Books: Wicked Tongues

CUSTOMS AND CHARACTERS by Peter Quennell Little, Brown; 176 pages; $16.50

As a biographer, historian, editor and critic, Peter Quennell has been one of England's radiant literary lights for more than half a century. He is also an assiduous collector and chronicler of eccentrics, a pointillist of foible, a raconteur without fear or peer. His latest memoir, drawn mostly from the '20s and '30s, is named Customs and Characters.

Here, he is largely concerned with Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury set that assemblage of brains and beauty whose wanton mores were matched only by...

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