Oh man, this is tasty.
“Hypocritchens”, as he was known at Balliol, was suave, bright, fearless, loquacious, self-admiring and grotesquely ambitious.
This blend of self-vaunting and perfunctory self-deprecation is a common device in his prose, as he recounts some self-aggrandising moment from his career as a war journalist while insisting that he was shaking with fear at the time, or professes to be knocked back by discovering that the great Isaiah Berlin should prefer his humble company while he is still an Oxford student to that of “much more distinguished figures”.
What others would see as squalid social climbing, gross opportunism and a greedy desire to have it every possible way, he himself seems to regard as both clever and amusing.
It is as though he sees his own double-dealing as a rather agreeable versatility – as testimony to his myriad-mindedness rather than as a privileged, spoilt-brat desire (among other things) to hog it all. One is reminded of the scatty socialite in Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies who had heard talk of an Independent Labour Party and was furious that she had not been invited.