghost of oneself twelve years ago,’ Fermor can’t help adding in his encomium to the actor.