As a Contributing Editor for Country & Town House magazine I wrote from 2007 to 2017 a monthly column profiling interesting and well-known people about their businesses. I have interviewed figures as diverse as Roger Law of Spitting Image fame, the Earl of March (now Duke of Richmond), Arnaud Bamberger of Cartier, Brent Hoberman, formerly of LastMinute.com, landscape photographer Charlie Waite, the well-known London wine merchant Johnny Goedhuis, publisher Martine Assouline, and shirtmaker to the great and the good, Emma Willis. The people profiled tend to have businesses in the retail and luxury brand field but my subjects have ranged far and wide. One of the more recent was Wasfi Kani, the dynamic head of Grange Park Opera, now at West Horsley Place. Many of these articles are available on the magazine’s website.
I have also written feature pieces for other publications, including The Field, Country Life, Racing Post and Marine Quarterly.
Other media work
I have now appeared as an expert on duelling in three television documentaries. The most recent was for Optomen Television (May 2015) in an episode of Mysteries at the Castle. I appeared in Fight Club, a documentary about duelling made for the Yesterday channel. It was screened in October 2012.
I also appeared as a ‘talking head’ in the BBC’s Timewatch’s The Last Duel introduced by James Landale, screened in February 2007. In 2008 I contributed to an edition of Questions, Questions on Radio 4 about duelling. I also did some radio interviews about Pistols at Dawn.
I have lectured and given after-dinner speeches based on A Reluctant Hero.
MY LITERARY HISTORY
Richard Hopton’s literary forebears:
Is that The Hound of the Baskervilles I see snoozing on the Camomile Lawn?
Here are a few fragments of literary history from my family background which might be of interest to the inquisitive.
My paternal great-grandmother was Mrs Dorothy Baskerville of Clyro, Radnorshire. Her father, Walter Baskerville, my great-great-grandfather, makes many appearances in Revd Francis Kilvert’s celebrated diaries of rural life in the Welsh Marches written between 1870 and 1879, in which he is frequently referred to as ‘The Squire’. Family legend has it (nor there is any good reason to doubt its authenticity) that my great-grandmother gave Arthur Conan Doyle permission to use the family name for the title of his famous novel, The Hound of the Baskervilles. The villain-hound is based on a Radnorshire folk tale; she had met Conan Doyle while he was staying with neighbours of hers in the county. The story goes that my great-grandmother allowed Conan Doyle to use the Baskerville name on condition he transposed the story from the Radnorshire-Herefordshire area. As the world knows, it ended up on Dartmoor. The story of the hound of the Baskervilles – and the novel – has occupied an enduring place in the public imagination since its publication 120 years ago.
Again on my father’s side, I am related to Mary Wesley (née Farmar), author of The Camomile Lawn and many other successful novels. She was my grandfather’s first cousin and her parents were great friends of my Hopton forebears in the early 20th century. Her father and mother, Harold and Violet Farmar, were regular visitors to the family house – a fact proved by their many entries in its visitors’ book. The same book also contains one example of Mary’s signature, dating from the 1930s, as well as those of her brother and sister, Hugh and Susan.
My maternal great-uncle was Bernard Spencer (1909-1963) an important if lesser-known English poet of the mid-C20, a friend and contemporary of Auden, MacNeice, Spender, Betjeman, Lawrence Durrell and Olivia Manning. His Collected Poems were published in 1981.
Baskerville coat of arms
Clyro Court, Radnorshire
“swashbuckling, suspenseful and elegantly plotted, an intoxicating romp through the treacheries, duels and bravery of the Napoleonic wars”
Vanora Bennett, author of The People’s Queen
“Thoroughly absorbing history … Hopton’s prose races along, bringing to rich and detailed life the insanity and insouciance of this terrible sport.”
Good Book Guide
“Here may be all you need to know about duelling – from its origins, possibly in a challenge issued by the Holy Roman Emperor to the French King in 1528, to its fizzling out before the second world war.”