Letters: Jeremy Hutchinson’s brilliance, energy and sense of fun

Richard Shone writes: Jeremy Hutchinson was the last surviving person to have known Virginia Woolf, of whom he spoke with vividness; he brilliantly imitated her conversational flights, with their humour and ribaldry, and spoke of her “distressed beauty”. His mother, Mary, was not a model for Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway (she was partly based on the writer’s old friend Kitty Maxse) but she is recognisable as, in Hermione Lee’s phrase, the “febrile socialite” Jinny in The Waves. Mary had a long affair with Clive Bell, and was later a friend of TS Eliot, Aldous Huxley and Samuel Beckett.

When I was writing about Walter Sickert’s music hall paintings, Jeremy was able to recollect the songs that the artist would have heard. He adored his boyhood memories of the Holborn Empire, especially Lily Morris (relishing, word perfect, her Don’t Have Any More, Mrs Moore) and the blue innuendos of Max Miller (The Fan Dancer Minus Her Fan). A theatrical gift was an essential ingredient of Jeremy’s personality, both professionally and personally. He was unfailingly amusing, informed, un-solemn; he was tolerant of people’s failings as well as of their successes; he concurred with his friend Leonard Woolf’s remark that just because one believed in something it didn’t mean that it was true (“very useful in a courtroom”). His unwavering rationality never let him lose sight of day-to-day reality.

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