I've always been fascinated by the people on the margins of big events, the observers, the sidemen. Maybe it's because the first proper, grown-up play I saw was Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, well before I ever read Hamlet. My favourite poem is The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock; my favourite novel is Vile Bodies. All are about people who look on as big stuff happens, beyond their influence, and almost - but not quite - beyond their comprehension.
Sheridan Morley, who died last week, was a man who spent most of his life writing about the theatre. Even when he created his own shows, they were made up of bits of other people's stuff. I'm sure his was a full and satisfying life, but I couldn't help noticing that the bulk of his Telegraph obituary was taken up with his own recollections about other people's (Coward, Olivier, Gielgud, et al) witticisms. Patiently waiting in the wings, Dictaphone at hand, Morley seems to fade into the shadows, even in what should be his big send-off. Boswell to a hundred Johnsons, he lives on only as a medium for everyone else's one-liners.
"Once, crossing Leicester Square, Morley and Coward saw a poster for an adventure movie starring Michael Redgrave and Dirk Bogarde entitled The Sea Shall Not Have Them. 'I fail to see why not,' Coward remarked. 'Everybody else has.'"
Wonder if he'd collected any amusing aperçus about Iraq...