3 OCTOBER 1952, Page 6

Being elsewhere than here last week, I did not see

the interesting letters from Lord Asquith and others on Mr. Asquith's literary posers till they appeared in the paper. They move me to two observations, one particular and one general—the latter first. Any writer • of a column like this is almost bound to be guilty of fairly frequent minor errors, for the simple reason that he has neither time nor opportunity to verify all his references. Sometimes that matters little. It will not seriously affect his eternal welfare (at any rate I hope not) if he says Rob Roy was published in 1818 instead of on December 31st, 1817; but it would be quite another matter to ascribe a character in Redgauntlet to Guy Mannering. Where anything important cannot be verified the projected paragraph must be abandoned. If it is something obviously immaterial memory may be chanced. Now to the particular. Having quoted Mr. Asquith's questions—on why Hamlet did not succeed to the throne of Denmark, and what Darcy's Christian name, in Pride and Prejudice, was—I was asked for the answers. I searched Pride and Prejudice-to be sure about the Christian name, Fitzwilliam, but rashly omitted to re-read the whole work before stating that the name only occurred once. Then as to Hamlet. I said that " according to my recollection " there was an old Danish custom that a Aurviving brother succeeded. But that had to be verified if possible. I thought the question and answer might be in one of those engrossing volumes Letters from Lord Oxford to a Friend, but there was no trace of it in the index. I thought it might be in one of J. A. Spender's many references to Mr. Asquith; but I found nothing there. I searched two encyclopaedias and The States. man's Year Book for information on the early constitution of Denmark—in vain. Lord Asquith says that the matter (the Hamlet matter) is discussed in one of the chapters (" A Personal Chapter ") which he contributed to the official biography of his father. But, with great respect, it is not. All I can -find there is " Many readers of Hamlet know, or think they know, why on the death of the old king the crown did not automatically devolve on the Prince." That is hardly " discussion," and it doesn't carry us much further.