I have spent the day reading the bizarre, fascinating and ultimately macabre, warts-and-all biography of Jack Plumb, which has been written by Neil McKendrick, an early pupil, life-time protégé and long-term friend, ally and supporter, even when towards the end of Plumb’s life it became nearly impossible. I was just about aware of the extent to which he lost all sense of restraint in the last years of his life as I witnessed his voluble and intolerable abuse of his successor-but-one as Master, whose election I’m pleased to discover he had supported. It’s a sad tale because it obviously clouded his many and remarkable achievements as a writer, teacher and historian.
There is a chapter which defends his record as Master of Christ’s. I certainly owe Jack an immense debt of gratitude for establishing the Christie’s Research Fellowship in the Decorative Arts to which I was appointed not long after he became Master and for being a deeply supportive and life-enhancing friend and ally for the time that I was a fellow there and thereafter.