Talking to my partner last night I suddenly understood the anemia depleting my writing. I start out every day imagining my friends settling down for a comfortable and engaging literary gossip. The facts are there somewhere, because they want to know that the story is as "true" as it can be. And there are seductive digressions into the analysis of slavery or jewellery or cooking. BUT IT IS POPULAR HISTORY.

Yet in the end I see pursing his lips the historical critic, finding each error and patronising the attempt. And in the end, I take out all the conjectures, and seductive digressions, and put in the facts, and how worthy and dull is that?