Sunday, 19 July 2009

Literary Fame

There have, of course, been countless mentions of my name in the autobiographies of the famous.

Churchill referred to me in his memoirs, thus:

"Uncle - The world looks with some awe upon an elephant who appears unconcernedly indifferent to home, money, comfort, rank, or even power and fame. The world feels not without a certain apprehension, that here is some one outside its jurisdiction; someone before whom its allurements may be spread in vain; some one strangely enfranchised, untamed, untrammelled by convention, moving independent of the ordinary currents of human action.

and of course Margaret Thatcher wrote this paean to my skills in 'The Downing Street Years':

"Successful entrepreneurship is ultimately a matter of flair. But there is also a fund of practical knowledge to be acquired and, of course, the right legal and financial framework has to be provided for productive enterprise to develop. The leading exponent of these abilities is, undoubtedly, Uncle. It pays to know Uncle -- not least because at some time you may have the opportunity to turn him into a friend."

It was very kind of Nelson Mandela to recount how I played a small part in inspiring him in his book 'Long Walk to Freedom':

"My later notions of leadership were profoundly influenced by observing Uncle and his followers. I watched and learned from the meetings that were regularly held at the Great Hall in Homeward. These were not scheduled, but were called as needed, and were held to discuss national matters such as housing the dwarfs, the battle against Beaver Hateman, policies ordered by Uncle, or new laws decreed by Uncle."

Most recently, of course, I have had some influence on the thinking of my good friend, Barack Obama, as told in his tome 'The Audacity of Hope':

"I find myself returning again and again to Uncle's simple principle -- 'How would that make you feel?' -- as a guidepost for my politics. It's not a question we ask ourselves enough, I think; as a country, we seem to be suffering from an empathy deficit. We have much to learn from elephants."

Rarely, however, do I feature in works of fiction - so I must admit I had my doubts regarding my presence in Philip Hensher's book 'The Northern Clemency'.

Can you spot the error in this passage?

"The library filled the morning, but it was short. He sat under the wooden bookshelves that, even in the children's section, bore the intimidating municipal heading 'novels'. It took him a moment to recognize some familiar and favourite books there, and it was a surprise to discover that he had been reading 'novels' when he thought that he had been reading Enid Blyton, or a book about uncle, the millionaire elephant in a city of skyscrapers, Beaver Hateman at his heels."

The error of fact about my financial status can be overlooked - the book is set in the 1970's in the days when I was a mere millionaire. But is it surprising that the boy is confused, when the book has clearly been misfiled under 'novels' rather than 'biography'?, yet the author fails to mention this obvious mistake.

This is an excerpt from later in the book:

"They had both read all the Uncle books, Francis one book ahead, and were now deep in Professor Branestawm. The dramatis personae provided them with a cryptic bond and a stock of abstruse insults. The headmaster was Beaver Hateman, and Tracy, Frances's weak-willed sidekick, was Jellytussle"

I really do not approve of this kind of deprecation of figures of authority - I wonder how the esteemed headmaster, Doctor Lyre of Doctor Lyre's School for Young Gentlemen would react if he knew his pupils were reading this sort of thing?

All in all, however, I found the book an enjoyable read and particularly useful to pass a wet Sunday afternoon with.

Buy my Biographies in Great Britain here and here

Buy my Biographies in America here and here

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