Geoffrey Madan (1895-1947) led a life overtly charmed yet subtly blighted. The son of Falconer Madan, Bodley's Librarian and a fellow of Brasenose, he was cradled in literariness. His early years were a triumphal progress through the most exclusive realms of English education. Prep school at Summer Fields was followed by election to College at Eton, where (naturally) he was first on the roll. His years as a "tug" were festooned with medals and prizes — all harbingers of the greater triumphs of, first, election to Pop, and then a scholarship to Balliol to read Greats.
Madan went up to Oxford in 1913, and so his academic life was interrupted by the onset of war. In the summer of 1914 Madan had been staying with the Berensons in Settignano. When war was declared he cut short his holiday, returned to England and volunteered. He survived the war, despite serving in Salonika, France and Italy, seeing action at Gallipoli, and being wounded. But his mental constitution seems to have been no longer secure.
He resumed his studies in 1919, but quickly left Oxford without taking his degree. He went into the City, but abandoned that way of life after a bout of meningitis in 1924. Weakened in body and shaken in spirit, he retired from business at the age of 29. A satisfactory, although not opulent, private income allowed him to spend the remainder of his life in what his wife described alluringly as "an atmosphere of security, French cooking and gaiety".
Released from the burdens of employment, Madan engaged in the activity which makes him interesting today. He seems to have acquired early the habit of recording in a series of notebooks anything that caught his attention in the way of anecdotes or phrases or aphorisms. Every Christmas from 1929 to 1933 Madan would send his friends as a present a selection of 52 items from his notebooks in a printed booklet entitled Livre sans Nom. In 1981 OUP published a selection from the Livre and the notebooks made by J. A. Gere and John Sparrow, and with an introduction by Harold Macmillan, who had been a year ahead of Madan at Eton. It seems very quickly to have gone out of print, and is now rarely found in second-hand bookshops.