‘Generals, as a collective rank, incline to be physically above or below, average stature. Aylmer Conyers, notably tall, possessed in addition to his height much natual distinction.In fact his personality flled the room, although without active aggression.At the same time he was a man who gave the impression, rightly or wrongly,that he would stop at nothing. If he decided to kill you, he would kill you; if he thought it sufficient to knock you down, he would knock you down: if a mere reprimand was all that was required, he would confine himself to a reprimand’ And so we are introduced to General Conyers, one of my favourite characters in AT LADY MOLLY’S, the fourth volume in A DANCE TO THE MUSIC OF TIME. A little later the narrator adds: ‘He looked like an infinitely accomplished actor got up to play the part that was his own.’ Some books are forever associated with the time that you read them and these books remind me of the time when, like the narrator, I was single and living an unsettled life in London on the fringes of academic life, though in far less elevated circles. Such books can become part of your mental furniture, the characters more memorable sometimes than people you have really known. That’s especially true of novels like these where the characters are so brilliantly drawn and the dialogue so vivid and convincing. Yesterday I was in London walking down Picadilly past the Ritz on the way to the London Library, and remembered not only a long ago occasion when I drank champagne cocktails there with an equally long ago boyfriend, but also volume 3, THE ACCEPTANCE WORLD,in which the narrator’s love affair with Jean Duport begins after dinner at the Ritz. In fact, now that I come to think about it, I think we’d gone to the Ritz because I’d just read the book and wanted to see the statue of the bronze nymph in the Palm Court. I’d better make it clear that that is the one and only time I’ve been to the Ritz – and that was well over twenty-five years ago. Perhaps I am due a return visit.