Moab Is My Washpot
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|Followed by||The Fry Chronicles: An Autobiography|
Moab Is My Washpot (published 1997) is Stephen Fry's autobiography, covering the first 20 years of his life. In the book, Fry is candid about his past indiscretions, including stealing, cheating and lying. The book covers some of the same ground as in Fry's first novel, The Liar, published in 1991. In that work, public schoolboy Adrian Healey falls in love with a boy called Hugo Cartwright; in the autobiography, 14-year-old Fry becomes besotted with 13-year-old "Matthew Osborne".
The title, never explained in the text of the book, is a verse found in Psalm 60 and Psalm 108. Through wearing sandals, people's feet would become filthy in the dusty desert environment and upon entering a home feet would be washed with water by pouring water over them into a washpot. Moab, which had threatened Israel, was to be so completely subdued, and so became likened to a wash pot or basin. This title was selected because Fry saw the book as "scrubbing at the grime of years".
Fry, being a fervent P.G. Wodehouse fan (having written a foreword to a "Best of" compilation of his works, and having played Jeeves in the British comedy series on his works), is likely to have been inspired by a quote from Uncle Fred mentioning Pongo Twistleton's exploits in the book Uncle Dynamite:
"Pongo," said Lord Ickenham, "is in terrific form. He bestrides the world like a Colossus. It would not be too much to say that Moab is his washpot and over what's-its-name has he cast his shoe. ..."
In a 2001 article for the Evening Standard, Andrew Billin wrote that Fry was reunited with "Osborne" after the publication of the book:
Many pages of the deepest purple are devoted to this Matthew Osborne, "the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in my life". I ask if the pseudonymous Matthew, with whom he eventually achieved some form of splendour in the long grass, had been in touch since the book came out in 1997. He had.
How did he take it? "Very well. He is very happily married with children. A wonderful chap and hugely successful as it happens," Fry chuckles, incredulous. "I think his wife knows because she is extremely friendly to me in a way that suggests to me she knows all about it and is very happy with it. I see him a couple of times a year, I suppose."
- Bradberry, Grace (29 September 1997). "'I am destined to have some strange binge of trying to escape from myself' - Interview". The Times. p. 21.
- Appleyard, Bryan (5 October 1997). "What makes Stephen run? - Interview". The Sunday Times. p. 10.
- Broughton, Philip Delves (11 October 1997). "Fry on the wall". The Times. p. 18.
- Porlock, Harvey (19 October 1997). "Critical List". The Sunday Times. p. 18.
- Kakutani, Michiko (19 June 1999). "Stephen Fry Wittily Recreates His Early Rascal Days in Autobiography". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. p. 18.
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