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  • Published: 27 August 2024
  • ISBN: 9781529160215
  • Imprint: Penguin
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 1120
  • RRP: $36.99

Henry ‘Chips’ Channon: The Diaries (Volume 2)

1938-43




'The greatest British diarist of the 20th century . . . finally, we are getting the full text, in all its bitchy, scintillating detail' Ben Macintyre

'A masterpiece - a time machine that transports the reader back to British politics and high society at the end of the 1930s.' Robert Harris

'An unrivalled guide to the social and political life of Britain in the first half of the 20th century.' Books of the Year, The Times

'Fascinating.' New Statesman

'Never a dull day, never a dull sentence.' Daily Mail
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The political career of Conservative MP Henry ‘Chips’ Channon (1897–1958) was unremarkable. His diaries are quite the opposite. Witty, gossipy and bitchy by turns, they are the unfettered observations of a man who went everywhere and knew everyone.

This second of three volumes opens in October 1938 with Channon optimistically believing that his hero Neville Chamberlain can stave off a general European conflagration. It closes with the expression of his hope that Mussolini’s fall from power in July 1943 means ‘The war must be more than half over’. In the intervening pages, he charts diplomatic to-ings and fro-ings and political manouevring, hatches a plan to keep Yugoslavia in the Allied camp, dines with English high society and foreign royalty, and passes not-always-charitable judgements on contemporaries who range from Winston Churchill and General de Gaulle to Noël Coward and Oscar Wilde’s erstwhile lover Lord Alfred Douglas.

  • Published: 27 August 2024
  • ISBN: 9781529160215
  • Imprint: Penguin
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 1120
  • RRP: $36.99

About the author

Chips Channon

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.

Also by Chips Channon

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Praise for Henry ‘Chips’ Channon: The Diaries (Volume 2)

Page for page, name for name, there is no one better than Chips Channon at the particular blend of insight, snobbery and self-regard that is the hallmark of really great diarists . . . Chips knew everyone, went everywhere, and spared nothing. Of Philip Kindersley, first husband of Oonagh Guinness, he writes, 'A good-looking, almost dashing "Ya-hoo" . . . very common naked, which is such a test'. Of Queen Elizabeth, later the Queen Mother, 'She is well bred, kind, gentle and slack . . . She is fundamentally lazy, very lazy and charming . . . She will never be a great Queen for she will never be up in time!' At nearly 1,000 pages, and with the broadest cast of characters, Chips is the clear winner!

Independent Ireland

This is a masterpiece about a period that fascinates me - a time machine that transports the reader back to British politics and high society at the end of the 1930s, as Europe stands on the brink of a catastrophe that will destroy the very world it describes.

Robert Harris, Daily Mail

Even more gripping than the first volume . . . [Channon's] record is of great value, not only for historical detail and literary flair, but because it shows why appeasement often feels right, and why it can be so dangerous.

Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph

Fascinating. Heffer's meticulous and generous footnotes mean that Channon's gossipy revelations are elevated into a serious work of history.

New Statesman

Mr Heffer has undertaken a painstaking appraisal of the original manuscript . . . He has erred on the side of inclusion, excising little and allowing Channon to speak for himself . . . Mr Heffer has produced a monumental second volume to match his first. Clearly he has enjoyed his work marshalling the original manuscript and anyone interested in the social and political life of Britain of the period should enjoy his effort.

Christopher Pincher, The Critic

For bon mots, nothing can beat Henry 'Chips' Channon: The Diaries . . . Chips is a little monstrous but redeemingly self-aware. These are the uncensored, unvarnished thought of one of the 20th century's greatest diarists.

Best Biographies of the Year, Telegraph

Channon was a rich, catty snob whose entertaining diaries are a portrait of a vanished epoch.

Books to Shop for Christmas, Country and TownHouse Magazine

Posh bonking, snobbery, and waspish commentary these diaries are an unrivalled guide to the social and political life of Britain in the first half of the 20th century. The Tory MP Chips Channon was well connected and a thundering snob, but he also knew how to write.

Books of the Year, The Times

I've been enjoying the guilty pleasure of browsing through the complete and unexpurgated edition of the Diaries of 'Chips' Channon . . . expertly edited by Simon Heffer. Like all really good diarists, Channon had a sharp eye for detail and an ability to turn a memorable phrase . . . his powers of observation were unrivalled.

Books of the Year, Richard J Evans, TLS

In the Diaries of Henry 'Chips' Channon, edited with colossal thoroughness by Simon Heffer we have a disgracefully enjoyable contribution to modern social history.

Books of the Year, Noel Malcolm, TLS

Witty, bitchy and wildly entertaining.

Saga Magazine

A compellingly readable diarist who lived through extraordinary times and knew everybody.

The Week Magazine

One of our juiciest memoirs of the year . . . Volume II of the unexpurgated diaries of Conservative MP Henry 'Chips' Channon is every bit as gripping, jaw-droppingly snobbish, whiningly self-obsessed and disarmingly frank as Volume I . . . Never a dull day, never a dull sentence.

Ysenda Maxtone-Graham, Daily Mail

Waspish high campery.

Mail on Sunday

Meticulous, witty and informative. The great strength of the diaries is Channon's position at the heart of government. A valuable source for historians of the period . . . I cannot wait for the next volume.

Andrew Lownie, History Today

Writer and historian Simon Heffer gives us part two of this full, shamelessly frank work. And a remarkable labour of love it is. . .This remarkable book, bursting with gossip, sex scandals and royal barbs, is a brilliant portrait of champagne-fuelled London life on the eve of war and in its early years . . . Utterly compelling reading.

Daily Mail