Sir Henry (Chips) Channon was born in Chicago in 1897 (although he claimed 1899 as the year of his birth, until the true facts were exposed - to his embarrassment - in the Sunday Express). The son of a wealthy businessman, he accompanied the American Red Cross to Paris in 1917, was an undergraduate at Christ Church, Oxford, and then settled in London where he mingled with society and enjoyed the high life. He married into the Guinness family, and became a Conservative MP for Southend from 1935 until his death. He knew or was friends with all the leading politicians and aristocrats of the period, wined and dined Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson in the months before the Abdication crisis, and observed at first hand the last days of appeasement. He died in 1958. Elliot Templeton in Somerset Maugham's novel The Razor's Edge (1944) and the disappointed schoolmaster Croker-Harris in Rattigan's play The Browning Version (1948) were partly inspired by Channon.
The greatest British diarist of the 20th century. A feast of weapons-grade above-stairs gossip. Now, finally, we are getting the full text, in all its bitchy, scintillating detail, thanks to the journalist and historian Simon Heffer, whose editing of this vast trove of material represents an astonishing achievement. Channon is a delightful guide, by turns frivolous and profound. -- Ben Macintyre * The Times * Wickedly entertaining . . . scrupulously edited and annotated by Simon Heffer. Genuinely shocking, and still revelatory. -- Andrew Marr * New Statesman * The between-the-wars diaries of the romping, social-climbing MP Henry Channon make for an irresistible, saucy read. There are plenty of anecdotes, bons mots and delicious tales of scandal . . . one of the most impressive editions of our time. * The Telegraph * Channon's chief virtue as a writer is his abiding awareness that dullness is the worst sin of all, and for this reason they're among the most glittering and enjoyable [diaries] ever written * The Observer * Sensation, spite, social climbing, high society, self-indulgence, sex; Chips Channon had the raw materials to make his uncensored diaries newsworthy a century after he began them. They shock, repel and compel because they don't conceal . . . He is calculating, selfish, amoral, vain, ambitious and deluded, and more of us should follow his example. Not in the living, but in the recording of it. -- Jenni Russell * The Times * Although Channon was frequently wrong and occasionally repellent, there is no denying his talent as a diarist or the historical value of his diaries. Lacking pomposity or dissemblance, his entries are often witty, sometimes perceptive, and always fascinating * Air Mail * The diaries are fascinating and sometimes a key historical record. And the man could write. * Daily Mirror * Heffer has done his job with scholarly aplomb. Throughout his life [Chips] had the knack - invaluable for a diarist with dreams of publication - of bumping into all the right people. Fascinating stuff . . . a work of high camp. -- Craig Brown * The Spectator * Gripping reading . . . While countless of Chip's decent contemporaries and especially politicians are today forgotten, the diaries make him an indispensable source for anyone writing of this period. -- Max Hastings * The Sunday Times * Chips perfectly embodied the qualities vital to the task: a capacious ear for gossip, a neat turn of phrase, a waspish desire to tell all, and easy access to the highest social circles across Europe . . . Blending Woosterish antics with a Lady Bracknellesque capacity for acid comment. Replete with fascinating insights. -- Jesse Norman * Financial Times *