I must be one of the last people among the middlebrow fanciers to have read Beverley Nichols. He is perfect bedtime reading: light, frivolous, witty, of an earlier period so there won't be anything nasty in the woodshed, and unexpectedly moving. I first noticed his existence in a delightfully poisonous parody in Leonard Russell's immortal … Continue reading The shrine of Beverley Nichols: should one worship?
We’re well past the Labour victory in the post-war general election now, heading towards a Conservative revival in 1951. Notable Conservative novelist Angela Thirkell wrote about this period of British history with loathing and resentment. John Lehmann writes about it in his Foreword to this issue in terms of a strong desire to earn a … Continue reading Penguin New Writing 34: Life in 1948
This issue of Penguin New Writing, from spring 1947, has a depth that the previous issues reviewed don’t seem to have achieved. John Lehmann goes all-out in his Foreword by saying that the fires that decimated London’s publishing offices and warehouses in the bombing in December 1940 did ‘the book-trade — and the authors who … Continue reading Penguin New Writing 30
Here’s a bit of Second World War literary and theatrical history I had no idea existed. T S Eliot’s main theatrical collaborator was the actor and director E Martin Browne, who was the first to produce Eliot’s play Murder in the Cathedral (1935), about the murder of Thomas à Becket, and The Family Reunion (1939) … Continue reading Pilgrim Story
New Writing, John Lehmann’s influential British literary magazine, first appeared in 1936, and fostered politically Left writers and artists. It stopped publication in 1950, with issue 40, just as Tennessee Williams and John Wain (for example) joined the contributors. I found issues 27 to 40 in an Oxfam shop, and bought them for a fiver. … Continue reading Penguin New Writing 27: Spring 1946
Cyril Connolly is the hairy-eyebrowed big man who dominated the 1930s and 1940s in English literary criticism. Like George Orwell, he had attended Eton College and had a large and varied acquaintance with the aristocracy, Establishment figures and literati of his day. (Their politics and social lives were quite different.) Like Orwell, Connolly is one of … Continue reading Oh how we laughed: Cyril Connolly’s The Condemned Playground
I read After Leaving Mr Mackenzie for #ReadingRhys, but, to be truthful, I really don’t think I would have bothered had it not been for that impetus. I tried Wide Sargasso Sea many years ago and didn’t get on with it at all. I don’t even think I finished it. Jacqui suggested this novel as a … Continue reading Looking into the gutter: Jean Rhys’ After Leaving Mr Mackenzie