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Christopher Hitchens: An Affectionate Tribute to an (Anglo) American

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Much has already been written about Christopher Hitchens, the brilliant and prolific writer, commentator, and polemicist since the very sad news of his death yesterday. The beautifully written tributes to him by his friends Graydon Carter, the editor of Vanity Fair, and the writer Christopher Buckley, evoke with great affection his literary and intellectual powers and his personality.

Christopher and I went to the same Oxford College -- Balliol. He was a few years ahead of me. Although we had friends in common, we did not meet until Julia and I were posted to the British Embassy in Washington in the 1980s. Since returning as Ambassador in 2007, we saw Christopher and his wife Carol regularly. He was one of the most brilliant people I have met. He uniquely combined deep attachment to fundamental values and principles, and a huge literary and historical range. He could summon up the most obscure quotations and references for -- it seemed -- any subject at will.

Christopher followed a distinguished line of talented Brits who made their home in the United States. His choice of America was conscious and decisive, and he became an American citizen in 2007. But he was also unmistakably English and retained his British passport. He understood and wrote about the deep roots of the British-American relationship, and described his second identity -- "on becoming an (Anglo) American". Though he wasn't trying to, he contributed to the richness of the British-American story.

Christopher was a regular visitor to the British Embassy during his three decades in Washington. There is a corner of the Embassy Scotch cupboard which will forever be Christopher. On behalf of all of my colleagues and our predecessors at the Embassy who knew and admired Christopher, we send our deepest sympathies to Carol and their family.

Cross-posted from the Global Conversations blog.