‘British Museum Reading Room Memories’

It was, in fact,  Lucien Stryk who suggested to Michael Pennington that he should put on a ‘one-man’ show about Chekhov. More about this can, of course, be accessed on-line.

Lucien was friendly and sociable, and I was to meet him again at ‘The Poetry Society’, but after that I lost touch with him.

At the BM cafe, however, I recall him chatting to other ‘regulars’, one of whom was the industrious ‘man of letters’, Vincent Brome, ( 1910-2004),  who was once called ‘

‘the life and soul of the British Museum Reading Room’.

Vincent Brome (1910-2004) was a prodigious writer of biographies of Freud, Jung, H.G.Wells, Havelock Ellis, Aneurin Bevan, and novels and essays of his own. He regarded biography writing as ‘slavery’, and he  held court, most days, in the BM cafe, with his friends, cadres and companions.  He spoke constantly and vividly on many subjects that he was working on: politics, gossip and general chat.  I still vividly   remember his sparkling animated eyes.  He was always interested and amused by those around him. A loyal friend.  As Margaret Drabble has written :

‘The biographer Vincent Brome has been working in the Museum almost daily for more than half a century and he still looks as though he’s about 60: the Museum air must have preserved him’.

The museum was his office, playground and sanctuary. Vincent lived for 50 years in his third floor flat in Great Ormond Street, and commuted to the reading room almost every day.   He became a fervent supporter, however, for the library’s move to its new home at St. Prancas, which I find quite brave. He must have realised how bright and light the space would be at the British Library, which it is.





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