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... the sullen harbours of the Baltic, the booze-bound havens of foggy Albion

All good handbooks for aspiring writers tell the tyro to pour out his or her inspiration, then go back and suppress every adjective, adverb or simile. This reveals the basic content, ready for – or perhaps not even needing – thoughtful enrichment and ornamentation. A bad handbook would simply forbid adjectives, leading to the prose equivalent of of an early Sixties block of council flats.

Fear of embellishment is understandable, but a good writer can use an abundance of adjectives without making the results indigestible. It's the difference between a good florentine, nuts and crystallised fruit on 70% chocolate, and violet-flavoured synthetic marshmallow with Chocolike(R) coating.

Peter Tinniswood, whose light-hearted tour de force Shemerelda includes the nugget above, gives the reader wholesome treats. If I also mention Edmund White, it's so you can draw your own conclusions.