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Views & Reviews Between the Lines

Table talk

BMJ 2010; 341 doi: (Published 27 October 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c5974
  1. Theodore Dalrymple, writer and retired doctor

There is a literary genre known as table talk—that is to say, the private conversations or monologues of an important figure, taken down and printed in book form. The most famous examples, perhaps, are the table talk of Hitler and Coleridge.

The neurologist Walter Russell Brain, later Sir Russell and then Lord Brain, contributed to this genre with a short book, Tea with Walter de la Mare. It starts with the strangely touching statement that “my friendship with Walter de la Mare began in 1942, nine years before I met him.” But from 1951 until a few hours before the poet’s death in 1956 Brain often took tea with him and found his conversation so magical that …

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