Here is a morsel – a feast – of literary-political gossip that The Guardian has done us all the favour of publishing, and that I can’t resist sharing.
One dark London night a black limo glides away from Downing Street; in it, the Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, en route to a most extraordinary dinner encounter with some of Britain’s leading literary and scholarly lions – Isaiah Berlin, Tom Stoppard, Philip Larkin, Anthony Powell and numerous others. The wine (rioja) is swill, observes one; the writers drink too much; the Lady swats and bats and sees them all off, one at a time, and in the end they all confess the power of her feminine attraction – or the attraction of her feminine power.
All writers want to do, when they get together, another observes, is to discuss their fees: none seems to have much to say to Thatcher, and they (and she, no doubt) were all relieved when she glided away again.
The encounter was not repeated, and Thatcher went on to cut funding for university students and the Arts; Oxford University snubbed her, by declining to award her the customary honorary doctorate.
But the literary-political feast goes on – coming now to a theatre near you.