From 1937 until 1955, when he left to write full-time, Angus Wilson worked in the Department of Printed Books at the British Museum. His 1961 novel, The Old Men at the Zoo, was a roman à clef based on many of the people he had known there. The character of Matthew Price, the Curator of Birds in the book, was modelled on Willie King, a ceramics expert in the Department of British and Medieval Antiquities. As well as being a distinguished scholar, King together with his wife, Viva, were colourful characters who occupied a prominent place in the bohemian society of their day. This article explores the circle in which they mixed and the consequences of their enduring friendship with Angus Wilson.
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