6 FEBRUARY 1988, Page 32

In Chancery Lane

For Richard Whittington-Egan

Encountering John Lane's ghost in Chancery Lane, I asked him whither; and he made reply: `To nab that no-good Dick Le Gallienne.

He's on the drink again — at my expense.

Half an advance, and not a bob on ink!

His hand's too dithery now to push a pen.'

`I thought,' I said to little Piggie-Eyes mean petty trickster from the soil of Devon 'he was your Bodley Head bright Number One, male counterpart of his own "Golden Girl", that golden book that made a packet for you.' (`Lane got the gold,' wrote Dick, 'and I the girls.') `Don't try your luck too hard, egregious John. There's always Smithers waiting in the wings; and though he drabs and drugs, he's got the guts. Your sacking Beardsley killed The Yellow Book. Richard could go there with his mop of hair and help re-float the brave defunct Savoy "journal of succubae" — and you'd be sunk with your pale spin-off of the Decadence.'

Scorn elbowed out that sense of politesse to discourse with a shade appropriate.

I sought to moderate my show of spleen

in Chancery Lane . . . uttering empty threats. Derek Stanford