Just ahead of tonight's appearance with Tucker, welcome to Part Six of the latest audio entertainment in our series Tales for Our Time. For this chill February, we're enjoying The Power-House by John Buchan, a "shocker" that paved the way for his breakout bestseller The Thirty-Nine Steps and conjures a conspiracy of Machiavellian globalists. In tonight's episode, Edward Leithen again encounters the mysterious figure who "pulls the strings more than anybody living":
One night I met Lumley. It was at a big political dinner given by the chief of my party in the House of Lords—fifty or sixty guests, and a blaze of stars and decorations. I sat near the bottom of the table, and he was near the top, sitting between a famous General and an ex-Viceroy of India. I asked my right-hand neighbour who he was, but he could not tell me. The same question to my left-hand neighbour brought an answer:
"It is old Lumley. Have you never met him? He doesn't go out much, but he gives a man's dinner now and then which are the best in London. No. He's not a politician, though he favours our side, and I expect has given a lot to our funds. I can't think why they don't make him a Peer. He's enormously rich and very generous, and the most learned old fellow in Britain. My Chief"—my neighbour was an Under-Secretary—"knows him, and told me once that if you wanted any out-of-the-way bit of knowledge you could get it by asking Lumley. I expect he pulls the strings more than anybody living. But he scarcely ever goes out, and it's a feather in our host's cap to have got him to-night. You never see his name in the papers, either. He probably pays the Press to keep him out, like some of those millionaire fellows in America."
These days we are infested by fellows who pull the strings and yet keep themselves largely out of the papers - transnational bureaucrats like Rajendra Pachauri and the late Peter Sutherland, European Commissioners, Ukrainian oligarchs and Chinese generals who've bought up vice-presidential scions... Members of The Mark Steyn Club can hear Part Six of our tale simply by clicking here and logging-in. Earlier episodes can be found here.
Last night's installment featured a passing reference to Merv, Turkmenistan, of which I remarked:
It was the most famous Merv in history until Merv Griffin came along.
John Downes, a Mark Steyn Club member from the English Midlands, responds:
I was anticipating a joke along those lines, but I expected the punch-line to point to the celebrated Merv Hughes, fast bowler for Victoria and Australia, and the wearer of the most famous moustache in cricket. Ever!
Mr Hughes' 'tache is certainly impressive, John, but I favor something a little more sculpted myself. So, for a cricketing contemporary of John Buchan, I offer Robert Poore at top right. Mr Poore was a Dubliner who joined the 7th Hussars, went off to the Second Matabele War and, while still in the army, played three tests for South Africa and then, upon his return from soldiering, batted impressively for Hampshire. Aside from his fine moustaches, I believe he holds the record for the highest run-rate in English cricket - for the 1,399 he scored between June 12th and August 12th 1899. His season average of 91.23 was not broken until The Don showed up from Oz three decades later. I tremble to tiptoe into Wisden territory when Tim Rice is already an eagle-eyed observer of my musical missteps, but I'm reasonably confident the foregoing is correct.
Away from the cricket pavilion, Mr Poore kept things close to home: His sister married his wife's brother - the 13th Duke of Hamilton, great-grandfather of the present duke.
Okay, that's enough. Three days ago we had cricketers chirping, and now I'm chirping about cricketers. We'll be back here with Part Seven of The Power-House tomorrow evening. You can listen to it either as an old-fashioned nightly radio romp twenty minutes before you lower your lamp, or save it up for an almighty binge-listen on a long car journey.
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Speaking of the cruising life, following our first two sold-out Mark Steyn Cruises, we've scheduled a third, sailing the Med later this year. Details here.