Town mouse dines at the London Library

Back to nature.

Around the corner from us in SW1 is John Islip Street. I went there last night, expecting to attend the opening of Daniel Chatto’s exhibition at Long and Ryle. Alas, the windows were dark: it had been the night before. Imagine then, my delight to see the artist himself at the London Library’s literary dinner held later in the evening. Mr Chatto is often to be found on the Sussex Downs: easier for a landscape painter than the wilds of Ireland and northern Scotland, where materials are apt to blow away. Although near London, the Downs still feel remote and there’s a specialist paper shop nearby. This supplies him with huge sheets of paper, made in India. These he’ll anchor to a suitable patch of ground, using rocks, before painting en plein air, with paints made by himself from ground pigments. The works almost seem to grow from the landscapes they represent. I’m off to see the show (on until December 19) as soon as I’ve written this.

At the dinner, Sir Tom Stoppard, the London Library’s president, relished the meal’s setting in the reading room: a riposte to those grown- ups who had told him, as a child, not to read at meals. Certainly, the reading room was transformed from the usual temple of silence, furnished with comfortable leather armchairs. Nobody was asleep.