In latter years, the ballet critic Richard Buckle was moved to comment that ''when it was a question of enthusing over a corpse''

the cry would go up ''Send for Buckle!''. For Dicky, as this somewhat raffish, ebullient man was usually called, knew just about everyone of any consequence in the dance world of the twentieth century. He was the chronicler

and confidante of names that are now legend, while his reviews - in the Observer and the Sunday Times - often had a racy, engaging flair that belied the astute eye and keen aesthetic sensibility that

governed his opinions.

He brought that same degree of informed, impassioned enthusiasm to the various exhibitions that he curated and installed - most notably those that he devised under the auspices of the Edinburgh International Festival: the first in 1954 (to mark the 25th anniversary of Diaghilev's death) and again,

in 1961, with the outstanding Epstein Memorial Exhibition in the (then derelict) Waverley

Market. And, despite an aura of gadabout improvidence, Buckle had the vision - and tenacity -

to pursue the scattered relics, the costumes and letters, and memorabilia, that would ultimately become the foundation of London's Theatre Museum.

Christopher Richard Sandford Buckle was born in Warcop, Westmorland on August 6, 1918, the son of an Army officer who was killed that same year. As a result, the young Dicky grew up

in a predominantly female household. For the rest of his life he positively adored women - though his romantic attachments leaned the other way. He attended Marlborough College before going up to Oxford - albeit briefly. For fate intervened, one afternoon in 1933, while he was waiting for a train at Liverpool Street Station.

He found himself in the bookstall, gazing at a cover photograph of an unknown man -

it was, in fact, Nijinsky. Even

so, he didn't actually buy the biography. He felt his mother wouldn't approve . . .

Perhaps if Mrs Buckle had known that her son remembered the allure of Nijinsky's gaze as being like ''an aphrodisiac scent'' she might not have had a copy of the book already at home. The teenager's subsequent fascination with the heady, exotic world of Diaghilev and the Ballet Russes was compounded by his first ever visit to the ballet. He saw Mar-kova dance Giselle. It was enough. Any hopes his relatives had of him settling for a secure career in banking - or even in the stage design that he toyed with after Oxford - were comprehensively dashed when Buckle produced the first edition of a new magazine, Ballet. It was written, edited, and funded by him and is possibly the only publication of its kind to announce that the

second edition would appear ''after the war''. Which it did - Buckle having, in the meantime, survived active service as a lieutenant with the Scots Guards in Italy.

Ballet proved popular with its readership but financial problems led, in 1952, to its closure. Buckle went on to become ballet critic on the Observer, before joining the Sunday Times in 1959. He was enticed more by the salary - (pounds) 1500 per annum, almost enough to keep him in

his referred style - than by the prospect of filing weekly copy on ballets he had seen time and again. His first assignment

was to cover the Edinburgh Festival - he had to sell two Buckle silver candlesticks in order to travel north.

Edinburgh had, of course, been the scene of one of his greatest

personal triumphs five years ear-lier when he had transformed

the sculpture hall of the college of

art into an opulent temple of Diaghilev. Buckle's commemorative tribute truly re-awakened an interest in, and appreciation of, the creative outpouring - not merely the ballets, but also the music scores, the designs, and the costumes - that Diaghilev initiated

in the early years of the twentieth century. More than that, his style of presentation - with its emphasis on experiencing the sight, sound, and sensual impact of Diaghilev's achievements - radically influenced the whole field

of exhibition design.

His devotion and his exper-

tise subsequently spilled over into an authorative biography of Diaghilev that is still unrivalled. His other published works include a biography of Nijinsky, and a collection of his own writings. However, when he suggested a volume about his several and various lovers, his agent and publishers baulked and turned it down.

Such a refusal would be unlikely nowadays, not least because Buckle's natural style rejoices in a vivid immediacy that can be poetic or gossipy in the space of a well-turned, pithy phrase. His own autobiography is, in fact, a very direct window into the lives and times of many famous names - Nureyev being just one of them. Sadly, after battling bouts of drunkenness and depression, Buckle's health declined to the point where he turned his back on the thrum of London life and retreated to an isolated cottage in Wiltshire. There are few of his contemporaries left to enthuse over his corpse but his spirit is very much with us, both in his books and in the Theatre Museum collection now housed in Covent garden He was made a CBE in 1979.

Richard Buckle, ballet critic; born August 6, 1918, died October 12, 2001.