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Dressing down. Candida Crewe praises a rare dandy – her stepfather

Articles | By Candida Crewe

Dapper don: James Howard-Johnston

The well-dressed man is almost extinct. By Candida Crewe

In 1978, a few days before she won the Booker Prize for The Sea, The Sea, Iris Murdoch came to lunch. She and her husband, John Bayley, were good friends of my mother and my stepfather, James Howard- Johnston, a Byzantine historian at Oxford. I was 14 and Iris was very sweet to me, not at all intimidating, though she did have a commanding look. She stood by the grand piano in the drawing-room of our house. Her white shirt was hideous; so bright it scorched the eyes, and with a pattern of shocking pink spots like assailants. The material was what I call GBH nylon, the type that, if rubbed up the wrong way, causes sparks. ‘I think if I hadn’t been a writer, I would have really liked to be a dress designer,’ she told me. An unexpected admission if ever there was one. More often, she used...

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