. The eruption of the startling – the comic and the inexplicable into a life that Fitzgerald was often at pains to portray as humdrum gives her correspondence its character and makes these letters written mostly to family and friends on small occasion or none and with no eye on posterity – completely compelling.
She was born in 1916 into a family so variously distinguished that it was hardly surprising she took the remarkable for granted in later life.
Her father was Edmund Knox – editor of Punch and one of four brothers.
Her uncles were Dillwyn the classicist and cryptographer – one of the most important code-breakers of both world wars – Wilfred the Anglo-Catholic priest and theologian and Ronald who became a Roman Catholic priest famous for his translation of the Bible – his satirical wit and a series of popular detective stories.
Fitzgerald later wrote a biography The Knox Brothers a title which she reminded Malcolm Muggeridge he had advised against on the grounds that ‘it would sound like a circus.’
It was her second book.
The first a life of Burne-Jones appeared two years earlier in 1975 when she was nearly 60.
Until then child-rearing – teaching – a difficult marriage and the constant struggle to keep the family afloat – which failed several times – once literally when their houseboat sank in the Thames – had left little time for writing.
Other biographies followed but it was her novels – one of which Offshore won the Booker Prize – that were responsible for her late flowering as a celebrated author and somewhat reluctant figure in London literary life.