A Chance Read

i picked up a softcover book, printed in England about 30 years ago, written by someone named Bryan Guinness, titled “Hellenic Flirtation”. It’s a short book, I only had a little time, and I decided to read through it.

The book itself is diverting in a silly way – a happily married man (probably in his 40s) is attracted to a young woman he can see from his London office window, meets her by chance and learns that she is the fiance of his godson. By virtue of circumstances, the girl (she is 24), the married man, and the godson’s father wind up on a lecture-cruise through the Greek isles. The father is a lecturer, the married man (whose wife decided not to come because her cow was calving) came to hear his friend lecture and see the sights, and they decided to give the other ticket to the young woman (her fiance was studying for exams), so they can get to know her better and decide if she is really right for their young man.

They travel to various tourist sites, including Delphi and Mt. Athos and Ithaka, and ancient history is comfortably thrown in with the story line, which involves Greek-Turkish intrigue, escaping prisoners, the married man and the girl being left on a rugged island as the boat sails off, the girl disguising herself as a man so she can visit the Mt. Athos monastery, sprained ankles, unrequited love (or is it requited?), and the young woman’s surprising (to our two gentlemen) decision to break off with her fiance, and marry instead another young Englishman who was also a cruise ship passenger and who was described as being rather bland. The ship docks, and our narrator, only a little worse for wear, leaves the site of the home of Odysseus’ Penelope, and returns to his farm in England and his own wife, Penelope, perhaps to live happily ever after.

OK, diversion it is, and satisfactory diversion, if not necessary diversion. But the back story is that Bryan Guinness is, indeed, a descendant of brewer Arthur Guinness, who if not Thinking Arthur, could be known, I guess, as Drinking Arthur. And he is also nobility (he was the second Lord Moyne), and he was married to one of England’s well known Mitford sisters, the beautiful Diana, who left him and ran off with and eventually married Oswald Mosley, the head of the British Fascist Party, and friend of Goering and Hitler.

No fascist himself, Lord Moyne’s father (Walter, Guinness, the first Lord Moyne) was Churchill’s resident commissioner in the Middle East (headquartered in Cairo), and one of the architects of the British policy to restrain Jewish emigration to Palestine beginning in the 1930s for fear of further alienating the Arabs, and who was in charge of the British political battle against Hitler in that part of the world. He was assassinated in 1944 by Jewish extremists (of the Stern Gang), as a prominent representative of a anti-Jewish British policy.

But Lord Moyne was probably not the problem; in fact, he was clearly anti-fascist during the war, a confidant of Churchill’s, and supported a two state solution (partition) in Palestine well before it was supported by the British government, although he was very suspicious of the Arab/Jewish cultural mix, and of the capacity of the land to provide for a large population. He was also (who knows for what mix of reasons) supportive of the incarceration of his former daughter in law Diana during the war for her pro-German activities.

Bryan inherited his father’s title, but appears not to have been politically active, but spent his time on the Guinness Board and the board of various cultural organizations and foundations, and as an author of about 20 fictional books, including some written for children, and his memoirs.

Diana Mitford Oswald lived to be 93, dying at her home in Paris.


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