“Oakeshott was an enchanting elfin figure, rather slight with a rather light but seductive voice. Men sometimes found him a little creepy, women never. He was married three times and was said to have various girlfriends scattered in boltholes in London and around the country. He was sceptical in his views, and not at all religious, thus conforming to my general theory that, as soon as British philosophers stopped believing in God, they started believing in sex. There is no more startling contrast between the celibacy, and indeed chastity, of Pascal and Locke and the insatiable appetites of Bertrand Russell and AJ Ayer and PH Nowell-Smith, the author of Ethics, who was said to have regarded it as a positive duty to sleep with other men’s wives.”
Ferdinand Mount, Cold Cream, page 273. Quirky, self-effacing and brilliant about its portrayal of Mount’s life as a journalist and Downing Street policy wonk and conservative intellectual, this is one of the finest autobiographies I have read in years. Among the details that startled me was Mount’s battle with a terrible asthma problem; I also loved his portrayal of his father and vignettes featuring the likes of Malcolm Muggeridge and Siegfried Sassoon.
I can also recommend Mount’s recent book about how we are becoming rather like the ancient Romans.