The comedian and actor Stephen Fry is something of a national treasure in the UK, so seems a strange target for the ire of the Daily Telegraph, which ran a story today all but accusing the much-loved fixture of British life of not writing his own tweets. The fall-out from the story has now reignited a feud between Stephen Fry and Peter Hitchens, brother of the late Christopher Hitchens, over accusations that Fry behaved 'boorishly' towards Peter at his brother's memorial in New York.
Tim Walker, a long-standing gossip columnist at the paper, today wrote a story headlined, "Does Stephen Fry Write His Own Tweets?"
Walker wrote: "It has always been taken for granted that the actor, writer and “wit” writes all his own musings about life himself, but I spied him at The Wolseley restaurant in St James’s on Thursday, deep in conversation with Andy Serkis, the actor, who starred as Gollum in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. I can’t be absolutely sure, but it appeared that Fry was emitting “tweets” as he spoke to Serkis."
Walker then decided to take the opportunity to really stick the knife in, however, and went on to write, "At innumerable parties, I have seen him not conversing with fellow guests, but huddled in a corner, hunched over his iPhone. Fry once even buttonholed the journalist Peter Hitchens and then tweeted a rude comment about him. It was at the memorial service for Hitchens’s brother, Christopher."
Fry, who has over six million followers, took to tumblr to write a furious 1800-word rebuttal of the story, calling walker a 'disgusting waste of skin'. Here are some of the highlights:
@ThatTimWalker, this sneering and disgusting insult even to the reeking heap of disgraced ordure that is the British press, was told all this very clearly and patiently by my distressed PA who, knowing the British print media, was all too aware that this noxious boll-weevil would go ahead and print insinuating drivel whatever she said. Indeed, apprised of the truth, he still managed to extrude a semi-literate gossipy turd about seeing me at a meeting with Andy Serkis and witnessing me taking out my phone and tweeting. I was complying with two charity tweets that my diary alarm pinged me to make. If I’m late, the charities might waste money that they have paid to whoever is hosting their server cluster so that it can take the extra traffic. That wouldn’t occur for a second to a (clearly digitally illiterate) gossip-monger. No, no. From this he hopes his pitiful readership will infer that I am not master of my own twitter account but somehow in hoc to … to whom?
On the subject of the Peter Hitchens story, Fry writes:
Walker concludes his vicious little paragraph firstly by telling an outright lie: that I “buttonholed” my dear friend Christopher Hitchens’s brother at the luncheon after Christopher’s memorial service in New York. Not true. I could see Peter Hitchens in the doorway of the Waverly Inn, standing utterly alone (as he does intellectually, morally and socially amongst his brother’s friends) and, taking pity, I just came up to chat. He responded so rudely, so vilely and with such lack of human decency, that I couldn’t but tweet at the extreme difference between two products of the same parents. Probably a misjudgement on my part. I make many. But then Peter Hitchens is proportionately as joyless and unlovable a person as his so deeply missed brother was joyful and loveable and I was upset at such charmless rudeness. And I was, I freely admit, a little drunk. Which is just what Christopher would have wanted me to be.
Walker replied by tweeting: "I guess there is a lesson here for all of us. Don't drink too much at memorial services and upset the relations of the deceased."
The latest salvo has been fired by Peter Hitchens himself, who has penned a 1400-word account of his encounter with Fry at Christopher's memorial on a Daily Mail blog, which supports Mr Walker of the Telegraph, talking of "Mr Fry’s boorish behaviour" towards him.
Hitchens writes: "I don’t like anything about Mr Fry, have been rude about him in print and thought it would be hypocritical and wrong to pretend friendliness to him in person. Any encounter would either be dishonest or abrasive, and as this was a solemn occasion, I thought it simpler and better-mannered to avoid any risk of that."
Other highlights of the Hitchens stink-piece; "I have no idea what ‘human decency’ has to do with it. It wasn’t *his* closest living relative whose death we were marking. I had certainly not sought him out. He couldn’t possibly have expected me to welcome his company. I most definitely hadn’t looked for it, and in my view even a moderately perceptive rhinoceros would have been aware that I was actively avoiding it....
"If Mr Fry truly admired or really knew my late brother, he can hardly be censorious about a bit of rudeness, nor can he suggest that, by being rude to him, I in some way showed myself dissimilar to Christopher. In comparable circumstances, approached at a close relative's memorial event by someone he despised, I have no doubt that Christopher would have been much, much ruder, and I expect most people in the room would have known about it. Since Mr Fry speculates that Christopher would have approved of his being a little drunk (which is likely true) , I will hazard a guess that Christopher would also have enjoyed my clash with Mr Fry. He’d have thought it enlivebned the occasion. Mind you, I only knew him for 59 or so years."
Literary feuds are so much more fun now we have social media!