JB: I wrote a book called the Identity of Man. I never saw the cover of the English edition until the book reached me in print. And yet the artist had understood exactly what was in my mind, by putting on the cover a drawing of the brain and the Mona Lisa, one on top of the other

A Recollection by Eirlys Roberts

HIS FRIENDS normally called him Bruno. I do not think that he ever considered changing his surname, in deference to the war, as many people did. (His younger brother, who was, I believe, a champion table tennis player, changed his to, I think, Leo Baron.) Bruno was very short: I remember his telling me, as a joke against himself, that a colleague at Cambridge had once asked him how tall he was. Bruno, knowing that 6 ft was tall and that he wasn't, said,"5 ft 10". In fact he was under 5 ft.
Eirlys Roberts CBE
Eirlys Rhiwen Cadwaladr Roberts was born on 3 January 1911. She was educated at Clapham High School and at Girton College, Cambridge where she read Classics. After wartime service in both Military and Political Intelligence she worked at the Information Division of the Treasury until 1957. From 1958 she was Head of the Research and Editorial Division at the Consumers' Association (Which magazines) and was Deputy Director until 1977. She received an OBE in 1971 and was appointed CBE in 1977. She died in 2008.
He was also very strong and a good walker and climber. I remember once hearing that he had been considered as a possible member of the team that was to make an attempt on Everest. And he told me that when they were children, he and his younger sister, living with his family in North London, had walked for miles and miles through the streets of London, he holding his sister's hand when she got tired. Bruno was a superb teacher. At Cambridge he and I used to go for long walks in what I considered (and still consider) the dreary Cambridgeshire countryside while he did his best to explain to me conics and the theory of relativity. He made them much more interesting than the scenery. .

Bruno was as interested in poetry as he was in mathematics and had a passion for Blake, particularly, and for the later Yeats. At one time, in Cambridge, he was editor of the Granta and a friend of Alistair Cooke, now famous for his broadcasts on America. Other friends were Humphrey Jennings, artists and film maker, James Reeves, poet, Eric Trist, a psychiatrist, Laura Riding, an American writer who lived for many years in the same house as Robert Graves in Dey´, Mallorca. Laura Riding had read, and admired, some of Bruno's writing and invited him (and necessarily, me) to stay with her and Robert. We were there for quite a long time, Laura, a manic worker, obliging Bruno to work with her on her writing, while I (theoretically) helped Robert with some of I,Claudius (this was unnecessary as he knew it all much better than I did). In the afternoons we would go down to the Old cafe and occasionally play chess until I stopped it. Bruno had been the Chess Champion of Yorkshire before we went to Deya and I, briefly and ineptly, an unwilling pupil. After too many evenings I decided we'd had enough and admired Bruno's good humour (and possibly relief) as we put the pieces and the board away.

I think that Bruno was a great brain and a really good, generous and loving human being.

Source: private communication

The Ascent of Jacob Bronowski

Copyright © 1998 by Stephen Moss. All rights reserved.