A Man of Parts

The enduring image of John Gielgud is that of a grand and dignified English gentleman. Think of that sonorous, burnished voice, those proud, aristocratic features. Then try and imagine him writing "[The] young men are certainly attractive, and of course they are mad costume and uniform fetishists, so my eye was continually titillated with corduroy, breeches, jackboots, et cetera!"

That frisson of conflict between public and private man is part of the irresistible appeal of Gielgud's Letters, published this week. The 800-plus missives, written between 1912 and 1999, reveal a complex, often outrageous, character. Not only is Gielgud...

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