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 The third volume in Wilson's ``Lampitt Papers'' sequence is just as engaging and entertaining as the first two (Incline Our Hearts and A Bottle in the Smoke). The entire work is proving to be a roman Ö fleuve of brilliant social and historical sweep--a high comedic romp through our times. This latest installment brings Julian Ramsay, now in his 40s, into the Sixties, when he's still working as a radio actor and fearing himself a failure. Julian and his cousin Felicity share a house in London, where she works as a civil servant, having abandoned academic philosophy. Through a series of coincidences, they both fall under the spell of one Rice Robey, a latter-day mystic and Blakean visionary who once wrote some novels under the name ``Albion Pugh.'' Pughie's mythic version of British Christianity--which is the subject of his long, tedious, prophetic poem-in-progress--captures the imagination of numerous young women (``Robey-maidens'') and not a few sober-minded literary types within Julian's circle of friends and acquaintances. Pughie is a protÇgÇ of Julian's role model--man-of-letters James Petworth Lampitt. But the eccentric Pugh's only published work these days are scurrilous bits of gossip in The Spark, a Private Eye-like magazine run by Julian's school-chum Miles Darnley. When Pughie publishes an attack on Lampitt's biographer, the randy and ambitious Raphael Hunter (who figures prominently in earlier volumes), Raphael successfully sues for libel--though the circumstances of Lampitt's death remain a mystery, perhaps to be solved in future installments. No matter where life takes Julian throughout these books, he always finds himself entangled with the Lampitts, the family with whom his uncle Roy has been obsessed since Julian's childhood. Admirable in its own right, this always enjoyable comedy of manners gains in meaning and significance when read in sequence--a trilogy (so far) of Balzacian dimensions and Amis-like wit.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-670-83959-0
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 1991


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