Sunday 30 September 2018

David Hockney: a cross between Alan Bennett and Andy Warhol. / VIDEO:HOCKNEY Official Trailer (2014) Randall Wright

Hockney's style evolution: wearing a stripey tie in 1981, a spotty bow tie in 1975, and trademark round-framed glasses in 1965. PHOTOS: REX

David Hockney: back on the fashion map
David Hockney's Royal Academy of Arts landscape show 'A Bigger Picture' opened to the public this weekend, sparking Hockney-mania in Fashion Land.


David Hockney at the preview of his landscapes show for the Royal Academy of Arts

Hockney's fashion credentials have been undisputed for decades - this is the man, after all, who successfully exported the English dandy aesthetic to Los Angeles - but this week, with the opening of 'David Hockney RA: A Bigger Picture' in London, the veteran painter has found himself firmly in the style spotlight once again.

Fashion types flocked to the show's preview at the Royal Academy of Arts last week, which celebrates the artist's depiction of the English landscape, finding focus in the Yorkshire wolds of his childhood. Among those paying homage were Jasper Conran and Dame Vivienne Westwood, a close friend who has even named a checked jacket after him. Hockney himself was working the colour blocking trend, with a red knitted tie and a yellow rose in his lapel.

Hockney's depiction of the ever-changing seasons in 'A Bigger Picture' provides a pert parallel with fashion's relentless pursuit of the new - almost as though he is acknowledging his status as 'flavour of the month' in his paintings.

Those who have been doing their fashion homework will know that Hockney is the man around whom Christopher Bailey of Burberry has drawn whole collections, honing in on his striped ties and clashing sweaters, calling him "my icon".

He popped up in the show notes for John Galliano Homme for spring/summer 2012, with Bill Gaytten naming his catwalk collection 'Big Splash' in homage to Hockney's famed 1967 painting A Bigger Splash .

Also taking inspiration from Hockney this season is Osman, whose "art-led" spring/summer 2012 catwalk show was redolent with zingy, Californian brights: "I was inspired by the colours of David Hockney from his Splash series, but I wanted to punctuate this with cobalt, cherry red and ivory to loosen it up but still give the clothes a sense of gravitas."

This week, on the back of the tidal wave of publicity that has surrounded Hockney's opening weekend at the RA, have taken the great British painter as their main source of style inspiration.

Mr Porter invite you to ' Shop Mr. David Hockney ', running a collection on their website crammed full of Hockney classics to accompany an interview with the outspoken British painter. Injecting a flash of Hockney's dandy aesthetic into your wardrobe is as simple as purchasing a pair of round-framed tortoise shell glasses, a herringbone tweed flat cap, a stripey shirt (unironed, naturally) or a bright silk tie.

Flavour of the month? Hockney is a man for all seasons.

'David Hockey RA: A Bigger Picture' is on at the Royal Academy of Arts, Piccadilly, from Jan 21 - April 9.

Los Angeles, lovers and light: David Hockney at 80
Art and design
From cool blue pools in LA to Yorkshire woodland to desert highways, a major Tate retrospective to mark Hockney’s 80th birthday celebrates his vibrant vision

Olivia Laing
Fri 13 Jan 2017 12.00 GMT Last modified on Thu 22 Feb 2018 17.08 GMT

As a small boy in Bradford, David Hockney would watch his father paint old bicycles and prams. “I love that, even now,” he remembered decades later. “It is a marvellous thing to dip a brush into the paint and make marks on anything, even a bicycle, the feel of a thick brush full of paint coating something.” He knew he was going to be an artist, even if he wasn’t sure exactly what an artist did. Design Christmas cards, draw signs, paint prams: it didn’t matter, so long as his job involved the unmatched sensuality of making marks.

He’ll be 80 this July: the best-known living British artist, his verve and curiosity undiminished. In 1962, he spent a painstaking day lettering a note to himself on a chest of drawers at the end of his bed. “Get up and work immediately,” it said, and he’s been obeying it ever since. From monumental paintings of swimming pools and seething summer fields to tender, meticulous pencil portraits, from cubist opera sets to vases of flowers drawn on iPads or sent by fax machines, Hockney has always been a relentless reinventor, an artist who appears familiar while refusing to stay still.

As a spectacular new retrospective at Tate Britain makes clear, these twists and turns in thematic preoccupations and new techniques do not represent a lack of discipline or focus. Instead, they are staging posts in Hockney’s great quest: his passionate, obsessive attempt to remake the solid, moody, fleeting world in two dimensions. What do things look like, really, to stereoscopic human eyes, connected to a human heart and brain? Never mind the camera, with its rigid Cyclopean vision. There is a better way of seeing, though it might take a lifetime to master.

He was the fourth of five children, born in 1937 to creative, politically radical working class parents. His father had been a conscientious objector and was a lifelong campaigner for nuclear disarmament, while his mother was a Methodist and vegetarian (years later, asked by Women’s Wear Daily what he found beautiful, he picked his mum).

From the off, Hockney was canny if not outright machiavellian at pursuing his ambitions. At Bradford Grammar, art was only taught to people in the bottom form. “They thought art was not a serious study and I just thought, ‘Well, they’re wrong.’” A bright scholarship boy, he promptly went on strike, idling in all his other subjects in order to gain access. At 16, his parents finally consented to art school, first in Bradford and then, in 1959, at the Royal College of Art.

A cheeky lad in cartoonish glasses and weird, elegant clothes, he stood out at the RCA immediately, not least for the Stakhanovite intensity of his working day. Drawing was the foundation, the bulwark of his buoyant self-belief. If you could draw, he reasoned, you could always make money. The bloke selling sketches in the park was a comfort, not a fear, though in fact before he’d even graduated he was already making substantial money from his work.

In the late 1950s, abstract expressionism – the sploshes and splashes of Jackson Pollock – was casting a long shadow over British art. At first, Hockney played along, but the figure burned at him, a source of illicit fascination. It took a fellow student, the American RB Kitaj, to nudge him towards representation, suggesting he try mining his real interests for subject matter.

Their conversation unlatched a door. Hockney had known he was gay since boyhood. Reading the poets Walt Whitman and CP Cavafy in the summer of 1960, both of whom attested freely to their love of men, he saw a way of inhabiting his sexuality that was at once frank and fruitful. Desire could be his subject; he could make what he described as “propaganda” for queer love. The paintings came fast. In We Two Boys Together Clinging pastel escarpments of pink and blue announce a mood of romance, while in Adhesiveness two squat scarlet figures like pornographic Mr Men engage in oral sex, one sporting an alarmingly fanged mouth nicked straight from Francis Bacon.

Coming out so emphatically took courage. Until the 1967 Sexual Offences Act, homosexual acts were illegal even in private. These new images were a political act, as well as a fantasy he willed into being. Take Domestic Scene, Los Angeles, in which a lanky pink boy in pinny and socks soaps the back of a naked hunk standing beneath a solid blue jet of water. Hockney was imagining California permissiveness before he had even been there, conjuring a utopia that would become both his home and best-known subject.

Mr Whizz, as his new friend Christopher Isherwood nicknamed him, first visited LA in 1964, and immediately recognised a scene in need of a chronicler. The swimming pools, the sprinklers and jungle foliage, the taut, tanned people in their glass houses full of primitive sculpture were simultaneously raw material and aesthetic problems to be solved.

Light on water, iridescent ribbons of glitter, a splash: he could deploy all the lessons of abstraction here, among them Helen Frankenthaler’s trick of diluting acrylic paint with detergent, so it would flood the canvas with reflective pools of colour. As for the people in his paintings, the lovers and friends, the central question was how to depict bodies in space while simultaneously capturing something of the relationship, the currents of emotion between them.

That many of his subjects were famous, the glamorous beau monde of Tinseltown and swinging London, can distract from the seriousness of his investigation, the weirdness of his solutions. The first of his double portraits was 1968’s Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy. The novelist sits in hawkish profile, eyes locked on his much younger lover. A bowl of fruit, behind a phallic cob of corn, distorts the horizontal line into a triangle, forcing the viewer’s gaze to circle restlessly around the canvas.

This marriage of artificiality and liveliness returns in a visionary portrait of the curator Henry Geldzahler sitting on a pink sofa, haloed by a glowing window. Standing to his left is the rigid, transfigured form of his boyfriend, Christopher Scott, who in his belted trench coat has something of the air of a messenger angel, causing the museum curator Kynaston McShine to compare the painting to an annunciation. Though both men’s feet rest emphatically on the same tiled floor, they exist in different orders of reality.

Over the next few years, Hockney’s work became increasingly naturalistic, culminating in portraits such as Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy and 1972’s melancholy Portrait of an Artist, in which his former lover Peter Schlesinger peers coolly down at a distorted body moving through the troubled light of a swimming pool. At first, naturalism had felt like freedom, allowing him to spring away from his contemporaries’ obsession with flatness, their need to labour the artificiality of a painting. He became fascinated by one-point perspective, a development that coincided with a growing interest in photography.

But by the mid 1970s, naturalism too had become a trap, a convention of seeing that failed to accurately capture the world. “Perspective takes away the body of the viewer. You have a fixed point, you have no movement; in short, you are not there really. That is the problem,” he observed. “For something to be seen, it has to be looked at by somebody and any true and real depiction should be an account of the experience of that looking.” In short, he wanted to invite the viewer inside the picture.

The two main zones in which he discovered his new approach were opera and the camera. In 1974 he was commissioned to design a production of Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress at Glyndebourne, and over the next decade he returned repeatedly to set design, gripped by the puzzle of incorporating real bodies into artificial spaces.

The camera offered possibilities far removed from voguish photorealism. In his 1982 exhibition Drawing with a Camera he showed the composite cubist portraits he called “joiners”, made by collaging Polaroid photos, an approach that quickly inflected his paintings, too. The eye is bounced continually, alighting on small details; though the image is still it gives an illusion of motion, capturing the subject’s joggling hands and shifting emotional weather.

New technologies were always a thrill. Just as mastering etching, lithography and aquatint had opened horizons for possible pictorial constructions, so too did the photocopier and fax machine, the latter fondly described by Hockney as “a telephone for the deaf”. He became so addicted to sending friends enormously complex images, comprising hundreds of pages to be pieced together by the recipient, that he created an imaginary institute, The Hollywood Sea Picture Supply Co Est 1988. The smartphones and tablets of the new millennium would prove equally irresistible (many of his 1,500 iPhone and iPad drawings can be seen in a capacious new survey, David Hockney: Current, published by Thames and Hudson this month).

Hockney first realised he was going deaf in 1978, when he couldn’t hear the voices of female students in a class. He painted his hearing aid in cheerful red and blue, but the diagnosis depressed him, especially when he remembered how isolating deafness had proved for his father. The loss was progressive, gradually inhibiting his ability to hear conversations in groups or in the noisy restaurants he had once loved. There were compensations, though. He suspected it induced a compensatory sharpening of his vision, clarifying in particular his sense of space.

The other long shadow in those years was Aids. During the 1980s and early 90s, dozens and dozens of his acquaintances and closest friends died, among them the film director Tony Richardson and the model Joe McDonald. “I remember once going to New York and visiting three separate hospitals. It was the worst time of my life.” Years later, he confided to a friend that he did sometimes consider suicide, adding “we all have a deep desire to survive, because we like the experience of loving”.

You might expect death to darken his palette, but what emerged at the century’s end were revelatory landscapes. In 1997, Hockney was back in Yorkshire, making daily visits to his friend Jonathan Silver, who was dying of cancer and who suggested he might make a subject of his native county. Driving each day across the Wolds, he was struck by “the living aspect of the landscape”. It was seasonality that captivated him now, the slow decline and stubborn regeneration of the natural world. “Some days were just glorious, the colour was fantastic. I can see colour. Other people don’t see it like me obviously.”

The Yorkshire paintings that emerged over the next decade were vast, often made from multiple canvases joined together. Damp, fecund England, as luxuriant as a Matisse, the hedgerows writhing with renewed life. There is something cartoon-like and unadulterated about them, even gluttonous, a need to seize the mad abundance before it becomes something else, bud to leaf, puddle to ice, the endless migration of matter through form.

Hockney has long since attained the status of national treasure, a passionate cardiganed dandy vocally impatient with the nannying anti-bohemianism of the 21st century. In 1997 he was made a Companion of Honour by the Queen; in 2011 the first volume of Christopher Simon Sykes’s warm and knowledgeable biography Hockney was published.

A small stroke in 2012 didn’t inhibit his interest in breaking new ground. Card players have his attention now. Sometimes these group portraits have the look of photographs, and then you spot one of his own paintings hanging on the wall, a witty rejoinder to different kinds of pictorial truth. But as well as the wit, lightness and exuberance of Hockney’s constructions they have a weighty quality, too.

“If you come to dead ends you simply somersault back and carry on,” he once said. The English are perennially suspicious of this kind of acrobatic ability, finding it easier to commend the diligent ploughing of a single furrow. When faced with negativity or bafflement about his new avenues and experiments, Hockney’s response has often been to note tersely that he knows what he is doing.

Learning to look, that’s what he’s been up to, and learning too that looking is a source of joy. Asked a few years ago about the place of love in his life, he answered: “I love my work. And I think the work has love, actually ... I love life. I write it at the end of letters – ‘Love life, David Hockney.’”

• David Hockney is at Tate Britain, London SW1P, from 9 February. Olivia Laing’s The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone is published by Canongate.

David Hockney Interview: Photoshop is Boring

Thursday 27 September 2018

Father and Son. The Father, Kenneth Clark ...

Cultural colossus... and a cruel cad: A new book reveals revered Civilisation presenter Kenneth Clark was also a bed-hopping, wife-stealing rogue
Kenneth Clark was known for 1969 television documentaries Civilisation
But the 'happily' married man was a serial adulterer and seeker of affairs
The trait is revealed in a new book by official biographer, James Stourton.


PUBLISHED: 00:52 BST, 3 September 2016 | UPDATED: 02:38 BST, 3 September 2016

Full-bosomed, voluptuous and with long golden hair, she gazes wistfully into the middle distance. And the grand cultural connoisseur (some might say, commissar) Kenneth Clark adored this vision of pure womanhood so much that he made her the showpiece of his many grand houses.

The nude Baigneuse Blonde by the French impressionist Renoir was ‘my blonde bombshell’, as he liked to call her, and she took pride of place on his art-filled walls.

And who could fault his judgment? Here was a man with impeccable taste, a giant of the artistic world who swept all before him in 20th century Britain, laying down markers of what was good art and what was not, expanding awareness of beauty, bringing culture to the masses, all culminating in his ground-breaking series of television documentaries in 1969, the brilliant and unrivalled Civilisation.

Together with his actual peerage, it earned him the accolade by which he will always be known — Lord Clark of Civilisation. For decades he was the haughty panjandrum of the arts, admired and feared in equal measure. Kings and prime ministers sought his advice, the great and the good flocked to his salon parties, artists sat at his feet and courted his patronage.

Jobs cascaded into his lap like manna, from Oxford professorships to running the National Gallery at the age of 30 and presiding over the likes of the Arts Council and Covent Garden Opera House. He was even invited to be a founding father of ITV, despite at the time not even owning a television set.

There were few figures quite so respected in public life, and seemingly respectable to a fault.

But behind all this grandness and glamour, Clark had a secret — to which his adoration of the ‘blonde bombshell’ was a clue. Though ostensibly a happily married man with a dutiful and caring wife by his side in all his high endeavours, he couldn’t keep his manicured hands or his swooning heart away from other women. He was a serial adulterer, a constant seeker of affairs, even with the wives of his close friends.

This upright pillar of the Establishment was in fact, as one of his detractors put it most succinctly, ‘a frightful s**t’.

This side of Clark’s character is revealed in a new book by his official biographer, James Stourton. An art historian and until recently UK chairman of Sotheby’s, he hails Clark’s great achievement as a populiser of the arts and a disseminator of culture and taste.

But he does not shy away from the murky private life that lay behind it.

Clark’s behaviour was unseemly and sordid. He drove his wife to drink, dumped at least one mistress in circumstances that were downright shameful and passed his penchant for bed-hopping onto his son and heir, the outrageous Conservative politician Alan Clark. It is not a pretty picture.

Kenneth Clark was born into family money, lots of it, a fortune equivalent to more than £500 million by today’s standards, made from cotton. His father was a drunken extrovert, his mother shy and retiring, and the boy grew up rattling around virtually alone in a large country mansion on a vast sporting estate in Suffolk. Much to his bluff father’s disgust he opted for the books in the library rather than taking a gun to the pheasants.

At prep school, he already had the solemn and self-assured air of an archbishop about him, but it was tempered, even then, by a delight in the company of girls. He met some for the first time at a school dance and ‘I was enchanted beyond words by the aura of femininity,’ he recalled. That enchantment, for good and ill, lasted the rest of his life.

From Winchester, where he frequently had to ‘sport an a**e’ (ie, bend over to be caned) for precocity and speaking his mind, he progressed to Oxford, in whose quads he quickly made his name as an aesthete and an intellectual.

H is chums were the brightest dons of the Twenties’ generation, clever, witty, well-read, aloof. He fitted the pattern perfectly. A summer vacation in Italy introduced him to the artistic and intellectual delights of Florence, and his future course in life was set.

Oxford also provided him with a wife. He’d flirted around until then — there was an Eileen and a Sybil — but with Jane Martin it was the real thing. She was Irish with large blue eyes and dark hair, middle-class, elegant, high-spirited, a history graduate and . . . engaged to one of Clark’s best friends.

When the friend had to go overseas for a while, Clark offered to keep an eye on her. When the friend got back, there was a letter from Clark saying he was about to marry Jane himself. He told the abruptly jilted lover that, ‘in the end you will find this is better for everybody’.

It was typical Clark arrogance. He always assumed that, however caddish his behaviour, what was good for him would be fine for everybody else.

It was the same with their wedding.

Jane wanted romance, bridesmaids, the full works, but Clark was having nothing so commonplace. He insisted on a quick hitch in a church — just 14 minutes from start to finish, he recorded proudly — followed by a stiff lunch with his parents.

However, they proved to be good for each other at many levels, and things were going well. With his family wealth and his work as an art historian blossoming, money was no problem. They set up a home with staff, son Alan was born, they travelled and entertained lavishly, throwing dinners and parties for the high-society set where the fashionably dressed Jane was as much of a magnet as he was.

She was a bewitching hostess, open and affable where he could be more diffident and reserved. The combination worked.

Increasingly, the Clarks were on the radar of those who mattered, a power couple much in demand for their conversation, company and connections.

The cracks were covered up. Behind her party face, Jane was moody and mercurial, with a fierce and frequent temper and a drink problem.

She carried what she called ‘cough medicine’ in her handbag and a nasal spray containing morphine and cocaine to calm herself down in times of stress. She was always prone to drama and quarrels, dividing the world into allies and friends. The placid and appeasing Clark usually bent with the wind when she was in one of her strops, but there were still too many nights at home when he stomped out because she was being ‘so bloody’ and walked the streets wondering if he’d made a terrible mistake in marrying her.

He was, of course, partly to blame. His wandering eye cannot have helped her state of mind, though which came first — her tantrums or his infidelities — is an unresolved chicken-and-egg argument.

For a long time, Jane suspected he was being unfaithful. His high-powered jobs gave him access to lots of women and he lunched a deux with the likes of actress Vivien Leigh. There were also secretaries he dallied with, and once Jane caught him cuddling one of the maids at home.

But in the late-Thirties, things escalated when he began seeing Edith, the married sister of ballet choreographer Frederick Ashton, and fell in love. They would meet at her house when her naval officer husband was away, and we can only speculate at what happened there. On this occasion, Clark confessed his indiscretion to his wife and was forgiven.

S tourton argues that the upper-class Clarks were not unusual among their kind in having affairs, and that Jane was not short of her own admirers anyway. These included the composer William Walton, with whom she had a prolonged romance when living away from London during World War II.

A particular French ambassador took to calling on her and was seen in a passionate embrace, while the sculptor Henry Moore, one of her husband’s proteges, was a long-time admirer.

But the bonds between husband and wife ran really deep, and neither Clark nor Jane ever seriously contemplated divorce, which anyway would have been social death in those days.

Nonetheless, they tested each other’s devotion on a regular basis. Feeling hard done by, he felt justified in seeking solace for his wife’s bad behaviour, pouring out his troubles to this fancy woman and that. His cheating did nothing to cool Jane’s temper or her need for escape via alcohol. They were trapped in a vicious matrimonial circle, which he showed no wish to break out of.

As his eminence increased, so, too, did his tally of lady friends and lovers. He became sly, urging them to write to him at his club in Pall Mall, a safe place because letters arriving at home were intercepted.

It is impossible to say how much physical sex was actually involved in these liaisons. Undoubtedly there was some but, tellingly, he dismissed one woman he was close to as ‘too lecherous, don’t like her’.

What mainly captivated him and sent him weak at the knees was that ‘aura of femininity’ he had first noticed as a boy, typically over an illicit, intimate lunch or dinner at the Etoile or Wheeler’s fish restaurant.

He found women generally ‘more receptive, more appreciative and more stimulating’ and basked in their adoration. It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that it was all very much about him. His own daughter, Colette, nailed the truth when she said: ‘He was a compulsive charmer and very put out if women did not fall in love with him.’

Occasionally love knocked him for six. Mary Kessell was a young artist who wore exotic clothes and ribbons in her hair and lived in a little house he bought for her close to his grand Georgian semi-mansion in Hampstead.

He visited when he could and she wrote to him about ‘a most perfect unforgettable evening. There is no one else in the world for me. When I put my arms around you, I feel whole. God means us for one another’.

She begged for more of his time — raising a crucial question about Clark and his lovers. With all the committees he was now sitting on, all the different jobs he held down, all the receptions, dinners and parties he attended, not to mention a wife and three children, how did he ever find time for such a promiscuous love life as well?

The answer was that everything was rigorously compartmentalised and timetabled, including the mistresses. Nothing overlapped, so poor Mary was dumped. Jane had got wind of her, saw the danger and this time threatened to leave Clark unless he stopped seeing her.

He complied, leaving Mary bereft. ‘I shall always love you,’ she wrote to him but never to see him again was ‘a bitter blow’. Broken-hearted, she died an alcoholic. And still he philandered.

There was another Mary, surname Potter, to whom he declared, ‘you are, without exception, the most lovable human being I have ever met’. And Morna Anderson, wife of an old Oxford friend, to whom he wrote: ‘I love you, and have for years, and always shall.’

And Myfanwy, wife of Welsh artist John Piper. And university lecturer Maria Shirley. And librarian Margaret Slyth. And glamorous multi-millionaire New Yorker Jayne Wrightsman.

To Jane, he dismissed all his flings and fancies, whether sexual or just platonic, as ‘my silly fits’. He hoped to ‘contain them better and become less tiresome’, he wrote to her, before instantly falling into the arms of red-haired Barbara Desborough from Australia, who left her husband and children for him.

The indiscretions piled up, the pledges of undying love, the false promises, but through all the mess he created in his and other people’s lives, Clark clung onto Jane, now getting older and sicker, ‘tumbling’ more and more (the family’s word for falling over when drunk), lonely at their new home, Saltwood Castle in Kent while he was a star in London.

A stroke knocked her flat and with all the love and care he could muster he nursed her until her death in 1976. He was bereft. All the sparkle went out of him. For all his dalliances, she had been the love of his life.

As Stourton puts it: ‘Jane was ultimately the ringmaster in the curious performance of Clark and his girlfriends. She had been his excuse to disengage.’ He missed her terribly.

At which point came perhaps Clark’s greatest betrayal of all.

Photographer Janet Stone, a bishop’s daughter and married to a master wood engraver, had been his most devoted mistress for the past 15 years. He unburdened all his problems on her, particularly about Jane, in a mass of letters and at their clandestine meetings once a month. He led her to believe he was madly in love with her and would one day leave his wife for her.

She — perhaps not grasping the truth about all the other ladies in his life — believed him. With Jane now gone, Janet was, as she saw it, on a promise. In a letter six months later, he declared his love for her . . . followed by the bombshell news that, despite this, he was marrying someone else! He was lonely, needed a wife and a reason to live, and had settled on a rich widower he’d briefly met in France, Nolwen Rice.

Janet was understandably devastated. So, too, were his family, convinced their illustrious father had been picked off by a predator.

N olwen turned out to be a toughie. She was not going to put up with all the nonsense Jane had. Clark’s roving days were over. When Janet tried to renew her relationship with him — encouraged, surprise, surprise, by Clark himself, a little spirit still left in the old dog — she was told firmly by Nolwen to ‘go get a life’ and leave her husband alone.

He was now firmly on a marital leash for the first time in his life and remained there until his death in 1983.

It was the end of a great and grand life, which enriched the world in many ways. Sometimes this paragon seemed too aloof and remote to be real. Many people felt put down and put off by him. His feet of clay, exposed in this biography, bring Lord Clark of Civilisation down to earth. It’s no bad thing.

 Adapted from Kenneth Clark: The Authorised Biography by James Stourton, published by William Collins on September 22, at £30. © James Stourton 2016. To buy a copy for £22.50, P&P free, call 0844 571 0640 or visit Offer valid until September 9.     

Kenneth Clark by James Stourton review – Mary Beard on Civilisation without women

Clark’s patrician manner, and the ‘great man’ approach of his famous TV series, now seem outdated. This biography retrieves his influence, but has worrying sexual politics

Mary Beard
 Sat 1 Oct 2016 07.30 BST Last modified on Wed 29 Nov 2017 10.16 GMT

In February 1969, I watched the first episode of Kenneth Clark’s famous TV series, Civilisation. I can still picture him, standing on barbaric northern headlands, explaining that “our” civilisation had barely survived the collapse of the Roman empire. We had come through only “by the skin of our teeth”. It was an incongruous scene: Clark – Winchester and Oxford educated, connoisseur and collector, former director of the National Gallery – looked every inch the toff as he walked in his brogues and Burberry over the battered countryside, where wellington boots and a woolly would have been more appropriate. But I tingled slightly as he repeated that phrase, “by the skin of our teeth”. I was just 14, and it had never struck me that “civilisation” might be such a fragile thing, still less that it might be possible to trace a history of European culture, as Clark was to do, in 13 parts, from the early middle ages to the 20th century.

 Civilisation had shown us that there was something in art and architecture that was worth talking, and arguing, about
A few years later, now more a devotee of John Berger’s Ways of Seeing (a TV series and book devised in hostile reaction to Civilisation), I began to feel decidedly uncomfortable with Clark’s patrician self-confidence and the “great man” approach to art history – one damn genius after the next – that ran through the series. I was very doubtful, too, about the image of wild barbarians at the gates that Clark conjured up in that first episode: it was as crude an oversimplification of barbarism as his dreamy notion of ideal perfection was an oversimplification of classicism. Nonetheless, Civilisation had opened my eyes, and those of many others; not only visually stunning, it had shown us that there was something in art and architecture that was worth talking, and arguing, about.

Some of the best chapters in James Stourton’s careful biography discuss the making of this series. Clark was then in his early 60s and a considerable catch for its commissioner David Attenborough, who was trying to give the first wave of colour TV on BBC2 a more highbrow image than it had acquired in the US. What better than a series that would feature “all the most beautiful pictures and buildings” of the last 2,000 years of western European history?

Despite the commonly held belief that Clark was an upper-crust scholar plucked from some dusty museum basement who luckily proved to be a “natural” on screen, he had already made dozens of programmes for ITV, including one featuring an argument with Berger over Picasso’s Guernica (the two men were ideological enemies but personal friends). He was the obvious man for the job. Less obvious was the director assigned to the series: Michael Gill, father of the critic AA Gill, who did not share Clark’s aesthetic viewpoint (“Michael would probably have wanted to be the barbarian at the gate,” his wife observed). To begin with, getting the pair to collaborate was, according to one BBC source, rather like “mating pandas”.

For some viewers, Civilisation was life-changing. In the letters Clark received after the broadcasts, no fewer than nine correspondents claimed they had been dissuaded from suicide simply by watching (modestly, Clark wasn’t sure whether to believe them). Even the Sun hyped Clark as “the Gibbon of the McLuhan age”, and he was promptly given a peerage. The rumour was that Mary Wilson said to Harold, after one of their regular Sunday evening viewings in 10 Downing Street: “That man must go to the House of Lords.” And so he did.

But Civilisation was not an instant ratings success. At its first showing, it captured less than 2% of the available audience (compared with 35% for The Forsyte Saga). And Berger was not the only critic of Clark’s “top-down” approach to cultural politics; others complained that they were watching the elitist musings of an Edwardian critic. Clark’s silly jibes at “pseudo-Marxists” (for some reason, a notch below “real” ones), and his boasts of being a “stick-in-the-mud” laid him open to this.

 On one of his ITV programmes on 'good taste' he seems to have taken a line closer to Grayson Perry than to Brian Sewell
As Stourton shows, some of the criticisms do not stick. Although the programmes concentrated on western Europe, Clark was not blind (as he was charged) to other artistic traditions: he had been devoted to Japanese art since childhood. And however patrician his manner, he was a lifelong Labour voter. In fact, in one of his ITV programmes on “good taste” he seems to have taken a line closer to Grayson Perry than to Brian Sewell.

But Stourton frankly concedes one glaring omission in Civilisation. This was a “great man” approach in the most literal sense. Hardly any women got a look-in, and when very occasionally they did, it was not as creative artists or even patrons, but as hostesses, temptresses, Virgin Marys, or something woolly called the “female principle”. Almost the only woman credited, briefly, with an independent role was Elizabeth Fry, the prison reformer – and, it so happens, the ancestor of one of Clark’s long-standing mistresses.

Contested though they still are, it is far easier to evaluate Clark’s TV programmes than the rest of his life. On the surface, his was a golden career. Born in 1903 into a family of the idle rich (“many richer … few idler”, as he put it), he made his way through school and university against the usual background of loyal nannies, vicious schoolmasters and cranky dons, before managing to get himself apprenticed briefly to the art historian Bernard Berenson in Florence. A glittering CV followed: keeper of fine art at the Ashmolean, director of the National Gallery, keeper of the king’s pictures, chairman of the Independent Television Authority, and so on, ending up a member of the Order of Merit, an august body that he found, predictably enough, full of his old pals.

Reading between the lines of Stourton’s account, it seems clear that he was good at big ideas, not so good at attention to detail (always a peril for men, like Clark, who don’t actually need a salary to survive). His tenure at the National Gallery is a case in point. Appointed when he was just 30 in 1933, he scored some great successes: he installed electric light; he opened up early on FA Cup final day to encourage fans to visit; he masterminded the evacuation of the major paintings to the Welsh mines during the second world war; and he reinvented the gallery as a cultural centre for wartime London (with hugely popular concerts organised by Myra Hess). Yet the staff were almost entirely against him, and it was partly their opposition that led to his resignation as soon as the war ended.

Clark’s supporters tend to paint his subordinates as small-minded bureaucrats, narrow scholars or, occasionally, psychopaths; and so they may have been. But one of Stourton’s anecdotes hints at a different story. Clark was going home one evening when he was surprised to see a newspaper hoarding: “National Gallery. Grave Scandal.” It turned out that one of the gallery’s accountants had had his fingers in the till for years, and all had been made public. Although director, Clark knew absolutely nothing about it.

 It is dangerous to investigate marital wars from beyond the grave, and even more presumptuous to try to apportion blame
But it is women, again, who are the most uncomfortable part of Clark’s story. His wife, Jane, had read history at Oxford; they married in 1927 and soon had three children (including Alan Clark MP, of Diaries and other fame). By the end of the 30s, Clark “started being unfaithful to his wife” and had multiple dalliances – “a vigorous private life” in Stourton’s euphemism – until her death in 1976. Jane, meanwhile, is said to have become increasingly difficult and dependent on alcohol and prescription drugs. It is always dangerous to investigate marital wars from beyond the grave, and even more presumptuous to try to apportion blame. But biographers should watch their rhetoric and at least let the different parties keep their dignity. Stourton tries, but does not always succeed.

There is little room for independent women in Stourton’s version of Clark’s life. Jane wins his praise early on for her elegance and her dress sense; she was “a natural and beautiful hostess”. When she doesn’t fit that type, she gets written up as the monstrous, unstable spouse of a long-suffering husband: “The more she tormented him, the more he sought solace elsewhere.” Stourton occasionally recognises that this logic could be reversed: “The more he screwed around, the more screwed up she got.” There are simply different ground rules for men and women. When Clark breaks down and cries in a gents’ lavatory in Washington DC in response to a rapturous reaction to Civilisation, that is a sign of his sensitive ambivalence to fame. When the women cry, they are being hysterical.

The mistresses generally fare no better than the wife. Stourton only mentions in passing that Janet Stone, the descendant of Elizabeth Fry and mistress of Clark for almost 30 years, was an important photographer in her own right. But he does clearly see the poignant side of a discovery made after Clark’s death: a box of letters from her that he had never bothered, or brought himself, to open.

Clark’s television presentation of women as objects of desire or inspiration was not all that far from the way women in his own life continue to be portrayed: “a muse without a role”, as he once dubbed Jane.

• Kenneth Clark: Life, Art and Civilisation is published by HarperCollins. 

Kenneth Clark: arrogant snob or saviour of art?
Famed for the TV series Civilisation, Clark has long been accused of patrician arrogance. But he was also a brilliant wordsmith whose books changed the game, argues James Hall

James Hall
Fri 16 May 2014 14.00 BST First published on Fri 16 May 2014 14.00 BST

Italians call the great 14thcentury authors Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio i tre coronati – the three crowned laureates. In Britain, during the middle third of the 20th century, art history had its own tre coronati in the formidable shapes of Nikolaus Pevsner, Ernst Gombrich and Kenneth Clark. What made them stand out from their contemporaries both here and abroad was not just their extraordinary erudition and prolific output, but an eloquence and popularising skill that made them public figures. They became the subjects of biographies, and many of their books remain in print. Pevsner, as the author of the landmark Buildings of Britain series, could be found in countless car glove compartments; Gombrich wrote the bestselling art book of all time, The Story of Art; and Clark was the maker of a number of pioneering TV series that were broadcast internationally, the most famous being Civilisation (1969).

Of the three, Clark's reputation is most in need of rescue. Two people bear most responsibility for his eclipse: John Berger and Clark's son Alan. Berger's brilliant TV series and book Ways of Seeing (1972) threw down a lethal Marxist-feminist gauntlet to Clark's Olympian worldview. Clark is the only art historian to be named, and he is cited and ticked-off twice over. His description of Gainsborough's portrait of Mr and Mrs Andrews on their country estate in Landscape into Art (1949) as "enchanting" and "Rousseauist" is denounced: "They are not a couple in Nature as Rousseau imagined nature. They are landowners and their proprietary attitude towards what surrounds them is visible in their stance and their expressions." Berger well knew that Clark, thanks to substantial inherited wealth (the family fortune came from Paisley cotton), had lived since 1955 in Saltwood Castle in Kent surrounded by a moat and a large art collection that included old masters and impressionists.

Berger also took to task The Nude: a study of ideal art (1956), Clark's longest and most intellectually ambitious book: "Kenneth Clark maintains that to be naked is simply to be without clothes, whereas the nude is a form of art." While Berger concedes that the nude "is always conventionalised", he insists it "also relates to lived sexuality". The female nude is subservient to the male "spectator-owner … men act and women appear". Civilisation ended with Clark in his study at Saltwood fondling a Henry Moore reclining nude (he also owned Renoir's Blond Bather).

If it has become hard not to consider Clark through Berger-tinted spectacles, it is even harder not to blot out the "lived sexuality" of his son – the Thatcher-adoring, boozy sexual predator Alan Clark MP, whose sybaritic diaries outsold his father's art books, and who was proud to be Lord Clark of Civilisation's barbaric antithesis (this roguish persona was also a rebellion against Clark senior's diffidence and emotional aloofness). When, in 1997, Alan Clark offloaded to the National Gallery his father's serenely austere Zurbaran still-life, A Cup of Water and a Rose (c1630), my admiration for Clark senior's discernment (and envy of his deep pockets) was disturbed by a stray thought – did Clark junior get rid of it because its sobriety irked him?

In many ways, Kenneth Clark became a victim of his meteoric success, though what shouldn't be discounted was his patrician arrogance, which many found infuriating. Having gone to Oxford to read history in 1922, he entered the artistic circles around Charlie Bell, keeper of the Ashmolean, and immersed himself in the museum's superb collection of old master drawings. Bell was a pioneering aficionado of Victorian architecture, and he proposed the subject of Clark's first book, The Gothic Revival (1928), published when he was only 25. Despite lambasting "these monsters, these unsightly wrecks stranded upon the mud flat of Victorian taste", Clark also admired certain neogothic buildings and thus became a catalyst for the reevaluation of Victorian architecture. He succeeded Bell at the Ashmolean in 1931, and, having been groomed by the connoisseur Bernard Berenson and Bloomsbury art critic Roger Fry, became, at 29, the youngest ever director of the National Gallery two years later. During the war, he was a heroic figure because of his patronage of British artists and especially the displays and concerts at the National Gallery; after the war he became chair of the Arts Council and the Independent Television Authority (a commercial regulator) – as well as a prolific author, globe-trotting lecturer and consummate TV presenter. Of his museum director successors, only Neil MacGregor – the second youngest director of the National Gallery and now in charge at the British Museum – has the same proselytising zeal and public profile.

Books such as Landscape into Art and The Nude are now gleefully derided, but in their day they were ground-breaking surveys that mapped and synthesised vast fields for the first time. The Nude singlehandedly revived interest in antique sculpture and its influence on western art and culture after a century of Ruskin-induced neglect. The subsequent vogue for Grand Tour studies, and Francis Haskell and Nicholas Penny's standard survey Taste and the Antique (1981), are inconceivable without it (in an otherwise positive review, Gombrich criticised Haskell and Penny for failing to mention The Nude). Now there are shelfloads of books about nudity in art, all using The Nude as springboard and whipping boy, and nudity has been a key component of recent art.

Civilisation, a product of his seventh decade, hasn't worn so well, despite its director Michael Gill's high production values. It is marred by slack windbaggery and loose connections, but Clark's keen awareness of the fragility of cultures – whether of the Vikings, Franks or Nazis – commands respect: "At some time in the ninth century one could have looked down the Seine and seen the prow of a Viking ship coming up the river. Looked at today in the British Museum it is a powerful work of art; but to the mother of a family trying to settle down in her little hut, it would have seemed less agreeable – as menacing to her civilisation as the periscope of a nuclear submarine." He wouldn't have approved of the British Museum's current exhibition, Viking, in which the mass-murdering slave-traders are reinvented as entrepreneurial free-traders. His views on housing seem positively prescient: "If I had to say which was telling the truth about society, a speech by a minister of housing or the actual buildings put up in his time, I should believe the buildings." Despite his hostility to Marxism – especially when applied to art – the sections on the slave trade, the industrial revolution and poverty remain powerful and moving indictments. Perhaps the most shocking thing about Civilisation is the state of Clark's teeth.

Clark's critics have lamented his Eurocentrism; his patronage of neo-romantic Nash, Piper, Sutherland and Moore (but not Bacon); and his dislike of purist abstraction (Ben Nicholson's reliefs, which he nonetheless collected, were less "cosmic symbols" than "tasteful pieces of decoration"). But the condescension of posterity is disproportionate, and not just because "it is only an auctioneer who can equally and impartially admire all schools of art" (Oscar Wilde). In retrospect, Clark was right about purism: it was a cul-desac, however magnificent at times. Mondrian's road to abstraction is thrilling; once he gets there, his art becomes drily academic and repetitious. In 1935, Clark published a pessimistic essay in the Listener entitled "The Future of Painting", in which he argued that a viable new style "can only arise out of a new interest in subject matter … We need a new myth in which the symbols are inherently pictorial." Jackson Pollock is a case in point – he yearned to infuse abstract art with profound content and, by the time of his premature death, had returned to semi-figuration. In post-1960s art and theory, impurism – conscious and unconscious subject matter – is all the rage.

One of Clark's most radical and least remarked innovations was his obsession with details. While director of the National Gallery, he produced the first ever "details" book, which is still in print: One Hundred Details from Pictures in the National Gallery (1938). Although it looks like an amusing potboiler, it is his most influential book. Clark wanted to encourage viewers to look more attentively at artworks, and to see images in a fresh way. He juxtaposed details from pictures by different artists, often from different periods, inviting his readers to compare and contrast. His interest in details was fostered by his knowledge of the sleuthing techniques of psychoanalysis.

The impact of Clark's book was immediate. In December 1938, WH Auden wrote his celebrated poem "Musée des Beaux Arts" while staying in Brussels. He must surely have had One Hundred Details on his desk or in his mind's eye. The poem is a perfect amplification of Clark's thesis: it explores the important entities sometimes located in the margins or background of artworks, and human obliviousness to great events. One can go through Auden's poem footnoting the relevant details in Clark's book:

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position: how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

Auden's poem concludes with a meditation on Bruegel's idyllic landscape in which a tiny Icarus crash-lands into the sea: "how everything turns away / Quite leisurely from the disaster".

Clark ends with a detail of the tiny crucifix that is hidden in the midst of a charming animal-filled landscape in Pisanello's Vision of Saint Eustace (c1438-42). There is no commentary: he lets the tragic, easy-to-overlook image speak for itself.

Paradoxically, Berger exploited details in Ways of Seeing and today's art historians are intoxicated by them – none more so than social art historian TJ Clark (no relation), whose short book The Sight of Death (2006) features 70 delirious details of two paintings by Poussin. The fascinating exhibition currently at the National Gallery, Building the Picture, could almost be dedicated to the former director, for it focuses on the architecture in the background of Renaissance paintings. The curator, Amanda Lillie, explains how the spotlight is on what is usually considered a minor detail: "Buildings in paintings have too often been viewed as background or as space fillers that play a passive or at best supporting role, propping up the figures that carry the main message of the picture. By looking afresh at buildings within paintings, treating them as active protagonists, it becomes clear that they performed a series of crucial roles." She exhibits a Beccafumi whose fantastic architecture was zoomed in on by Clark.

Above all, perhaps, Clark was a brilliant wordsmith, the most seductive writer on art since Ruskin and Pater, whom he greatly admired. Today, when most art historians write as joylessly as lawyers and accountants, such verve is sorely needed. His writing is seen at its probing and evocative best in his classic 1939 book on Leonardo, which remains the best introduction to his art (the reprint has an excellent preface by Martin Kemp). Clark had established himself as the world's leading Leonardo scholar in 1935, when his great three-volume catalogue of the Leonardo drawings in the Royal Collection was published.

His influential interpretation of Leonardo's grotesque heads is a tour de force: rather than a frivolous hobby, as was often assumed, they were made central by Clark to Leonardo's art and life. Clark was always fascinated by polarities, especially between the ugly and the ideal, and this underpinned his notorious distinction between the naked and the nude. He inherited this preoccupation from late 19th-century decadent writers, and from Freud. In Oxford in the 1920s, he alternated between studying the "unsightly wrecks" of neogothic architecture, and the Ashmolean's sumptuous sketches by Raphael and Michelangelo. See-sawing from the monstrous to the supremely beautiful was the art historical equivalent of Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, where's Dorian's ageless beauty contrasts with his disintegrating portrait.

But Leonardo was the greatest single embodiment of these polarities. Having noted that he loved drawing freaks, Clark observed: "Mixed with his motive of curiosity lay others, more profound: the motives that led men to carve gargoyles on the gothic cathedrals. Gargoyles were the complement to saints; Leonardo's caricatures were complementary to his untiring search for ideal beauty. And gargoyles were the expression of all the passions, the animal forces, the Caliban gruntings and groanings that are left in human nature when the divine has been poured away." Clark's son Alan would take it on himself to embody the "Caliban gruntings and groanings", leaving the divine roles to his father.

Clark further believed that Leonardo's grotesque man with "nutcracker nose and chin" was the counterpart to "the epicene youth", and these types can be found scarcely modified at all stages of Leonardo's career: "These are, in fact, the two hieroglyphs of Leonardo's unconscious mind, the two images his hand created when his attention was wandering, and as such they have an importance for us which the frequent poverty of their execution should not disguise. Virile and effeminate, they symbolise the two sides of Leonardo's nature … Even in his most conscious creations, even in the Last Supper, they remain, as it were, the armature round which his types are created".

Perhaps it's now time for the Caliban critical gruntings to give way to a fairer assessment.

• James Hall is  the author of The Self-Portrait: A Cultural History (Thames & Hudson)


Sunday 23 September 2018

Father and Son ... First, the son / Alan Clark

Alan Clark was not 'wonderful'. He was sleazy and cruel
The diarist and Tory minister made his wife wretchedly miserable
Dominic Lawson
Tuesday 15 September 2009 00:00

Oh dear, not Alan Clark again. Ten years after the death of the so-called "Samuel Pepys of the 20th century" out comes the official biography. On the BBC Today programme yesterday the book's author, Ion Trewin, described how "wonderful" Clark was. This is the popular view, reinforced by the way in which that marvellous actor John Hurt portrayed Clark's own account of himself to a mass audience, in the BBC dramatisation of his diaries.

Alan Clark was not wonderful. He was sleazy, vindictive, greedy, callous and cruel. He was also a thorough-going admirer of Adolf Hitler, although his sycophants persisted in thinking that his expressions of reverence for the Fuhrer were not meant seriously. They absolutely were.

When Alan Clark died, in September 1999, the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, led the tributes, saying: "We will all miss him". One MP had the courage to offer an honest view of his late colleague: David Heathcoat-Amory – who had the genuine article's ability to see through Clark's phoney imitation of the upper-class Englishman. Heathcoat-Amory told the BBC that "he wasn't a particularly nice man. He could be very cruel with colleagues. One incident that sticks in the mind was when we were having a whip-round for a colleague and he [a multi-millionaire] refused to chip in ... I also think he was very conscious of his own image and status, and his own reputation as a diarist."

 That rang true. When the London Evening Standard began publishing some spoof Alan Clark diaries, he sued them for a considerable sum of money, although it must have been clear to any reader that these were nothing more than a form of humorous homage. Yet Clark, for all the witty demolitions of his colleagues in his diaries, took himself very seriously indeed – it was a source of great bitterness to him that neither Margaret Thatcher nor John Major could take at all seriously his insistence that he should be Foreign Secretary.

He made it to Minister of State for Trade, however, in which role he did something truly wicked. At the time, this country had an embargo against selling weaponry to Saddam Hussein. Clark did not agree with this policy, and so gave the nod and a wink to a company called Matrix Churchill to sell machine tools to Saddam, which he knew were for military use. This was against the law, so when HM Customs discovered the shipments, the Matrix Churchill executives were arrested. They protested that the then Trade Minister Clark had given them the all-clear; but when he was visited by the police, he lied and said that he had done no such thing.

So the executives went on trial – and would have received substantial prison sentences, were it not for the fact that the judge overturned so-called ministerial public interest immunity certificates, which had kept from the court documents revealing Clark's involvement. Clark, of course, had signed those certificates, and must have thought that this would end any chance of his lies being uncovered.

Immediately, the Matrix executives' lawyers put to Clark in the witness stand the incompatibility between his remarks to the police, and what was now being revealed. Clark drawled, "it's our old friend economical... with the actualité": in other words, he admitted that there had been a conspiracy between him and the Matrix Churchill executives to disguise the nature of the exports to Saddam. The trial collapsed – and Clark became an instant hero. It was felt that he had told the truth in the dock, and thus saved the defendants from unjust incarceration. The truth was that Clark had been content to see the men locked up on the basis of his perjurious evidence – for which he should have been prosecuted – and only came clean when the forced disclosure of documents he had connived in suppressing had put him on the spot.

It turned out that Clark had earlier explained his motives for clearing the exports to Saddam: "The interests of the West were well served by Iran and Iraq fighting each other, the longer the better." He was indeed a notable historian of wars, one of his most acclaimed works being Barbarossa, an account of the Eastern Front in the Second World War. He was intent on proving Hitler's talent as a military leader, but over the years it became clear that there was more to it than mere technical admiration of Hitler the war strategist. In 1981 his diary records: "I told Frank Johnson that I was a Nazi; I really believed it to be the ideal system, and that it was a disaster for the Anglo-Saxon races and for the world that it was extinguished."

Johnson, who was then on the staff of The Times, gulps and tells Clark that he can't really mean it. Clark really did mean it. But even when he complains in his diary that Johnson "takes refuge in the convention that Alan-doesn't-really-mean-it", his readers continue to believe that this is all an uproarious joke. Yet, and this is to his credit as a diarist, he does not attempt to mislead his readers about his true opinions: at one point he records his thoughts of defecting to the National Front, and when two NF emissaries come to visit him he writes, "How good they were and how brave [those] who keep alive the tribal essence."

All this filth has been submerged by the tidal wave of obsession with Clark's sexual exploits. On that score Trewin's biography will not disappoint. We knew that the 30-year-old Clark married the 16-year-old Jane Beuttler in 1958. Yet Trewin has unearthed the following diary entry, written when Clark's wife-to-be was just 14: "This is very exciting. She [Jane] is the perfect victim, but whether or not it will be possible to succeed I can't tell at present."

He did succeed in the endeavour of making this child a "perfect victim": in the course of their marriage he made her wretchedly miserable with his continuous betrayals. Sickest of all, perhaps, was the way in which on his death-bed he made this much younger woman promise him that she would never remarry. Naturally his "perfect victim" consented.

Again, the reading public seems to find Clark's frenzied extra-marital rutting merely amusing: or perhaps it is just that they appreciate his lack of hypocrisy in admitting all to his diary. They should consider what it was like to be in receipt of his unwanted attentions. Some years ago the (married) journalist Minette Marrin recorded her own experience of it. They had both been invited to a "political" dinner at a private house. He instantly pressed himself on her in a most unsubtle way, demanding that she leave their hosts, join him for a private dinner and then...

Marrin recalled: "He thought 'no' was a form of flirting ... When at last he came to believe that I was impervious to his charms and would not rush off with him into the night, he turned to me with a particularly vicious look. And this is what this self-styled gentleman, this intellectual, this flower of our civilisation, then said: "Well, fuck you then. Fuck off. I'm not talking to you any more."

I think it would be better if we heard no more about the "wonderful" Alan Clark.

Alan Clark
Alan Clark, who has died aged 71, was an irrepressible free spirit on the Conservative benches with a habit for outspokenness that ensured he never gained high office.

Alan Clark at the 1994 Conservative Party Conference in Bournemouth  Photo: Brian Smith
12:23PM BST 08 Sep 1999

Clark was renowned not only for frequent public rows, but also for the candid and outrageous content of his very readable diaries. He said things of a kind many readers kept to themselves.

The Diaries gave a surprisingly open account of his own vanity, hopes, lusts, political ambitions and amused contempt for his fellow politicians and constituents. He exulted in driving fast cars and testing his physical fitness and courage (by exploits such as climbing ruinous walls).

He also revealed an anxiety about becoming unattractive to women in old age and a fear of sickness ("I am now convinced I have got cancer of the jaw," he wrote erroneously in 1987, after looking in the shaving mirror.) His jaundiced attitude and cynical laughter were reminiscent of Philip Larkin.

Clark admired animals and hated cruelty to them, strongly opposing battery chicken rearing and fur trapping. An emotional passage in his Diaries describes his ill-managed shooting of a heron that was eating his fish: "I was sobbing as I went back up the steps: `Sodding fish, why should I kill that beautiful creature just for the sodding fish?' "

There were endless surprises in Clark's character. He was a country landowner but was repelled by hunting, a loving husband yet a flagrant womaniser, an admirer of the martial qualities of the SS but a stout defender of Britain's capacity to defend her liberties.

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Clark worried about the drain on his wealth of the upkeep of Saltwood Castle in Kent (from which the knights had set out to murder Thomas Becket), a 27,000-acre estate at Eriboll in Sutherland, a chalet in Zermatt (he was a daring skier) a house in north Devon and rooms in Albany (to him a place of "cold and miserable squalor").

Dashing and languid, he combined sensibility and arrogance, and made friends in high places - and enemies. His enthusiastic knowledge of military history and strategy well qualified him as a defence minister. But his honesty, sense of humour and contempt for stupidity disqualified him from higher office.

Much of Clark's character was to be explained by his similarity to his father, the art historian Kenneth Clark. To him he owed his money, sharp intellect and breeding. In his Diaries he admitted a constant inability to communicate with his father, but in the end, as Kenneth Clark lay dying, there was a moving declaration: " `Papa, I think you're going to die very soon. I've come back to tell you how much I love you, and to thank you for all you did for me, and to say goodbye.' He mumbled, but his breathing calmed right down. Quite remarkable and fulfilling."

Alan Kenneth McKenzie Clark was born on April 13 1928. The family's roots were bourgeois - Clark's grandfather made his fortune from cotton. Saltwood, the boyhood home of the Daily Telegraph journalist W F Deedes, was bought "for a song" in 1953.

Alan spent his childhood miserably "behind the green baize door" from his father. He hated Eton, receiving "an early introduction to human cruelty, treachery and extreme physical hardship". He and his House Tutor, L H Jacques formed an instant antipathy, and he was caned for bursting a paper bag in Chapel and writing "not dusty" on some untouched furniture. "These were not the worst things I did," he confessed later.

During 185 days' National Service in the Household Cavalry, Clark acquired a third share in his first Jaguar and a taste for strong language. In 1948 he went up to Christ Church, Oxford, to read History, enjoying lectures by Robert Blake and Hugh Trevor-Roper.

He spent the summer of 1950 in America, staying with the Astors - which he liked - before working as a bellhop; on his travels he developed a life-long distaste for America.

After taking his degree, he combined dinners at the Inner Temple with a colourful career as a "runner" for a used-car dealer in Warren Street. When unemployed he would "nip round to Annabel's where the barman would cash a cheque for pounds 50". He was called to the Bar in 1955, but never practised. Instead, the super-fit Clark became involved with the Festival Ballet, and in 1957 passed himself off as a wrestler to gain experience of Russia.

In July 1958, now 30, he caused a stir by marrying 16-year-old Jane Beuttler, whom he had courted for two years, collecting her from convent school in a Cadillac. His bride declared: "I am not even nervous. I intend to have a lot of fun in my married life." So did her husband. A former girlfriend turned up on the honeymoon in Positano.

In 1961 Clark published his first book of military history, The Donkeys, A History of the BEF in 1915. It heaped obloquy on British generals - particularly Haig - for their readiness to sacrifice lives to an unimaginative strategy. It provided much material for Joan Littlewood's musical Oh! What a Lovely War.

Clark enhanced his reputation as a military historian with The Fall of Crete. In 1965 he published Barbarossa: The Russo-German Conflict 1941-45 and in 1973 Aces High: The war in the air over the Western Front.

But he was never far from controversy. In 1984, in The Daily Telegraph, he contrasted the "inefficiency" of Eisenhower's army in Normandy with the "physical splendour" of the SS infantry who resisted it. In 1993 he outraged many by claiming that Churchill lost the Empire through not making peace with Hitler in 1941.

In 1971 his father moved out of Saltwood, to lessen death duties, and Clark moved in. He loved the castle with its Norman buildings partly rebuilt by Lutyens, its vast vaulted library, the works of art, the grounds thronged with wildlife. There was space to tinker with his three Jaguars, Silver Ghost and Porsche. Saltwood was a refuge for the Clarks and their Rottweilers.

But money was always a nagging consideration. At first, Clark had no access to the family trust, and mortgaged Saltwood to Hoare's. He opened the castle to the public, but closed it again because of thefts and vandalism. After Lord Clark's death, the family sold a Turner for pounds 7.4 million to meet death duties.

Clark never thought himself rich enough, lamenting in 1987 that, despite having pounds 700,000 in the Abbey National, "I'm not rich enough to have servants, we have to do everything ourselves and we just haven't got the time." He worked out how much the windows cost to clean and rued the price of claret for dinner parties at pounds 100 for a decent bottle.

Politically, Clark yearned to be in the Cabinet. But, he judged, "I am not a hungry fighter, being too full of my Baldwinesque leisure and hobbies." In the late 1960s, armed with pounds 30,000 in royalties from Barbarossa and convinced that Labour was ruining the country, he sought a seat, despite his father's view of politics as "degrading".

He spurned Swindon in 1969, considering it unwinnable. Edward Heath then reputedly barred him from the candidates' list as a reactionary. It was 1972 before Clark was chosen to fight Plymouth, Sutton. Elected in February 1974, he held the seat for 18 years, developing little affection for the constituency or most of the worthies he had to humour.

Singled out by Whips as "the most dangerous man in the Commons", Clark was an early supporter of Mrs Thatcher, not just because he thought her the most sexually attractive woman in politics: "Eyes, wrists . . ankles!" He took a robust line on race, law and order and Europe, campaigning for a "No" vote in the 1975 referendum.

He always took his own line. He called protests at the treatment of Soviet dissidents as "preposterous and desperately dangerous". He voted against reforms to the Anglican liturgy, and spoke strongly against abortion.

When Mrs Thatcher took office in 1979, he appealed to her not to give in to "faint hearts" on Europe and to resist Treasury pressure for defence cuts. He was blunt in public with her ministers. When the De Lorean car plant in Belfast closed with the loss of millions of taxpayers' money, Clark blamed the Labour government but told the Northern Ireland Secretary Humphrey Atkins: "Do you realise that you are the laughing stock not only of the international motor industry but as far as I know of the criminal fraternity as well?"

When Rex Hunt, Governor of the Falklands, surrendered to Argentine forces in 1982, he tabled questions alleging "collusion" between the Foreign Office and the junta. He was one of several Tories to threaten rebellion unless Britain secured a "dual key" for American cruise missiles at RAF bases.

Convinced he had no prospect of office, he launched an unsuccessful bid for the ownership of The Spectator. But after the 1983 election, Mrs Thatcher, admiring his stand on the Falklands and his rakish demeanour, took a risk and made him junior employment minister.

Already 55, he was not cut out for Whitehall and by the end of his first day was convinced that his private secretary Jenny Easterbrook, "her sexuality tightly controlled", thought him "an uncouth chauvinist lout" likely to last weeks rather than months.

Though Clark was not a heavy drinker, in a celebrated incident he made the mistake of accepting an invitation to a wine tasting before making his first important ministerial speech. He read in a mocking tone a passage on equal rights for women. After Clare Short accused him of being "incapable", he gabbled the rest. In his own words, he was brought down by "odious over-confidence" and three particularly fine wines.

Clark sought the role of court jester, as when on a prime ministerial flight he insisted on treating the black-tied Sir Geoffrey Howe as head waiter. He explained: "Like many who have had an unhappy childhood, I am frightened of being laughed at. Perhaps that is why I like making people laugh with me."

In 1985 Clark - motto "only servants apologise" - outraged the Foreign Office by describing sub-Saharan Africa as "Bongo-Bongo Land"; the remark was made in private, but leaked.

An even more explosive episode in April 1984 required Mrs Thatcher's intervention to keep him in the Government. Clark - an anti-American protectionist representing a naval constituency - attacked on the BBC's Question Time the decision to buy an American missile for the Royal Navy instead of the British-developed Sea Eagle. The Defence Secretary, Michael Heseltine, wanted him sacked for this, but Lobby correspondents were rapidly informed that the Lady stood by him.

That October, Clark had what he took as a providential escape from death. He and his wife decided on a whim to leave the party conference in Brighton a day early. That night the IRA bombed the Grand Hotel. Clark noted apocalyptically: "What a coup for the Paddys. The whole thing has a smell of the Tet Offensive."

His time at employment had its high spots. One was his piloting of a trade union Bill through the Commons with Labour pitting against him John Smith, Gordon Brown and Tony Blair; he emerged with honours more than even.

In January 1986 Clark, who had come within a whisker of resigning through boredom, rejected a sideways move to transport. His pretext was that owning land close to the likely Channel Tunnel portal raised a conflict of interest. Within days he got a better offer; after the resignations of Michael Heseltine and Leon Brittan over Westland, Mrs Thatcher made him Minister of State for Trade. Douglas Hurd advised the Prime Minister not to appoint Clark because of "Bongo-Bongo Land". (His own characterisation of Hurd was: "Might as well have a corncob up his arse.") President Bongo of the Ivory Coast jokingly sent Clark a poster reading: "Gagnez avec Bongo!" which he displayed at his 1987 adoption meeting.

The 1987 campaign gave Clark new scope to break ranks. With the government committed to the tunnel, he attacked the project, enraging Michael Howard, who as MP for Folkestone faced strong local objections to it. The furore dashed Clark's hopes of promotion to the Cabinet. Mrs Thatcher moved him sideways to become Defence Procurement Minister; he wrote: "For the first time I really like my job."

He devoted his energies to undermining Tom King, his former boss at employment whom he described as "an awful person to work with - indecisive, blustering, bullying, stupid and cunningly cautious even when he didn't need to be", yet came to see as a potential prime minister.

He gained Mrs Thatcher's support for an unofficial defence review, recommending a world-wide capability with drastic cuts in the the Rhine Army, saving pounds 2 billion a year. The document caused a sensation when leaked in May 1990, but was stifled by the MoD with its less radical post-Cold War review, Options for Change.

King berated Clark for "passing notes to the PM down the chimney"; Clark ridiculed Options, saying: "There shouldn't be any f**ing options. It should be: `It's like this. Now get on with it.' "

Clark was an outspoken supporter of Mrs Thatcher when Sir Anthony Meyer made his "stalking horse" challenge in November 1989. But he saw the party slipping away from her, and when Sir Geoffrey Howe dramatically resigned and Heseltine challenged for the leadership he despaired for her. He came to see first King and then John Major as the only candidate able to stop Heseltine.

On November 21 1990, at the height of the crisis, he barged in to see Mrs Thatcher, commended her decision to fight on into a second ballot as "heroic", but warned that she would lose. After her resignation, Clark was keen to write her official biography, but she preferred first to publish her own memoirs.

Clark had expected to "go out" with Mrs Thatcher, but Mr Major reappointed him with a Privy Counsellorship. The Gulf war was imminent, and Clark had recently visited the Gulf to reassure friendly Arab states; but when Operation Desert Storm was launched to recapture Kuwait, officials kept him muzzled.

Hoping for a peerage, Clark decided not to stand for the Commons again. By now, he was embroiled in the Supergun and Matrix-Churchill affairs, concerning covert British arms sales to Iraq before the Gulf war. Clark would have liked to hail the order for gigantic gun barrels as a triumph for British exports but the row erupted before he could make this public.

Matrix-Churchill caused Clark much greater difficulties. He had arrived at the DTI with Iran and Iraq at war and Britain committed not to sell arms to either side, yet firms were quietly encouraged to supply Saddam Hussein through third countries to prevent Ayatollah Khomeini scoring a victory by destabilising the Middle East. Clark regarded the guidelines on sales to the warring countries as "tiresome and obtrusive". In January 1988 he met executives of the Matrix-Churchill machine tool company who were frustrated by delays in getting licences for sensitive exports. Clark suggested specifications that implied the machinery "would not be seen as suitable for military purposes". When this was leaked in December 1990, the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Robin Butler, had Clark hauled in to explain himself to the Prime Minister.

Despite Sir Robin's realisation that three Matrix-Churchill executives (facing trial for making false claims to evade the arms embargo) would argue that Clark encouraged them, the prosecution went ahead in November 1992. Clark had denied on oath to Customs officers that he advised the businessmen how to circumvent the embargo, and repeated this in court. But when the trial judge admitted in evidence documents proving the opposite, Clark conceded he had been "economical with the actualite". The trial collapsed, greatly embarrassing the government.

Yet within months, Clark tried to revive his Parliamentary career, applying for the Newbury nomination as a Eurosceptic Major supporter. He was blackballed by Sir Norman Fowler, the party chairman. There was nervousness about the impending publication of his Diaries, for which Weidenfeld had bid pounds 150,000.

On publication, colleagues were devastated to find that Clark regarded them - after his publisher had toned down the language - as "spastics" or "creeps". Kenneth Clarke was dismissed as a "pudgy puffball", Heseltine as "jerky, wild-eyed, zombie" and a "charlatan" and Sir Peter Morrison, Mrs Thatcher's hapless PPS, as "sozzled".

Clark did not help his chances of a comeback by revealing that MI5 had bugged his telephone, suspecting him of contacts with the National Front.

In his Diaries, Clark discussed frankly his sexual experiences before and outside marriage. He recalled the halcyon summer of 1955 when he was "running" three girls within half a mile, one of whom - a nurse named Marye - gave him "the ultimate sexual experience" while her matron banged on the door.

He fantasised about his female civil servants and girls on the Folkestone train, confessed himself "in love" with his 1983 Labour opponent and hinted at a spectacular range of sexual escapades. He observed: "I only can properly enjoy carol services if I am having an illicit affair with someone in the congregation". Yet he confided that his wife was his personal rock. "I could not, never would wound her, the best human being in the entire world," he wrote.

The spirited Jane Clark told an interviewer: "Women, that's what we row about. All the time - incredible rows." She added without a trace of the doormat: "I do feel hurt. But fidelity, I think, is a higher priority for some than for others. I think it's important that people should be faithful, but then I have only ever known Alan."

Clark's most scandalous revelation concerned a "coven" of three women, Valerie, Alison and Josephine; he disclosed the temptation, at least, to bed all three at the Ritz after dinner at Brooks's the day he was made a Minister in 1983. What he omitted was that Valerie was the wife of a judge who had emigrated to South Africa, and the two girls her daughters. In 1994 she went public in the News of the World, stating that her affair with Clark lasted 14 years, even though she knew well before the end that he had slept with her daughters.

The judge, his wife and Josephine flew to London to confront Clark, hiring the publicist Max Clifford on Lady (Benvenida) Buck's recommendation. Clark eventually conceded: "I deserve horsewhipping."

Meanwhile he had been obliged to appear before the Scott inquiry in December 1993 to explain his part in the Matrix-Churchill affair. Lord Howe, in his evidence, said of Clark: "He is a walking illustration of the word `reckless'. He couldn't see an apple cart without wanting to overturn it." Sir Richard Scott censured Clark for signing "inaccurate and misleading" statements.

By the mid-1990s Clark claimed to have mellowed. In 1994 he signed a contract for a second volume of diaries, but these proved harder to edit, and did not appear.

In 1995, even to his own surprise, he decided to try Parliament once more, securing the candidature at Kensington and Chelsea only after the deselection of Sir Nicholas Scott. In May 1997 he returned to the Commons, aged 69.

In a party halved by the Labour landslide, he stood out: abstaining in the ballot that elected William Hague to the leadership, scorning the Eurofighter as less use than a cheaper British aircraft would have been, and enraging the Whips by advocating the shooting of 600 IRA men to end the troubles once and for all.

In 1998 Clark sued the Evening Standard over spoofs of his diaries. Clark claimed readers would think he had written them. He won his action, but during cross-examination, every aspect of his colourful private life was exposed.

Clark was constantly aware of mortality. "A hesitation in the tail rotor and the frail little machine would have crashed," he wrote in 1990 after a helicopter flight. "I draw strength from reflections such as this. Because if God wants to plunge in the knife, then He can do so - at any time."

Recently Clark was received into the Roman Catholic Church.

He is survived by his wife and their two sons.

Alan and Jane were married in London on July 31, 1958. Jane was 16, Alan 30 

The postcard showing Alan and Pamela, circled, dancing in Zermatt in the Fifties
A hell of a life: Alan Clark's secret last love
UPDATED: 00:27 BST, 6 September 2009
Sunday, Sep 23rd 2018 7PM 14°C 10PM 14°C 5-Day Forecast

A hell of a life: Alan Clark's secret last love
UPDATED: 00:27 BST, 6 September 2009

The first great love and the last infatuation of the late Tory diarist and philanderer Alan Clark are revealed exclusively by The Mail on Sunday for the first time today.
The sensational revelations include the startling fact that his first love had an abortion, and record his reaction when he found out she was pregnant: ‘We’d have to keep it if it was a baby boy.’
Mr Clark’s secretary Alison Young is identified as the mysterious ‘X’ in his rakish diaries – the woman he was so infatuated with that he almost left his wife.

Writer Ion Trewin spent five years unearthing details of the relationships for a new biography.
When Mr Clark’s wife of 41 years, Jane, read a draft of the book she remarked that she ‘hadn’t known the half of it’.
Mr Trewin was given unfettered access to a ‘treasure trove’ of personal papers at Saltwood,the politician’s castle in Kent.
In a locked ministerial Red Box, he found a note to Jane saying: ‘Darling, please don’t rootle here. There are papers that might upset you even tho referring to matters now long past.’
Inside were letters from Ms Young, the MP’s secretary from the late Eighties until the 1992 General Election.
And in another box were letters charting a two-and-a-half-year relationship from 40 years earlier.
They came from Pamela Hart, a beautiful 18-year-old dancer with the London Festival Ballet with whom Mr Clark was similarly infatuated – and also wanted to marry.

After Alan Clark's death in 1999, at the age of 71, his Parliamentary papers were sent to Saltwood, his castle in Kent.

Jane, the wife he had married in 1958 when she was just 16, gradually began sorting through them.

When I started work, at her suggestion, as Alan's biographer, she showed me three ministerial Red Boxes, each with the rubbed gold letters 'Minister for Trade, Department of Trade and Industry'.

Jane had discovered them hidden among cardboard boxes from Westminster, and was immediately curious. Two opened at her touch and proved to be packed with House of Commons notepaper. The third was locked.

In a desk drawer she found a key ring with the right-size key. She inserted it in the lock and the key turned. Easing open the lid, she found a pile of letters, many in their original envelopes. On top of them, in her husband's unmistakable hand and with a typically quirky signature and drawing of a tortoise, was a note on Commons embossed paper:

Jane Darling, please don't rootle here. There are papers that might upset you even tho referring to matters now long past.

The writer of most of the letters was a woman Jane knew: Alison Young, who had been Alan's secretary from the late Eighties until the 1992 General Election, when Alan made one of the biggest mistakes of his career by resigning from the Commons.

Jane had assumed there had been letters between them and had wondered where they might be. Now they had turned up, the envelopes addressed to Alan at the exclusive Brooks's Club in St James's or the House of Commons.

Nor were they unique. Elsewhere I found a box of letters from the first love of his life, a dancer to whom he had been close in the early Fifties.

I also discovered the aptness of the writer Simon Hoggart's description of Alan: 'a philanderer obsessed with his wife'.

When Jane read a first draft of my biography she commented that, although married to her husband for 41 years, she 'hadn't known the half of it'.

During the final four years of Alan's time as MP for Plymouth Sutton, he became infatuated with his secretary, to the extent that at one point he even contemplated leaving Jane and 'starting again'.

Alison was in her 20s when she succeeded Peta Ewing as Alan's constituency secretary in October 1988. Alan recorded the fact in his diary: 'Peta is leaving to get married. Tedious. Her name is Alison Young. She was not Peta's preferred candidate, but at the interview she showed spirit. I noted that her hair was wet, for some reason, although it was a fine day.'

Wet? 'Too much hairspray,' recalls Alison.

Working for Alan was only her second job. In those days MPs' secretaries' offices were widely spread, and her desk was round the corner from the Commons in the Cloisters, Dean's Yard.

There were ten desks in an open-plan office. Alison sat, as she recalls, between two Labour MPs' secretaries. 'I don't think you'd have that now: everything is segregated. Everything then was quite relaxed and old-fashioned.'

When Alison first worked for Alan he had an office in the Department of Trade in Victoria Street, where she often had to go. When he changed jobs in July 1989 to Defence, her trek was longer, but Alan's driver would sometimes act as her chauffeur.

Alan, like other Ministers, also had a second office in the Commons. It was never a '9 to 5' job, more 10 until 6 or 7pm.

Loyal wife: Alan with Jane at their castle in Kent
Loyal wife: Alan with Jane at their castle in Kent

By January 1989 she was regularly accompanying Alan on his constituency visits, using the train journey to Plymouth to catch up on correspondence. Alan thought her 'more efficient than Peta, and more fun to be with'. He also noted the colour of her eyes: blue-grey.

When did the relationship change? Alison thinks it must have been the Trade and Industry departmental Christmas party in 1988.

For Alan's part, this is confirmed in a chart-like graph which he devised: the year and months across the top, each point of significance to him numbered with a key alongside: December 1988 - DTI Christmas party; February 1989 - 'says yes to Bratton trip'.

Through the next two years he identifies significant moments by place names such as Lewtrenchard and Albany (his London flat), and events such as the December 1989 MoD Christmas party. And in October, 1990: 'too much of everything'.

At Christmas 1989, in a diary entry written in Albany, he tells of completing the 'great Defence Review' with Alison's help. Their reward was: 'A glass of champagne in the Pugin Room, came back here ... she was resistant ... We talked a bit ... she cried, which was dear of her. . . today is the anniversary of the Christmas party. It's always a low point. I don't know what's going to happen.'

Alison says it was not a physical relationship, just a very intense friendship. Searching for a word, she uses 'companion' as an appropriate description.

At the best moments she called him Dearest M. C. (the initials derived from Mr Clark) in her letters. He called her Aly.

In June 1991, Alan wrote on the back of a sheet of Sotheby's notepaper: 'I bear you no ill-will my darling. Nothing but love and gratitude for everything you gave me - even the pain.'

On more than one occasion Alan wrote in his diary that they would talk for hours on the telephone, often into the small hours, she from her flat, he from Albany.

For more than a year Alan led a double life. 'It's preposterous,' he wrote in February, 1991. 'I'm actually ill, have been for months, lovesick, it's called. A long and nasty course of chemotherapy - but with periodic bouts of addiction therapy when I delude myself that I may be cured without "damage".'

In the midst of his infatuation for Alison he recorded a visit to St Leonard's (Hythe's parish church, near to Saltwood): 'I knelt and reflected on "it" all. I almost asked Norman [Canon Norman Woods] to hear my confession, but didn't/ couldn't, though afterwards Jane said he would have. I was rather shocked to find how I prayed so selfishly. It was quite an effort to focus on the real purpose and to release darling Jane of her pain and sense of betrayal. She's going through exactly what I did in February - and I know what it's like - total hell. Only feebly did I give thanks for this wonderful life and all my blessings. Disgraceful.'

Jane knew Alison only as Alan's constituency secretary. In a diary entry for March 4, 1991, he writes: 'Darling Jane is looking a wee bit strained. She knows something is up, and is quiet a lot of the time. But she doesn't question me at all - just makes the occasional scathing reference. I do want to make her happy --she's such a good person.' In the same entry he adds that he must get rid of Alison. When Jane eventually learnt of his feelings for Alison it was a body blow.

She noticed Alison was deliberately dressing like her, using the same hairstyle, something Alison firmly denies. Where Jane and Alison were in agreement was over Alan's state of mind. Jane recalls saying to him: 'You are infatuated,' and in one row suggested he look up the word in the dictionary. Alison says she tried to use his infatuation to get what she wanted, 'which was for him to settle down and do the job'.

She thought Alan was in mid-life crisis, had been, she said, since he was 30 - he was actually 60 when she went to work for him.

'There were times when I probably had to be nasty just to try and get back on an even keel, a professional relationship. 'Afterwards you think when you've been purposely nasty to someone to force an action you want then that wasn't very nice. I would feel guilty that I'd been particularly unkind or cruel.'

Alan swimming in the moat of his castle
Alan swimming in the moat of his castle

Alison remembers how fed up she was. Here she was in her early 20s with a career to think about. Looking back nearly 20 years later she recalls: 'I appreciated I worked for somebody interesting, and that he was a Minister. In terms of career progression, you either worked for an MP or you worked for a Minister. So I already had one of the best jobs. I really liked the job, and all I wanted was to do it well and learn more about politics. I worked for someone interesting, who gave me freedom to do lots of work on my own.'

Alan, though, wanted more, as Alison relates: 'A by-product of all this was a certain amount of being chased around the filing cabinets.

'I suppose being quite naive, or stupid, or unhappy, pick a variety of reasons why, at times I sort of relented because it was easier than just carrying on fighting, which didn't seem to make any difference and which seemed to encourage him more. I couldn't win either way.

I didn't particularly want to give up the job because I enjoyed it. I didn't see why I should be hounded out of a job for that sort of reason. But there could never be a balance with Alan.

'I would say, "Stop all that! and let's work." But then in a way that would be a bit dull, because it wouldn't be quite as much fun. It was interesting to accompany him to places or some event. But it was trying to find a balance between these two extremes. But there couldn't be one.'

Alan thought Alison had political potential. She recalls that 'one of the problems working for someone with a personality like Alan's, if they say things often enough you tend to believe them'.

When he said she should stand as a candidate she responded that she was far too young and had not done enough preparation. Alan, however, thought that an upside.

She was already working for the Conservative Party where she lived and had attended a women's conference where she met Baroness Seccombe, a party vice-chairman, who told Alan that 'she has great potential ... I am sure that she will be a great asset to the party'.

At the 1991 Conservative Party conference, with Jane accompanying him as usual, Alan records running Alison through the ladies' cocktail party, to provide her with 'some good "contacts" '.

A significant handwritten exchange between them appeared on the back of a daily ministerial engagement sheet dated July 9, 1991. It opened with Alan asking Alison: 'Will you marry me? (please)'
'Why?' asked Alison. 'Aly PLEASE don't be cross. I can't bear it,' he replied.
To which Alison has written: 'Tough s***.'

She wanted a relationship with someone who would never be unfaithful. With Alan she knew that was impossible. She also knew he would never leave Jane.

Alison was setting off for a long holiday to South America, which caused Alan to write a lengthy diary entry, dated July 23, 1991: 'Last night I was so dejected. When I actually face up to the fact that it is over I feel quite ill and weak and yesterday, quite blithely, she was talking about arrangements for Sarah to do the mail; wouldn't even tell me when she was coming back (serve me right for asking - what does it matter anyway?)

'Later on, she rang. Instantly I felt incredible. Just her voice saying hello, sweet and friendly. I said as much. But we never broke the ice. It's crazy, isn't it?

'Every night this month we just go back to our separate empty flats, then talk for up to one-and-a-half hours on the telephone. Why aren't we talking side by side in bed? I've held on for so long because, as the stars foretold, I'm emotionally enslaved, but I must summon some strength now. I'm consumed, emaciated by jealousy. How in hell do I exorcise it?

'Perhaps someone will smile at me? I'll just steer the Porsche on to the yellow roads. It'd be fun to drive really fast and recklessly, and on my own. Yet I know that if I do meet someone it won't do any good. I'll pine always for my Aly and her sweet waist and hips and quizzical expression and changing moods.'

The ongoing professional problem for Alison, a major cause of their fighting, was the way Alan neglected his Sutton constituency.

In September 1991 she wrote: 'As from today it will only be necessary for you and I to meet twice a week for an hour. I suggest Tuesdays and Thursdays. Any other business can be dealt with over the phone and Pat [the driver] can bring your signing. Please do not contact me unless it is to do with the constituency.' She followed this up the same day with an itemised list:

'1. We have no links whatsoever - except that I am currently in your employment.

'2. I would gladly return "the stone" [a gift] to you - particularly as it is another symbol of all the lies and hypocrisy you stand for. You said it was worth a lot of money (and all that bull**** about it being meant for me) - but it is valueless. I resented having to pay good money to have it set and buy a chain (just to shut you up) and so I am only keeping it because of the value of the setting. Even an amateur gemmologist could tell it was of poor quality - like its donor.

'3. I won't ever want you. You must understand that. There is nothing and never was anything of meaning. I don't want to see you because basically I am sick of those pathetic scenes - schoolboy gloating, crude manhandling, the simpering and begging which is all an act.

'We could never be "mates", as you say, because the two things that you value most - your ego and your money - mean nothing to me.

'My future lies with someone else who has a surfeit, unlike your poverty, of principles. I am sad that you wore away some of my own, and lowered me in some respects to your level, but I, at least, am young enough to change my ways, and do not suffer from the debilitating insecurity which you have.

'4. Please return the stone I gave you or throw it away.


Alan ignored this admonition. Alison tore up his next letter, clipped a note saying 'unread' to the pieces and sent them back.

At another point that autumn Alison wrote, in a letter that passed backwards and forwards between them, that she hoped Alan and Jane would make things up. 'It was never my intention that this whole thing should get so out of hand ... know she thinks it is all my fault, but she shouldn't have put up with being treated so s******y for so long - and it was inevitable that after years of your infidelities it would all come to a head at some point. [Alan added a comment on the letter: 'Yes. Because at last I fell in love.']

'I wanted you to make a sacrifice for me,' continued Alison, 'but you didn't - and if you want her to stay you will have to sacrifice all the other women, too, including me. Please let's be sensible and do the dictation properly. I know you want me to leave, but it isn't fair. [Alan added: 'Please don't.' Alison replied: 'What is the point if you are being so difficult?'] We could be professional about everything on your return in October. ['Never,' wrote Alan. 'We were in the beginning,' retorted Alison.]

'You always promised me (for what it was worth) that you would keep business and personal separate. If you only ever keep one promise to me let it be that one now.

[Alan: 'I'm terribly, truly, sorry that I broke the important one. Please forgive me.']. Always, Alison.'

Two months later, with Alan behaving very much as before, she wrote: 'I said I would tell you how things would have been on my return . . . I won't write it, and you will probably never know if you keep acting as you do - always talking and presuming -never listening and learning ...

'But remember you changed things. You disturbed the fine balance which was beginning to go in your favour --and now we lurch from side to side. You betrayed me once (that I know of) and there is no reason why you wouldn't do it again. You will always have my respect, admiration and tender feelings of affection - or do I mean love? A xxx.'

If there was a truce, it did not last for long. One day Alan took Alison's diary from her handbag, leading her to fume on December 10, 1991: 'How dare you read my diary? Particularly when you do not let me look at yours without supervision.

'I can't believe you can be so obnoxious. You say your diary needs explanation, well, so does mine. Now you are all cross, hurt, and being petty... and precisely because it is one rule for you (ie invade someone else's privacy, read their personal notes - but they can't do it to you because it is full of secrets of bonks with other women etc) and another for someone else ... If you are upset by what you read, you deserve to be.'

In his diary during spring 1992, by which time Alan had decided to resign his seat, his confusion of emotions is clear. In February he wrote about the prospect of 'the pang of a final parting' from Alison. Ten days later, Jane accompanied him on a ministerial trip to South America, leading him to reflect: 'She is really so good and sweet. That's what makes the situation so impossible. I mean what do I want? Certainly not to leave her and cause her pain. And yet as she herself admits, Alison's appearance has revived our sexual tension by all the jealous crosscurrents it arouses.'

Just before the General Election in April 1992, he wrote: 'The wonderful, excruciating, highly dangerous Alison "affair" has burned itself out and, to my utter nostalgic depression we are now only, and I fear never again can be more than "good friends".'

Enlarge   Graphic

At the Election, the Conservatives under John Major were returned for a fourth term.

Two months later Alison wrote to Alan: 'I do hate it when we part at railway stations. I hate it when we are apart too much, but we both have things we have to do and I have to explore the world a bit more while I have the chance. You are so sweet to me in many ways, but we can be so cruel to each other as well. I know I'll think about you when I'm away - and because the imagination can be so fertile and unpredictable, sometimes I'll be cross + jealous, and other times serene and content.

'Either we will remain attached, or we will grow apart, but either way we will always be special to each other. I know I've been rotten and cruel to you sometimes and that it is very difficult for you at the moment ( particularly this week) - but what are we to do? Look forward to a good chat soon. Take care. Love Aly xx.'

Occasional cards reached him via Brooks's, some from overseas. On learning he was publishing his diaries, Alison was worried: 'I hope you haven't forgotten that you said I could look at the parts of the book where I am mentioned and decide if I agreed. You even said you would make it a legal agreement. So I trust you will keep to it.' (When she later saw the published diaries, she thought the references to her were harmless.)

Alan tried to revive the relationship, but she was firm: 'There has never been any point trying to explain things to you as you always make up your own story and interpretation anyway.

'All I can say is that we have been over all the arguments hundreds of times - and nothing has changed, and it never will. And it is for the best that way. You know that, too. I'm about to begin a new life, in many different ways, and you should, too. Beginning with taking care of those in your charge.'

But she found this disengagement difficult, as a later postcard demonstrates: 'You nearly made me cry this morning - you can be so disturbing. I just don't know what to do, which is why I keep running away abroad.'

In August 1992, Alan and Jane were at Eriboll, their estate in the Scottish Highlands. 'I hardly think of Alison any longer,' he wrote. His diaries testify that was untrue, but the infatuation was over.

Later that year, a trip to Zermatt, the Swiss village where the Clarks had a house, proved to be the beginning of the renewal of his marriage to Jane. 'We started again out here,' he recalled a year before he died. 'Absolutely delicious, never been sexually happier with Jane.'

Jane says she was true to her marriage: she never slept with another man. Inevitably, in the course of researching and writing Alan's biography, our conversations turned to the subject of his womanising. How did she feel?

'I absolutely hated it. All these journalists who say, well, she only stayed for the castle. Come on. How long was I married to him?

'There were moments with Al when I hated him, I really, really hated him. I just felt - I always looked at things much, much longer, not the immediate thing. And I knew that in spite of everything he loved me, loved the boys. You can't really wreck their lives just for your convenience.

'He wasn't actually making everyone's life a misery except mine. I just had to look at it like that. I did actually feel that all these ladies - not one of them could have coped with him. If I had moved out someone else would have moved in, but not one of them would have understood. They only saw him, his glamour.

'I was desperately unhappy at certain periods. I did wonder was it worth it. You get particularly bad bits. We had a terrible row. I went into my bathroom, shut the door and said, "I'm going to pack".

'He had a complete breakdown outside the door. I was lying there laughing. Little did he know. I threw out the odd remark. I was rather enjoying this.

'He was amazingly selfish. I remember going for a walk. We always used to lean on Lord Clark's Gate with a view of the sea. I thought, "Why don't you come closer? ... You just don't get it, do you? Why should I move closer to you? Let's have a cuddle or whatever. It's your job to woo me."

'He never got that. He never seemed to understand. I don't know if he did understand how much he hurt me. I think he probably did before the end. He used to say "I have ruined your life". But I don't know; I don't know.'

Clark wooed his first true love, an 18-year-old ballet dancer called Pamela Hart, with outrageous flattery - and a dinner of vol au vent and chips. But when she fell pregnant, he couldn't cope with having a child...

One Sunday afternoon in June 1951, Pamela Hart, an 18-year-old dancer with the London Festival Ballet, was cycling beside the Thames with Judith, a school friend, when they spotted a suave, good-looking young man and an elegant young woman coming out of the Bray Inn.

As Judith and Pamela began cycling back to Judith's home, they didn't realise the young couple were following in a car. Then, as Pamela recalls, she and Judith had to stop: 'I had a fly in my eye. Suddenly a car drew up; it was the young man, who came across to me, introduced himself and said, "You are the most beautiful woman in the world."'

This was Alan, and the woman turned out to be Celly - Colette, Alan's sister.

Pamela remembers thinking the car must be his father's. 'Then Alan asked me for my name and address. I just gave it.' It was a significant moment for Alan: in his engagement diary he circled the date and wrote: 'See Pamela for the first time.'

Alan was 23, had graduated from Oxford two years earlier and was now reading for the Bar. Pamela was his first true love.

Next morning there was a letter from him, but as Pamela was dancing six nights a week, her first meeting with him had to be lunch. Alan took her to Le Caprice. 'He told me what I would eat: vol au vent and chips! And to drink he ordered me a White Lady.'

This cocktail of gin, Cointreau and lemon was completely new to her.

'I had nothing to say; I was tongue-tied. I just couldn't make any conversation.' After lunch, he took her for a drive to Upper Terrace House, the Clark family's large house in Hampstead. 'I live there,' he said nonchalantly. Finally, he drove Pamela back into town, just in time for her evening performance.

Alan had no hesitation about asking her out again, nor she about accepting. His diary entry for June 10 was: 'Pamela down to Oxford.'

Pamela as a magazine's covergirl
Pamela as a magazine's covergirl

The following Wednesday, they went to Battersea pleasure gardens. Alan was smitten; he could not see enough of her, as his diary records. By mid-July they were sleeping together, Alan circling her initial in his diary each time.

Pamela was different from the young women he had met at Oxford. She was down-to-earth and financially self-supporting. When she could get time off, she would go to Switzerland with him.

On one occasion they drove across France to Zurich in his XK Jaguar. 'Incredibly cold and great roaring winds,' he recorded. A photograph shows them dancing together in a Zermatt bar.

On returning to England, Pamela would receive letters and postcards from Alan, who stayed on, ostensibly to work at his writing. Typical were photographs of the two of them that had been turned into postcards: 'God, who's that divine little number dancing with that awful man? What a waste, she only looks about 16, too. Love xxxxxx "awful man".'

She noticed a number of other character traits. He declared his love; he was always honest (even telling her when he had been seeing other women). He was the boss, which suited her: 'I like my man to be in charge. It's tribal, it's natural.'

Alan would sometimes call Pamela 'Bluebie', a nickname that started when an American remarked on her blue eyes.

Little more than a year after their first meeting, Alan's parents bought Saltwood Castle, in Kent, for £28,000. Pamela was often a visitor, billeted in a turret room, she recalls. Staying there made her nervous, giving her stomach cramps.

Once she had supper with the family. It was a buffet with a whole salmon. Alan's father Kenneth motioned her forward to help herself. 'I don't think I'd seen a whole salmon before,' she says. She hesitated, but remembers neither Kenneth nor Alan stepped forward to guide her, a point of manners that still rankles.

'I simply picked up the servers and cut across the middle of the salmon, through the bone and all.' If the Clarks as a family looked on askance, all she remembers is Kenneth saying: 'That's a bold stroke, my dear.' The family now took their turn, each delicately easing away pieces of salmon in the approved manner.

The London Festival Ballet toured a lot, but Alan had a habit of turning up unannounced at the stage door. Otherwise they kept in touch by post. Pamela reckons Alan wrote at least 100 letters to her, but in a clear-out at her parents' home her mother burnt them. However, Pamela's letters to Alan have survived.

While the country was celebrating the Coronation in June 1953, Alan sat his Bar exams - and failed. He retook them the following year, but failed again. Pamela told him: 'You do nothing but chase girls." He decided on one more attempt.

The postcard showing Alan and Pamela, circled, dancing in Zermatt in the Fifties
The postcard showing Alan and Pamela, circled, dancing in Zermatt in the Fifties

Pamela wrote to Alan from Harrogate in December 1954, saying he sounded 'rather depressed - how do you feel now that your exam is over? Relieved I suppose. One week today and I will be with you again. I am looking forward to it so much because except for that one day it has been ten weeks which is longer than any other time we have been apart ever.'

Awaiting the results meant five weeks' nail-biting. Then Pamela got a postcard: 'I PASSED BAR FINALS!! M & D very pleased.' And surprised: Pam says he had not told them he was retaking the exams.

Alan did not appear to see contraception as his responsibility. For women in the early Fifties it was still primitive and unreliable. Half a century later, it seems remarkable that it was Alan's mother who organised these matters for Pamela.

In 1953, a little more than two years after they first met, Pamela was in Cardiff with the Festival Ballet when she thought she might be pregnant. Alan arranged for pregnancy test at a laboratory in Great Portland Street - he gave his name as Dr A.K. Clark.

Pamela says he drove to Cardiff from London with the test result. 'We're going to have a baby,' he said. Pamela was pleased, and then he added: 'But we don't have to.'

In a letter to her that Alan never sent, but which lay for years in a filing cabinet, he wrote: "Dearest Pam - need I say that I have spent the whole day in a blue panic! On the other hand I kept thinking to myself that it must be all right as I don't see how it can have happened.

'Every time I get worried I promise to myself not to do it again, as you know, and you always make me. I don't know, I'm in a terrible dither.

'I got a little extra money from Autextra [a car parts company Clark was involved in] the other day and I thought we might slip down to Switzerland for a very short little tour, but of course all this makes it impossible to think. If only it comes alright we must go abroad to celebrate. But what we will do about love-making I just don't know.

'I can't bear these panics, they literally make me sick. I've been thinking about it all day... It would be so awful for you and what about your parents? I suppose we could keep it from them if you came to live in London, but then what about the ballet? You would have to stop dancing after a bit and you couldn't start again for months. And then what about it?'

Alan's next sentence is revealing: 'We'd have to keep it if it was a baby boy.

'This is a fine way to go on after my saying that "it must be all right", I know, but just the way I'm thinking.

'I know, Bluebie. I am a cad for not asking you to marry me. Please forgive me for that.

'No one is nicer or sweeter or more lovable or means more to me, and everyone knows that when I see your photos on all the presents you've given me I want to cry. But I just think how solemn those marriage vows were when I went to Michael's [Briggs] wedding and the parson who confirmed me told me never to marry a girl immediately because she was going to have a baby and I think it would be a mockery if we had a rush marriage after all this.

'I'm afraid all this is a meaningless ramble and reflects very badly on me. Please forgive me for everything, Bluebie, and whatever way this ends I will stand by you. All my love xxxxxx Alan.'

In the end, the Clarks organised everything. Alan's mother signed the consent form and Pamela went to Harley Street to have the abortion. Her parents never knew.

An undated letter to Alan from his mother has survived. 'Hope you enjoyed Le Mans and have good news of P. on your return.'

The pleasantries over, she became stern: 'In case you see P. before we see you I assume you will only behave as a friend until you and I have had a further talk - which won't be possible till Thursday when I hope we'll all have an evening at home.'

Thirty years later Alan showed how his views had changed over what he called 'convenient' abortions. In an 'extremely private' letter to Hugo Young, then a Sunday Times columnist, he had no hesitation in describing such abortions as 'sinful'.

Pamela's abortion had stayed on his conscience. Nearly 20 years later, he wrote in his diary about still dreading retribution being visited on his sons: 'Filled with remorse and sadness for Pam and the aborted child.'

When, during my research, Jane first heard of Pam's experience it became clear why her husband held such strong pro-life beliefs.

After this upheaval, Pamela's and Alan's relationship became less stable. At her 21st birthday party in October, 1953, Alan gave Pamela a brooch from Asprey's. He drove her home and then said: 'I think we ought to part.' Pam started crying and said: 'How could you possibly say you loved me and say that?'

Looking back on those years, Pamela says that even after saying they should split up, Alan would 'turn up like a bad penny, as if he'd never been away' and they soon restarted their relationship.

Just before Christmas 1955 he wrote about Pamela in his diary: 'I wish I could love her and marry her and be "settled", with at least half of me I wish that.'

In April 1956, while hoping to make a killing on the stock market, he wrote: 'And then perhaps I could marry dear Pam.'

Alan moved to Rye, East Sussex, in the summer of 1956. One Sunday evening he and Pamela went to a local cinema. A gaggle of schoolgirls sat behind. Thinking back, Pamela wonders if Jane Beuttler, Alan's future wife, who then lived in Rye, was among them.

Why Alan finally decided to end the relationship is not clear. Certainly he did not have the nerve to tell Pamela to her face - he wrote to her instead.

She replied by registered post: 'My dear Alan - your letter didn't come as a great surprise to me and yet it still managed to hurt me a great deal, mainly because it was cold and to the point. Also because you must have felt that way on Monday morning and it would have been less cowardly to tell me straight away - you know I have got past the stage of crying and making scenes now.'

Unfinished business remained between them. In autumn 1956, the Bolshoi Ballet Company was visiting London, and Alan had got tickets to see them before the final breakup with Pamela. She now addressed the situation. 'I do so want to see the Russians as it is too wonderful an opportunity to miss,' she wrote.

'Please don't ask me not to come because I need not even see you if you wish, I can meet Celly in the foyer before the performance if she has the tickets . . . All my love always, Pamela.'

Alan was embarrassed, as his diary entry on October 3 shows: he refers to 'a sad encounter with dear Pam, real Pam. It is firmly in my mind and although trivial in detail had the stamp of finality and is too painful to record'.

Later, when Alan was engaged to Jane, he wrote to tell Pamela. She remembers his letter, this 'bolt from the blue'. She wrote back: ' Congratulations, hope you will be very happy.'

But that wasn't the end of the story. One morning Pamela was driving through London, when one of her passengers spotted Alan. She gave chase and caught up with him in Piccadilly.

'He looked up at me, registered "mock horror", put his hand over his face, and said would I like to go to the Caprice "for old times' sake?" He was getting married the following Thursday.'

She was 'dying of curiosity' to learn about Jane and asked him over dinner: 'What's she got that I haven't?'

Alan replied: 'I can mould her. I know she is pliable. You are too strong.' Pam burst into tears, 'and that was the end of it'.

The 'fabulous girl' he married at 16

When Alan first met his wife Jane, he was 28 and she was just 14.

But previously unpublished extracts from his diaries reveal that, despite their age difference, he rapidly became obsessed with Jane and was determined to sleep with her  -  to the fury of her parents ...

Jane's first glimpse of her future husband was when she and her family were picnicking at Camber Sands, near Rye in East Sussex: 'I remember seeing this person walking along in the distance with this huge dog behind him, a great Dane,' she says. 'I remember him mincing along, I remember thinking I don't think I've ever seen anyone with such a conceitedly pompous walk. That was the very first time.

'There was this click - I used to say later that I had magic powers - it sounds absolutely dotty if you mention it, but there was a voice inside me saying, "That's the man you're going to marry," and it was most extraordinary because at 14, I was not into the opposite sex.'

It is not clear whether Alan noticed Jane that day. It was almost certainly mid-August 1956, and by September 6, when Alan resumed his diary after a two-month break, Jane was at the centre of his thoughts. For the next eight weeks his entries are devoted to her.

Jane was the daughter of Bertie and Pam Beuttler. He worked in the War Office and the family lived in Rye, the town Alan had recently moved to after buying his first house.

Even though Alan knew Jane was only 14 - half his age - the diary reveals how rapidly she became his sexual obsession. In the entry for September 6 he is quick to make up for lost time: 'This is very exciting. She is a perfect victim, but whether or not it will be possible to succeed I can't tell at present.' He had been seeing Jane, he writes, for two-and-a-half weeks.

'Our first contact when I slid my fingers between hers when we held hands walking back across Rye Green after dinner the day we took our first walk by the lakes.'

It was still the school holidays and although Alan had promised himself he would work on his planned novel, set in the stock market, his obsession with Jane excluded everything else.

'For about a week we would walk in the afternoon ... and I would kiss her hand and stroke her neck and calves,' he wrote. 'Finally there came the high point so far, as one lay by the shore of the little promontory, out of the wind, and I studied her high thighs through her thin, yellow-striped summer frock, and she, half-mesmerised, pretended to retaliate by pricking my face with a thistle.

'She comes straight to Watchbell Street [his home in Rye] in the evenings. Coming through the back door, but as she only stops for about five minutes it has not been possible to make much progress.

'I have mismanaged it a bit in the last two days, going neurotic after she told me that two people had tried to kiss her before.'

Jane thought him 'absolutely super'. She says: 'My natural thing was flirting. It didn't mean anything, just the way I am. It got me into trouble.'

Alan was, as he wrote, 'a bit afraid of her mother clamping down, or worse, catching us one evening on the sofa at my house. Already there is gossip.'

By late September, the relationship was becoming serious. Jane's younger brother Nick started to follow them around. Alan was sure this was at the behest of Jane's parents, who must have been worried. 'Worried?' retorts Jane at the suggestion. 'They were absolutely furious.' As for Alan's age, she says, 'He behaved more like he was 12, he was permanently juvenile'.

Alan's frustration leaps off the pages of the diary. When he tried to assert himself she continued to be resistant. He recorded the dialogue:

'I'm sick of you,' she said. 'You don't want to see me again, then.'

'Not much, no ... ' Towards the end of September, a development in her father's Army career changed everything, according to Alan's diary. ' TERRIBLE NEWS of their impending departure to Malta. Oh God.'

That Sunday Alan was invited round to their house 'for drinks with her Ma'. Bertie was not at home. 'Went quite well,' he wrote.

An air of melancholy coloured Alan's brief account of Saturday, October 6. 'A last walk and hug. The tide was coming in fast and we were out of the wind with the sun on us. Then to Saltwood [his parents' castle in Kent] to lunch and back in time to take her to the station.' As ever, Alan fantasises: 'She would almost have run away with me.'

Alan got a letter from Jane's mother on Christmas Eve, written from a beach in Malta, where 'the young are bathing'. Alan wrote in his diary: 'Oh dear... to think of her out there maturing in that hot climate tempting other young men.'

By Easter, the Beuttlers were back. Alan went round. It was, as he put it, 'an unfortunate visit'. Jane was 'looking so attractive it's agony'.

'Came back pretty depressed. I know I must end this, but she is so attractive this annoys me.' He added a PS: 'No more, ever. . . stay blander, more controlled, at all times.'

By June, the relationship was in top gear again: 'Relations with Bertie and Pam pretty OK now. Jane is just fabulous to look at these days with her lovely plumpish little legs and ultra-prim breasts.'

He notes 'a delicious evening walk out over the sands with Jane and the dogs. We crossed the river at its mouth, she was wearing a new blue poplin dress and pulled it high up over her thighs, holding it there afterwards as her legs were wet, and got her feet and ankles covered with black slippery mud --very provoking!'

Before leaving for a trip abroad on July 27, he wrote: 'My lust for her has waned, though this may give rise to a position of strength. Also she seems to make me "nervous".' On reading this, Jane recalled that he used to say he was frightened of her.

On his return - although he wrote: 'Tired of Jane and her **** teasing, so there!' - she was increasingly to dominate his life.

They had known each other for more than a year now, but she was still only 15. No matter how much Alan wanted to take her to bed, his diary entries are clear that consummation in defiance of the law was something that frightened him. 'I know what a mistake it would be,' he writes at one point.

As autumn approached he was pleased to report: 'Great progress with Jane, on the verge one might say, as about a fortnight ago she suddenly took to deep kissing.'

On October 10, he wrote that he now had, he was sure, 'an absolute mastery over her' and felt himself becoming overpowered again by 'massive lust for her'. Looking for ways round 'the problem' he sought advice about 'safe periods'

But in December he noted: 'I am sitting in the study waiting for her to come round. It's 4.15 and she said she'd come at 3. I don't know what can have happened. I always suspect the worst.'

The 'worst' was a meeting with Bertie and Pam. From Alan's account it is clear they had had enough. After a heart-to-heart talk with Jane they wanted to know what he thought he was up to. Bertie, wrote Alan, was 'shaking with rage'.

But Pam, to Alan's surprise, took his side. 'Anyway I coped as best I could with Bertram who threatened police, publicity, ringing up Papa, etc - and this sparked off by Pam telling him that I wanted to marry Jane. I rang him when I got back to Saltwood and apologised, but the whole affair left me very shaky.'

When he thought Jane might be pregnant, Alan 'absolutely panicked, dry mouth, not joining in the conversation, etc. Driving over this afternoon I thought I might be wrecking everything . . . hopes of marriage, settled life, the chalet, writing, everything.'

But it was a false alarm: 'Thank God, and I mean thank GOD.'

Alan and Jane were married in London on July 31, 1958. Jane was 16, Alan 30 

Clark published the first volume of his political and personal diaries in 1993, which caused a minor embarrassment at the time with their descriptions of senior Conservative politicians such as Michael Heseltine, Douglas Hurd, and Kenneth Clarke. He quoted Michael Jopling—referring to Heseltine, deputy PM at the time—as saying "The trouble with Michael is that he had to buy all his furniture" and judged it "Snobby, but cutting". His account of Thatcher's downfall in 1990 has been described as the most vivid in existence.Two subsequent volumes of his diaries cover the earlier and later parts of Clark's parliamentary career. The diaries reveal recurring worries about Japanese militarism but his real views are often not clear because he enjoyed making "tongue in cheek" remarks to the discomfiture of those he believed to be fools, as in his sympathy for a British version of National Socialism.
“Alan Clark Diaries: Into Power, Page 280, Phoenix Paperback 2000 Edition, 8 December 1981: Frank [Frank Johnson, sketch writer for The Times] pretended he wanted to talk about the Tory Party, but he really prefers to talk about the Nazis, concerning whom he is curious, but not, of course, sympathetic. Yes, I told him, I was a Nazi, I really believed it to be the ideal system, and that it was a disaster for the Anglo-Saxon races and for the world that it was extinguished. He both gulped and grinned 'But surely, er, you mean … (behaving like an unhappy interviewer in Not the Nine O'Clock News after, e.g., Pamela Stephenson had said something frightfully shocking) ideally in terms of administrative and economic policy … you cannot really, er …' Oh yes, I told him, I was completely committed to the whole philosophy. The blood and violence was an essential ingredient of its strength, the heroic tradition of cruelty every bit as powerful and a thousand times more ancient than the Judaeo-Christian ethic.”

“Alan Clark held strong views on British unionism, racial difference, social class, and was in support of animal rights, nationalist protectionism and Euroscepticism[citation needed]. He referred to Enoch Powell as "The Prophet". Clark once declared: "It is natural to be proud of your race and your country", and in a departmental meeting, allegedly referred to Africa as "Bongo Bongo Land".[32] When called to account, however, by then Prime Minister John Major, Clark denied the comment had any racist overtones, claiming it had simply been a reference to the President of Gabon, Omar Bongo.[33]

Clark argued that the media and the government failed to pick out the racism towards white people and ignored any racist attacks on white people. He also however described the National Front chairman, John Tyndall, as "a bit of a blockhead"[34] and disavowed his ideas.

When Clark was Minister for Trade, responsible for overseeing arms sales to foreign governments, he was interviewed by journalist John Pilger who asked him:[35]

JP "Did it bother you personally that this British equipment was causing such mayhem and human suffering (by supplying arms for Indonesia's war in East Timor)?"
AC "No, not in the slightest, it never entered my head. You tell me that this was happening, I didn't hear about it or know about it."
JP "Well, even if I hadn't told you it was happening, the fact that we supply highly effective equipment to a regime like that is not a consideration, as far as you're concerned. It's not a personal consideration."
JP "I ask the question because I read you are a vegetarian and you are quite seriously concerned about the way animals are killed."
AC "Yeah"
JP "Doesn’t that concern extend to the way humans, albeit foreigners, are killed?"
AC "Curiously not. No."
While involved in the Matrix Churchill trial he was cited in a divorce case in South Africa, in which it was revealed he had had affairs with Valerie Harkess, the wife of a South African barrister (and part-time junior judge), and her daughters Josephine and Alison.[36] After sensationalist tabloid headlines, Clark's wife Jane remarked upon what Clark had called "the coven" with the line: "Well, what do you expect when you sleep with below stairs types?", and referred to her husband as an "S, H, one, T".

“Ion Trewin tells an enthralling story of the life that Clark himself chose not to discuss: an unhappy childhood with neglectful parents (his art historian father Kenneth Clark, best known for his 'Civilisation' TV series). Fire destroyed his first school; he endured wartime Eton, at Oxford he read history under Hugh Trevor-Roper and drove large cars (he was known as 'Klaxon' Clark). His parents insisted he read law; passing his exams at the 3rd attempt, he never practised. His first novel - accepted on the 13th submission - was pulped because of libel, but went on to gain praise. The Donkeys, his first work of history, brought down the wrath of military historians. Clark changed course and into politics in his forties. Readers may think they know Clark's political life from his diaries, but Clark himself neglected to tell all, about Mrs T's downfall, the Matrix Churchill arms to Iraq scandal and much more.
He adored women - Trewin has tracked down his first great love, a ballet dancer, and his last infatuation - and courted a schoolgirl he first met when she was 16 and he 30. This was Jane, to whom he remained married - if not faithfully - until his death from a brain tumour in 1999. The extent of his extra-marital escapades is now revealed. Here for the first time the unknown Alan Clark stands revealed.”