The Siege at Peking – Peter Fleming

Sample entry from the TARS library catalogue

The Author

Born in 1907 in London, son of an MP. Edited the school paper at Eton and then achieved a First in English at Oxford in 1929. Journalist and travel writer; husband of the actress Celia Johnson and brother of Ian Fleming. Widely travelled, often as a special correspondent of The Times. In the Second World War he served in the Grenadier Guards and was mentioned in despatches. His books include Brazilian Adventure, News from Tartary, The Flying Visit and Bayonets to Lhasa.

The Book

Highly readable, evocative account of the Boxer Rising, a complex, fascinating and mysterious situation. The diplomats and the missionaries, thrown together by circumstance, were as foreign to each other as were the many nationalities involved. Fleming describes the missionaries as ‘dim, dedicated, sacrificial figures’ while the Legations’ staff and politicians are shrewdly analysed. Jessie Ransome is one of the many quoted sources.

The Copies AR’s copy from 1959, now at Fullerton, contained a few notes. We have a 1960 Book Union edition. Hb/Dj. 225pp. TARS.

Note

The book is dedicated ‘to Rupert Hart-Davis, my old friend’. AR reviewed Fleming’s A Forgotten Journey in the Spectator, 8th November, 1952. The two men were friends. After a long and exciting day receiving his CBE, celebrating and dining, AR went finally to the Garrick to play billiards with Fleming. AR retained the full range of Fleming’s books in his library; Invasion 1940 is a presentation copy by the author to AR inscribed ‘to the glory of slosh’. Correspondence from Fleming to AR survives – almost always trying to set up a game of chess: 14th October 1949, Fleming to AR from Henley on Thames: ‘My dear Spindlecue’ pulverize you at chess ‘see no prospect of visiting your barbarous and prudently obscure hide-out this season.’ (Brotherton)