Books: Snob's Progress

SELF PORTRAIT WITH FRIENDS THE SELECTED DIARIES OF CECIL BEATON Edited by Richard Buckle Times Books; 435 pages; $17.50

"Keep a diary and some day it'll keep you," said that great American philosopher Mae West. But it is the Eng lish who have a unique talent for scribbling to themselves. To the long list that includes Samuel Pepys, James Boswell and Virginia Woolf must now be added the name of Cecil Beaton, who died last month at 76. For half a century he roamed the halls of fashion and fame with a folding Kodak and an acidulous pen.

An early student of...

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