"The walls are covered in old damask or in East Indian printed materials from the eighteenth century. I also have a large tapestry made from a design by Rubens. A light touch is added by fuchsia and geraniums in blue and white china pots. There are books everywhere and pictures too: prints along the staircase and in the gallery, Chinese paintings and bamboo furniture in the bathroom.
The Drawing Room - Baroque marble statues on a wooden Louis XVI mantel; the golden damask hangings are from a Rothschild house.
"There is always a big fire in the living room to keep out the dampness. These are some of the ingredients which give my house a kind of charm, since I have made no particular effort to use a consistent color scheme or any careful interior arrangement. The house is twenty-five miles east of Paris, and it is where I write all my books. It is always filled with flowers from my garden."
The Garden Room - an Empire bust, porcelain vases and a mirror to reflect the park outside.
The Library - once part of the old barn, this room is filled with my books and many old prints. There are Japanese cabinets, a Victorian church carpet and a Dutch brass chandelier.
My Bedroom - the Louis XVI fireplace, with a terra-cotta bust on the mantel and the brass bed warmer leaning against it, is my favourite part of the room.
Not necessarily being of an enquiring mind, Philippe Julian's name didn't strike a chord for me. I'd seen the pages before on my hikes through piles of old magazines: pages appearing to be from an album of small paintings torn from a sketchbook and surrounded by the kind of handwritten text that, irritatingly, brought to mind those occasions in my youth when, because I was thought to be "artistic", it was assumed I could and would write the gothic black letter thought to be special enough for the dedication of the moment. Those days, a mumbled apology for not being able to oblige was all I could muster but, looking back, my problem was with the assumption more than the request - much like that made two decades ago by a client who, because I'm queer, thought I could and would sew her net curtains for her.
What I have just written might, if one made such an assumption, indicate a long memory for affront but I lean towards the notion that such memories are steps in the creation of personal morality; and if the memories, on occasion, float to the surface then there's something still to learn. It could also mean, of course, I need to step up the dosage of what the Celt calls my "niceness" pills.
So, Philippe Julian – the man asked to ornament the first Château Mouton Rothschild "artist" label, illustrator of Angus Wilson's For Whom the Cloche Tolls, author of The Snob-Spotter's Guide and, amongst many a celebration of the fin-de-siècle, a suitably overwrought biographical essay about Adolph de Meyer – is not, despite the fact he began as such, the subject of my post.
On Friday I had lunch - my glass of wine bringing to mind a long-remembered phrase, not so much a pretentious little wine, more a mendacious little paint-stripper - with a man who had written to me about my essay about Michael Greer - a man he'd shaken hands with at the age of eleven, and who, like Greer is a native of Monroe, Georgia. Greer, known in his home town as Joe rather than Michael, famous in his time as one of America's grandest decorators, and whose murder provided friends with opportunities to show just how easy it is to speak ill of the dead, was, after a private cremation service, as one might assume, buried with his parents - but not quite as one might expect - between his parents' graves in an unmarked place.
So, on this day celebrating one assumption, I wonder if shame - that emotion from which we can learn so much, and one which I believe (as my long memory suggests) we should never cause another to feel - is the reason why there is no headstone for Michael Greer.
Watercolours and quotation from Architectural Digest, March/April 1975
Image of Château Mouton Rothschild from here.