Virginia Barton

Chocolate alphabet

Catholic Herald, 31 August 1990    


Review: Osbert: A Portrait of Osbert Lancaster by Richard Boston (Fontana £7 .99)



It is hardly surprising that one who learned to read with the aid of a chocolate alphabet should develop into a man of literary skill.

The infant Osbert was allowed to eat the letters he could recognise, and in due course, whole words. By the time he could read the chocolate “suffragette” it was reckoned he was literate. It’s a brilliant wheeze astute parents may care to emulate.

Osbert’s pen, as it turned out, was acerbic rather than sweet, his style anything but gooey, and his learning far beyond the concocted confections. This lively biography (the paperback edition of last year’s hardback) penetrates the dapper urbane exterior that Osbert presented to the beau monde.

He was rich, knew everybody and went everywhere, yet for more than 40 years he produced the daily pocket cartoon for the Daily Express, wrote dozens of books mostly illustrated by himself, and was a noted set designer for the theatre.

Richard Boston competently traces Osbert’s career, and, not without wit himself adds many amusing observations and asides.



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