The Fatal Englishman

There is a wintery moue of discontent on the Hitchcock Blonde's alabaster brow.

As I tend to spend my evenings thumbing through Rousseau with a thimble of Renaissance Domaine Rotier Gaillac Doux 2002, my Televisual Box ain't got yer nobby BBC4. Which means that I shall spend tonight out in the cold with frost-laden muff, pressing my retrousse nose against the windows of those swells lucky enough to be watching Consenting Adults, Julian Mitchell's drama commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Wolfenden Report (the one what led to homosexuality being legal, no less), with old Charlie Dance as Jack Wolfenden, and the deliciously Dickensianly monickered Sean Biggerstaff (Oliver Wood from HP) as his gay son Jeremy.

Even with those credentials, I doubt that it can hope to touch the brilliance of Sebastian Faulks's portrayal of Jeremy in The Fatal Englishman, his biography collating the stories of three extraordinary short-lived young men. Faulks writes with such an understated, unembellished, insightful clarity that his tales of Wolfenden, the painter Christopher Wood and the Second World War pilot Richard Hillary feel utterly authentic and almost unbearably moving. The most English of writing about the most English of men. Painfully, importantly, good.

Children, cast aside your curriculae. All you need to know about twentieth-century English history and psychology dwells in this extract from Faulks on the Wolfendens:

Jeremy Wolfenden used to say that his father wrote him a letter at this time (1956) which went roughly as follows: 'Dear Jeremy. You will probably have seen from the newspapers that I am to chair a Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution. I have only two requests to make of you at the moment. 1) That we stay out of each other's way for the time being; 2) That you wear rather less make-up.'