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Strange but true friends

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John Fleming and Hugh Honour Remembered by Susanna Johnston, reviewed by Richard Dorment

Susanna Johnston’s memoir of her friendship with the distinguished art historians Hugh Honour and John Fleming (better known in the art world as ‘Honour and Glory’), begins in the best traditions of the Gothic novel. The year is 1957. A 21-year-old English girl of good family finds herself at a loose end in Rome. Through a family friend, she is offered the job of companion, reader and amanuensis to the literary critic Percy Lubbock. Once the object of Henry James’s attentions, the great man is now old and blind, and living in an isolated villa on a promontory near the seaside town of Lerici, not far from Lucca. Susanna arrives and is smitten – not by her employer (a stock character from opéra bouffe), but by the two penniless young scholars whom she is to replace as Percy’s companion, John Fleming and Hugh Honour. The attraction is mutual and, by...

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