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.


When Hilaire Belloc came calling


The joys of reading aloud
John Julius Norwich Writer
Comments (0) Please sign in or register to add comments

Obviously I didn't see as much of my father as I did of my mother. I mean, he was busy, he went off to the office early in the morning and I saw him weekends probably or at least summer weekends when we all went to Bognor and in the evenings he would... he would always come up and say goodnight to me. I would be in bed about to go to sleep and he'd be going out to dinner or something like that and he'd kiss me goodnight. And I seem to remember three nights out of four white tie and tails. I remember the feel of the stiff, white collar on the side of my neck because in those days, you wore white tie and tails if you went out to the theatre. Again, the world is so different.

And from time to time we used to have reading aloud. My parents were tremendous readers aloud to each other and to me and we had a lot of that in the evenings. Particularly, I suppose... Perhaps that was a little bit later. My mother used to read to me often children's books. My father, by the time I got to like grown-up books, we did... we read a lot of Dickens. He adored 19th century novels: Rider Haggard, that sort of... We... He hated music, so that was a thing. I loved it and he was completely tone deaf so that was one thing we couldn't share which was perhaps that. But he loved poetry, he loved reciting. Again, I mean, reading aloud – that was only part of it, that was also reciting poetry and I was taught to learn poetry by heart from a very, very early age both... by... really by both my parents. Both my mother and my father could spout poetry for hours by heart and we used to do that very often, when we were driving long distances in our car, we would all recite our poems. And my mother made a point of making me recite whenever she had a lunch party. At the end of lunch I would go and recite poetry, I mean, only for I don't know what – five minutes, six minutes, something like that to these unfortunate guests who would find themselves forced to listen to this horrible child spouting forth. They were usually funny poems. They were poems by Hilaire, Belloc and people like that.

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: Charles Dickens, Rider Haggard, Hilaire Belloc

Duration: 2 minutes, 46 seconds

Date story recorded: 2017

Date story went live: 03 October 2018