a story lives forever
Sign in
Form submission failed!

Stay signed in

Recover your password?
Form submission failed!

Web of Stories Ltd would like to keep you informed about our products and services.

Please tick here if you would like us to keep you informed about our products and services.

I have read and accepted the Terms & Conditions.

Please note: Your email and any private information provided at registration will not be passed on to other individuals or organisations without your specific approval.

Video URL

You must be registered to use this feature. Sign in or register.


My voyage to America


Drawing lessons for the ungifted
John Julius Norwich Writer
Comments (0) Please sign in or register to add comments

This goes in around 1935, 1936 that I used to go and stay with my grandmother, my maternal grandmother, Duchess of Rutland, who was a superb pencil portraitist. She spent her whole day drawing people, drawing anybody she saw. She never moved without a whole bunch of orange HB pencils and a sketchbook and a crust of bread with which she always rubbed out. She didn't believe in rubbers, she only liked the crust of bread. And she must have drawn a couple of hundred of me. She'd do it all the time because she loved me and whenever she saw me, she was out there doing it, you know. Nowadays from time to time people write me and say, 'I may have a drawing of you by your grandmother, would you like it?' I say, 'No, thank you so much, I already have 357, I really don't need any more.' They never stopped.

But she tried... she had this very unfortunate idea that drawing was terribly easy once you knew how and that she could easily teach me to do it for myself. And I happened not to be able to draw a line on a piece of paper. I mean, I'm so ungifted; I can't draw anything at all. But I spent hours in bed with her learning... doing... she only did features. We did eyes and ears and noses and mouths and chins, and I got no better at all. It was tedious, it was appalling because I knew I was never going to get it but she always thought success was just round the corner.

John Julius Norwich (1929-2018) was an English popular historian, travel writer and television personality. He was educated at Upper Canada College, Toronto, at Eton, at the University of Strasbourg and on the lower deck of the Royal Navy before taking a degree in French and Russian at New College, Oxford. He then spent twelve years in H.M. Foreign Service, with posts at the Embassies in Belgrade and Beirut and at the Disarmament Conference in Geneva. In 1964 he resigned to become a writer. He is the author of histories of Norman Sicily, the Republic of Venice, the Byzantine Empire and, most recently, 'The Popes: A History'. He also wrote on architecture, music and the history plays of Shakespeare, and presented some thirty historical documentaries on BBC Television.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: grandmother, Duchess of Rutland, portraits, drawing, lessons

Duration: 1 minute, 44 seconds

Date story recorded: 2017

Date story went live: 03 October 2018