The New Oxford Book of Literary Anecdotes

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index of names371
urge to exchange anecdotes is as deeply implanted in human beings
as the urge to gossip. It is hard to believe that cavemen didnt practise
their skills as anecdotalists as they sat around the
re. The word anec-
dote itself, on the other hand, was imported into the English language
clergymen, and other public
gures). But then as early as
, an
anonymous contributor to the
it was in fact Edmund
Burkenoted that there never was a time in which anecdotes, especially
literary anecdotes, were read with greater eagerness than they are now.
And when, a generation later, in
, we
right: his policy is one I have tried to follow myself. Many of the anec-
dotes in this collection illustrate the working habits of authors, their
sources of inspiration, their attitude to colleagues, their dealings with
publishers, a dozen di
erent aspects of their careers. Many others,
however, have no direct bearing on authorship or literary life.
Boswell gave the warrant for such a mixed approach when he described
his Johnson anecdotes as literary and characteristical, without drawing
an excellent chance that he will drink too much. He may not always tell
the truth.
The sins of writers are a recurrent theme in this book. So are their
weaknesses and misfortunes. But then anecdotalists thrive on such
to what it would have been if I had been compiling an anthology of
literature in general. But it doesnt run exactly parallel. A few big names
are missing. So are many lesser names whom I admire quite as much as
the ones I have chosensome of whom, indeed, are personal favourites.
The fact that a writer doesnt appear in the book shouldnt necessarily be
construed as a literary judgement. Considerations of space have weighed
heavily, and while I have occasionally come down in favour of an anec-
dote on the grounds of historical interest, the quality of those available
authors (of a kind that would once have been considered sub-literary),
and for authors who, whatever their literary qualities, dont primarily
belong in a history of literaturephilosophers, statesmen, scholars, and
Sooner or later anyone who works his way through a collection of
anecdotes is likely to
Some have been deliberately manufactured. But the majority are prob-
ably true stories which have been to a greater or lesser degree improved in
the telling. They take their inspiration from the truth, and then they
Does it matter? In the case of vicious stories, a great deal (but then one
I owe a considerable debt to the biographies, biographical collections,
and critical studies where I
rst encountered some of the older texts
which I cite. I would like to thank David Kynaston for some helpful
suggestions, Judith Luna for editorial advice and support, and Vivien
Minto for invaluable assistance in preparing the manuscript.
Geoffrey Chaucer
this Chaucer
ned in the Temple two shillings for striking a
Sir Walter Ralegh
hero took care of them both, as also that the product was more than an
ordinary mortal.
John Aubrey,
, late seventeenth century
the morning of his execution, according to an eyewitness, Ralegh was
very cheerful ... ate his breakfast heartily, and took tobacco, and made
no more of his death, than it had been to take a journey; and made a great
impression in the minds of those that beheld him. He dressed himself
richly for the occasion, but not ostentatiously, as he had done in his days
of royal favor. On account of the fever he had contracted on the Guiana
experiment presently. They alighted out of the coach and went into a
poor womans house at the bottom of Highgate Hill, and bought a hen,
and made the woman disenterate [eviscerate] it, and then stu
body with snow, and my Lord did help to do it himself. The snow so
chilled him that he immediately fell so extremely ill that he could not
servants, that they might be ready again after the performance. In this
ce he became so conspicuous for his care and readiness, that in a short
time every man as he alighted called for Will Shakespear, and scarcely
any other waiter was trusted with a horse while Will Shakespear could be
had. This was the
seal, in sooth I hope it is not Brummagem, in double sooth I hope it is
his, and in triple sooth I hope I shall have an impressio
Ben Jonson
was delated [informed against] by Sir James Murray to the King
These words were visible at that house in
. It should be remembered
that Donnes name was formerly pronounced Dun.
James Prior,
Donne was invited to accompany Sir Robert Drury and his wife on a
Sir Robert, for he immediately sent a servant to Drury House with a
Dr Donne
sent for a carver to make for him in wood the
gure of an urn,
giving him directions for the compass and height of it, and to bring with
it a board of the just height of his body. These being got, then without
delay a choice painter was got to be in a readiness to draw his picture,
another, which he also read. And so on that at last he was demonstratively
Sir William Davenant
ship is certain; but the unkindness with which he was treated was not
merely negative. I am ashamed to relate what I fear is true, that Milton
was one of the last students in either university that su
ered the publick
indignity of corporal correction.
Samuel Johnson,
Solemnityyes, Milton.
rendered his studies and various works more easy and pleasant by
alloting them their several portions of the day. Of these the time friendly
he was totally blind:
relation to his love of musick, and the e
ect it had upon his mind, I
remember a story I had from a friend I was happy in for many years, and
who loved to talk of Milton, as he often did. Milton hearing a lady sing
nely, Now will I swear (says he) this lady is handsome. His ears now
were eyes to him.
Jonathan Richardson,
Sir John Suckling
Sir Thomas Urquhart
(Scottish author, landowner and traveller; translator of Rabelais; fought for
the Royalists in the Civil War)
died in Rabelaisian fashion
[for laughter is proper to man]. Exiled in France, secure from Presbyter-
ians and creditors, he took such a
Restoration of Charles II that he expired therewith. Dullards have
doubted the truth of this story; but, as Mr Willcock [Urquharts Vic-
torian biographer] says, we have to keep in mind that Sir Thomas was not
alone in his folly, if folly it were; for a great wave of exultation swept over
the three kingdoms at that time. Our author had, like many of his fellow
Royalists, staked and lost everything he possessed in the defence of the
House of Stuart, and one can have little di
culty in understanding how
the announcement of the triumph of the cause, which was so dear to him,
should have agitated him so profoundly.
Hugh MacDiarmid,
James Harrington
(political theorist; author of
Anno Domini
, he was committed prisoner to the Tower; then to
Portsea Castle. His durance in these prisons (he being a gentleman of a
high spirit and a hot head) was the procatractic [originating] cause of his
deliration or madness; which was not outrageous, for he would discourse
found in anyone: talk of anything else, his discourse would be very
John Aubrey,
, late seventeenth century
Samuel Butler
she herself never in her life read any book but of devotion), but there was
wont to lie Spensers works. This I happened to fall upon, and was in
itely delighted with the stories of the knights, and giants, and monsters,
and brave houses which I found everywhere there (though my under-
standing had little to do with all this), and by degrees with the tinkling of
the rhyme and dance of the numbers; so that I think I had read him all
, ed. John
abraham cowley
John Dryden
refused, as obdurately as he had refused to write an elegy on the
death of Queen Mary in
. Tonson at once became even less co-
operative than before; one day he refused point-blank to do Dryden some
she had founded the famous
pencil, his magnifying glass and
ve mathematical instruments. It made
an impressive collection, and when he asked to have back one particular
instrument he was told that, since he was a gentleman, as his assailant
claimed to be also, if he sent to the Rummer Tavern in Charing Cross the
following day he should have it. John gave up his sword and hatband.
Pepys asked the highwaymen to be civil to the ladies and not to frighten
them; and some of the ladies were frightened, but one kept her wits about
her: My Lady Pepys saved a Bag of Money that she had about her. So
read the law report from which this story comes, because two of the
men were tried for the crime at the Old Bailey in December. The men,
Thomas Hoyle and Samuel Gibbons, were found guilty partly through
the evidence of a witness who saw their faces as they pulled o
masks, and partly because Hoyle was taken at the Rummer Tavern with
Pepyss pencil in his possession. Pepys gave evidence at the trial but he
would not swear they were the men concerned because he had not seen
their faces. Both, however, were found guilty of felony and robbery, con-
demned to death and hanged. The most quick-witted member of the
party seems to have been Mary SkinnerLady Pepys for the occasion
who managed to keep her money safe under her skirts. She was not asked
to be a witness, but she was clearly a force to be reckoned with.
Claire Tomalin,
Thomas Traherne
Oxford Kates [an establishment at the sign of the Cock in Bow St];
coming in open day into the balcony and showed his nakednessacting
all the postures of lust and buggery that could be imagined, and abusing
of scripture and, as it were, from thence preaching a mountebank sermon
from that pulpit, saying that there he hath to sell such a powder as should
make all the cunts in town run after hima thousand people standing
And that being done, he took a glass of wine and washed his prick in it
; and then took another and drank the Kings health.
It seems my Lord and the rest of the Judges did all of them round give
him a most high reproofmy Lord Chief Justice saying that it was for
that it should be quite spoiled. They observed her, and riding after her,
Matthew Prior
A marriage
held not in a church, and without banns, or witnesses, or a
ring, or a licence, or registration, was perfectly legal. Swift is believed to
have conducted at least one such marriage himself, on one of his journeys
make it clear that he was a very rough sort of tutorfor whenever
tells even more curious stories. Dining at Delanys house one
unworthy of his Muse, and which could serve for no other end except
that of turning the readers stomach, as it did my mothers, who, upon
reading the Ladys Dressing Room, instantly threw up her dinner.
day in mid-March
, as Swift sat in his chair, he reached
towards a knife, but Mrs Ridgeway [his housekeeper] moved it away
from him. He shrugged his shoulders, rocked himself, and said, I am
what I am, I am what I am; some minutes later he repeated the same
thing two or three times. About a fortnight afterwards, he tried to speak
a long and manly, but vain, struggle with his distemper, he dis-
missed his physicians, and, with them, all hopes of life; but with his hopes
of life he dismissed not his concern for the living, but sent for a youth
nearly related (the earl of Warwick), and
nely accomplished, but not
I thank you most heartily, replied the other, and in a transport of passion
not unequal to that just over, dropped down on his knees, and formally
asked pardon of the company.
Hester Thrale,
, entry for
Alexander Pope
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu wrote three satirical poems, mock-
Court Poems
issued the volume on
. Two days later, while
visiting Lintots shop on a matter of business, where he also found Pope,
we were going along was saying to the Doctor that my Lord had laid me
culty by such loose and general observations;
that I had been thinking over the passages almost ever since, and could
Garth laughed heartily at my embarrassment, said I had not been long
right. However it be, the accident is very singular, that these two
Samuel Richardson
had a kind of club of women about himMrs Carter, Mrs
everyone will be fond of you, and desirous of your company. He was a
father writing to his illegitimate child about self-improvement and edu-
of success; for, if puss had had nine thousand, instead of nine lives, I
concluded they had been all lost. The boatswain, however, had more
have since heard that the report was not well founded; but the elation
discovered by Johnson in the belief that it was true, shewed a noble
ardour for literary fame.
James Boswell,
rst time I was in company with Dr Johnson I remember the
Miss Johnson
, one of Sir Joshuas nieces (afterwards Mrs Deane), was
dining one day at her uncles with Dr Johnson and a large party: the
conversation happening to turn on music, Johnson spoke very con-
temptuously of that art, and added, that no man of talent, or whose mind
concluded by asking him, Well, Doctor, how do you like all this?Why,
it is pleasant enough, growled the Doctor, for the present; but all these
things, David, make death very terrible.
William Cooke,
used to relate, as a proof of Dr Johnsons quick discernment
into character:When he was on a visit to Dr Mudge at Plymouth, the
inhabitants of the Dock (now Devonport) were very desirous of their
town being supplied with water, to e
ect which it was necessary to obtain
the consent of the corporation of Plymouth; this was obstinately refused,
the Dock being considered as an upstart. And a rival, Alderman Tolcher,
who took a very strong part, called one morning, and immediately
opened on the subject to Dr Johnson, who appeared to give great atten-
tion, and when the alderman had ceased talking, replied, You are
of Sterne, and to pass unquali
ed eulogiums upon him, as a man
nest feelings and philanthropy.
As soon as I had ended my frothy declaration, the Doctor very placidly
told me that I did not know the man as well as he did; that he was his
very near neighbour; and that of all the men he ever knew he was the
most devoid of the feelings of humanity, or of everything that we call
As one proof of this, the Doctor told me that his daughter had some
acquaintance with Miss Sterne, and therefore that she frequently passed
an afternoon at his house; that Miss Sterne was subject to violent
ts, that she had been lately seized with one of these, which was
accompanied with such alarming symptoms, as made him and his
daughter apprehend that she was dying; that they therefore sent to Mr
Sterne to apprise him of the circumstance, and to come to them
After waiting for some time in anxious expectation, the gentleman
made his appearance, and seeing his daughter agonized upon the
and seemingly ready to expire, he coolly observed that she would be well
again presently and that he could not stop a moment, being engaged to
ddle at York that night. Thus he took his leave, and hastily
hurried out of the house.
We cannot therefore conclude with any certainty what a man feels
from the pathos of his writings, unless we have an intimate acquaintance
with the man himself; unless we can prove from his actions that his
high-wrought descriptions are the index of his mind.
Thomas Gray
Voltaire, with whom I had never had the least acquaintance,
had voluntarily written to me
rst, and asked for my book, he wrote a
Elizabeth Montagu
(scholar and author; leading member of the Blue Stocking circle)
came out books called Every Man His Own Broker, and Every
Man His Own Brewer, and such trash; it was that year that Beauclerc
married Lady Bolingbroke, and Lord Ossory the Duchess of Grafton.
Why have we not a book called Every Man His Own Cuckold?, says
Hester Thrale,
, entry for July
Christopher Smart
on one occasion a printer hired by one of Burkes enemies got into a
quarrel with his employer and ... disclosed a bill which excited some
amusement when made public, the items regularly marked and charged
rude man: I said in his hearing, that there were no good writers among
the Italians, and he said to one that sat near him, that I was very
People, said he, are greatly mistaken in me: a notion goes about, that
when I am silent I mean to be impudent; but I assure you, gentlemen, my
silence arises from bashfulness.
Sir John Hawkins,
considered him as a friend indeed who would ask him to tell a story
or sing a song, either of which requests he was always very ready to
comply with, and very often without being asked, and without any
preparation, to the great amazement of the company. His favourite
songs were
, and
In singing the last he endeavoured to humour the dialogue by looking
erce and speaking in a very rough voice for Death, which he
suddenly changed when he came to the ladys part, putting on what he
therefore, might not have wondered at the sudden revolution which
brought England, France, and Spain, all under one crown; but, as I was
also no conjuror, it amazed me beyond measure. Astonishment might
have amounted to awe for one who appeared to me gifted with the power
of performing miracles, if the good-nature of the man had not obviated
my dread of the magician; but, from that time, whenever the Doctor
came to visit my father,
I pluckd his gown, to share the good mans smile;
a game at romps constantly ensued, and we were always cordial friends,
and merry playfellows.
George Colman the Younger,
Colmans father, the theatre manager and dramatist George Colman
The Good-
Naturd Man
She Stoops to Conquer.
Erasmus Darwin
he is a gentleman of so much reading, that the people of our town cannot
understand him. I confess to you, my dear, I felt all the force of the
compliment implied in this speech, and was almost ready to answer,
Perhaps, my good friend, they may
Thomas Paine
Paines support for the French Revolution put him in danger, and he
room in which I lodged was on the ground
oor, and one of a long
range of rooms under a gallery, and the door of it opened outward and
at against the wall; so that when it was open the inside of the door
appeared outward, and the contrary when it was shut. I had three com-
rades, fellow-prisoners with me, Joseph Vanheule of Bruges, Charles
Bastini and Michael Robyns of Louvain. When persons by scores and
by hundreds were to be taken out of the prison for the guillotine it was
always done in the night, and those who performed that o
private mark or signal by which they knew what rooms to go to, and
what number to take. We, as I have said, were four, and the door of our
room was marked, unobserved by us, with that number in chalk; but it
happened, if happening is the proper word, that the mark was put on
at against the wall, and thereby came on
the inside when we shut it at night; and the destroying angel passed
foolish, ugly old woman as you about with his messages. Go awaybe
and shut the door.
His visitor raised her hands in astonishment and left without a word.
You are an odd character.
:I am a physiognomist, believe me. I
have studied that art very attentively, I assure you, and I can rely on my
conclusions. He seemed to agree to this.
scoundrel of a Corsican; and whose tail do you think he has pinned
himself to now, mon? A
, mon, an auld dominie; he keeped a
schule, and caud it an acaadamy.
Walter Scott, notes written for Crokers edition of the
Scotts probable source was Auchinlecks friend John Ramsay; he may
obtruded himself every where. Lowe (mentioned by him in his life of
Johnson) once gave me a humourous picture of him. Lowe had requested
Thomas Jefferson
the question of Independence was before Congress, it had its
as an insult, not to me personally, but to the sovereign I represented.
Quoted in James Parton,
Richard Brinsley Sheridan
One day I saw him take up his own Monody on Garrick. He lighted
upon the dedication to the Dowager Lady Spencer: on seeing it he
into a rage and exclaimed that it must be a forgerythat he had never
dedicated anything of his to such a d
d canting b
would be a great consolation to him in his declining days if Mr Sheridan
would make that sentence more publick; but Sheridan was obliged to
his greatness, and then, to be sure, she would have humoured the gentle-
man accordingly.
Quoted in E. H. W. Meyerstein,
was amusing himself with a friend reading epitaphs in St Pancras
Churchyard, and was so deep in thought that he stumbled into a grave
just dug. His friend helped him out, observing that he was happy in
assisting at the resurrection of genius. Chatterton smiled, and taking him
by the arm, replied, My dear friend, I feel the sting of a speedy dis-
solution. I have been at war with the grave for some time, and
not so easy to vanquish it as I imagined; we can
nd an asylum to hide
from every creditor but that. His friend tried to divert his thoughts, but
three days later he poisoned himself.
; quoted in Meyerstein,
Fanny Burney
Fanny Burney went to the opera. She found herself
sitting next to an acquaintance, Mr. J
, who was a
you read, he said, the new book that has had such a run in France,
No, answered I, not much pleased at the name, I have not even heard
Indeed!it has made so much noise in France I am quite surprised at
that. It is not, indeed, a work that recommends very strict morality; but
you, we all know, may look into any work without being hurt by it.
I felt hurt then, however, and very gravely answered,
I cannot give myself that praise, as I never look into any books that
could hurt me.
He bowed, and smiled, and said that was very right, and added,
This book was written by an o
cer; and he says, there are no char-
That, then, cried I, will with me always be a reason to as little desire
Fanny Burney was appointed second keeper of the robes to Queen
dead.Do you read the newspapers? thought I. Oh, King! you must then have
statuary for modelling a heathen goddess. A slight scarf hung over
the other shoulder, and the rest of the attire was of accordant lightness.
As her Ladyship had not then written, and was not, therefore, con-
sidered as one apart, from being known as an eccentric authoress, this
Rejected Addresses
imaginative author of Political Justice,Caleb Williams,St Leon, and
consequence. The debate lasted long, but like all wise men whose anger is
unavoidably raised, they ended in mutual forgiveness and mutual respect.
Astley saw that his punishment was too degrading and admired Blake for
his humane sensibility and Blake desisted from wrath when Astley was
Frederick Tatham, Life of William Blake,
you ever see a fairys funeral, madam? he once said to a lady, who
happened to sit by him in company. Never, sir! was the answer. I have,
said Blake, but not before last night. I was walking alone in my garden,
there was great stillness among the branches and
owers and more than
endhe resembles, and this
is remarkable, two men who shall be nameless; one is a great lawyer, and
the otherI wish I durst name himis a suborner of false witnesses.
This other head now?this speaks for itselfit is the head of Herod;
how like an eminent o
John Varley, as reported in Cunningham,
you should not have heard of the Death of Mr Blake I have Written
this to inform youHe died on Sunday Night at
oclock in a most
william blake
glorious manner. He said He was going to that Country he had all His
life wished to see and expressed Himself Happy hoping for Salvation
through Jesus ChristJust before he died His countenance became
fairHis eyes Brightend and He burst out in Singing of the things he
saw in Heaven. In truth He Died like a Saint as a person who was
standing by Him ObservedHe is to be Buryed on Friday at
morngShould you like to go to the FuneralIf you should there will
Sciennes Hill House, then some way out of the cityhis friends referred
to it jokingly as Kamtschatka, but the bleakness of the surroundings did
not keep them away from his weekly conversaziones and to one of these
Burns was taken by Stewart. John Home, the author of
, was
present, and so were James Hutton, the geologist, and Joseph Black, the
great chemist and physicist. It is possible that Burns was made uneasy by
the very distinction of the company; he seemed at
rst inclined to hold
himself apart, and went round the room looking at the pictures. One
print in particular seemed to hold his attentiona sentimental scene
showing a soldier lying dead in the snow, a woman with a babe in arms on
one side, his dog on the other. The caption was in verse:
Cold on Canadian hills, or Mindens plain,
Perhaps that parent wept her soldier slain
Bent oer her babe, her eye dissolved in dew,
The big drops mingling with the milk he dre
Burns read the lines aloud, but before he could
tears. He then asked who the author was, but the cream of the Edinburgh
literary establishment was unable to enlighten him. One or two friends of
the hosts young son were present, however, and after a moment one of
them, a pale boy of sixteen with a limp, volunteered that they were the
work of one Langhorne and occurred in a poem called Justice of Peace.
A Duchess whose Duke made her ready to puke,
With fumbling and f
all night, sir,
rst for the prize, was so pleased with its size,
That she begged for to stroke its big snout, sir.
My stars! cried her Grace, its heads like a mace,
Tis as high as the Corsican Fairy;
Ill make up, please the pigs, for dry bobs and frigs,
With the great Plenipotentiary.
Although accredited to the Court, the Plenipo was no snob, and made his
women intent on suicide have usually convinced themselves they are
performing a service for their children and abandon them with almost
incident for some time before they learnt the name of the lady who had
jumped from the bridge.
Claire Tomalin,
friends sat dishevelled about the house, eager to go on help-
ful errands, whilst the terrible slow process dragged on. She was no
longer coherent in her expressions, but tried to do as she was told,
attempting to sleep for instance, though she could not do more than
feign the breathing of a sleeping person for a minute or so. She asked
her nurses not to bully her, she did not mention religion apart from one
exclamation: Oh Godwin, I am in heaven, to which he is supposed to
have answered anxiously, You mean, my dear, that your symptoms are a
little easier.
Richard Porson
(Regius professor of Greek at Cambridge; the most celebrated classical
Porson drank freely and indiscriminately has never been denied.
Horne Tooke said that he would drink ink rather than nothing at all,
and Pryse Gordon that the quality of the drink was immaterial so long
as he had quantity. But his lack of discrimination has perhaps
been exaggerated; we need not believe it when we read that he drank
nding a bottle in the bedroom of his
hosts wife, drank it up and pronounced it the best gin he had ever tasted;
it was the wife who next day told her husband that it was spirits of wine
M. L. Clarke,
mary wollstonecraft
William Beckford
; creator of Fonthill Abbey)
TheCaliph of Fonthill was bisexual. In
pliments she probably received from me last night that I am sighing away my
Samuel Rogers
stocking-mending old woman. When the ladys visit came to an end, and
she was gone, Mary Lamb took occasion to tell Victoria who she was,
and to explain her curious speech. The lady was no other than Miss Kelly;
and Mary Lamb, while describing to the young girl the eminent merits of
the admirable actress, showed her how a temporary depression of spirits
William Wordsworth
cause of this was, that I was of a sti
, moody and violent temper; so
much so that I remember going once into the attics of my grandfathers
house at Penrith, upon some indignity having been put upon me, with an
intention of destroying myself with one of the foils which I knew was
kept there. I took the foil in hand, but my heart failed. Upon another
occasion, while I was at my grandfathers house at Penrith, along with my
ten it, I was properly punished. But possibly, from some want of judge-
icted, I had become perverse and obstinate in
defying chastisement, and rather proud of it than otherwise.
Autobiographical memoranda,
interesting day. Rose late; at half-past ten joined Wordsworth in
Oxford Road, and we then got into the
We talked of Lord Byron. Wordsworth allowed him power, but denied
his style to be English. Of his moral qualities we think the same. He adds
that there is insanity in Lord Byrons family, and that he believes Lord
Byron to be somewhat cracked. I read Wordsworth some of Blakes
poems; he was pleased with some of them, and considered Blake as
creaturesand he allowed us to laugh at this droll concession from a
staunch advocate for the establishment.
Crabb Robinson, diary, May
having observed that the next Waverley novel was to be Rob
Roy, Wordsworth took down his volume of Ballads and read to the
in the keeping of some wild fellow it is likely, who had done and said
more to her than he was like to make good. She became extremely desir-
truth is that Sir Walter had his caprices like other men, and when in
bad health he was very cross but I always found his heart in the right
place and that he had all the native feelings and generosity of a man of
true genius. But he hated all sorts of low vices and blackguardism with a
Memorials of his
),he paused for a moment, and then, recollecting his powers, said
proudlyNo! this right hand shall work it all o
Scott spent six weeks in London. On one occasion while he was there
. Dined by command with the Duchess of Kent. I was very
kindly recognised by Prince Leopoldand presented to the little Prin-
cess VictoriaI hope they will change her namethe heir-apparent to
the crown as things now stand. How strange that so large and
family as that of his late Majesty should have died o
, or decayed into
old age, with so few descendants. This little lady is educating with much
care, and watched so closely, that no busy maid has a moment to whis-
per, You are heir of England. I suspect if we could dissect the little
heart, we should
nd that some pigeon or bird of the air had carried the
Journal; quoted in Lockhart,
Sydney Smith
; wit, advocate of social
reform, and canon of St Pauls)
other day, as I was changing my neck-cloth which my wig had
gured, my good landlady knocked at the door of my bedroom, and
told me that Mr Smith wished to see me, and was in my room below. Of
all names by which men are called there is none which conveys a less
dinner with the Lyndhursts he defended, for the sake of argument,
the Indian custom of suttee. But if Lord Lyndhurst were to die, you
would be sorry that Lady Lyndhurst should burn herself? was the sudden
and awkward question of one of the guests. Lady Lyndhurst, came the
reply, would, no doubt, as an a
ectionate wife, consider it her duty to
burn herself, but it would be our duty to put her out; and, as the wife of the
Lord Chancellor, Lady Lyndhurst should not be put out like an ordinary
widow. It should be a state a
air. First, a procession of the judges, then of
the lawyers ... he paused. And the clergy? insinuated someone. All
gone to congratulate the new Lord Chancellor, replied Sydney.
His Aunt Durrothy liked to sit out in a wheeled chair on the sweep of
the gravelled drive up to the house and it was Williams job to order away
inquisitive visitors who had made their way up the drive to stare at the
asked them, and I recall one of the two visitors saying to the other How pleasant
it is to receive attentions from elderly females. I thought it an excessively droll
remark at the time.
And as he said this William Wordsworth chuckled over that memory of
over sixty years ago.
Me aunt began to read the ode on intimations of immortality, and as
he said this William Wordsworth the Second began to declaim the ode in
this? Trooper Cumberbatch: Is it
rusty, sir?Yes, it
.Then, sir, it
must be mine. The manner of confession tickled the o
cer, and the
trooper was spared. He was less lucky with horses, forever falling o
side or the other and bruising himself. (He seems to have stayed in place
long enough to acquire boils on his bottom.) He bribed a young soldier to
rub down his unruly steed by writing love verses for the youth to send his
D. J. Enright,
the summer of
unfortunately called out by a person on business from Porlock, and
airlooking upwards as in prayerhe then fell asleepfrom sleep into a
state of coma, Torpor, as I understood it, and ceased to breathe at half
past six in the morning of Friday. Mr Green was with him that night
till he died. In the middle of the day on Thursday he had repeated to
Mr Green his formula of the Trinity. His utterance was di
cultbut his
mind in perfect vigour and clearnesshe remarked that his intellect was
quite unclouded and he said I could even be witty.
Charles Lamb
little more than an infant, he was walking through a graveyard with
his sister, Mary, ten years his senior, and reading the epitaphs on the
universally belauded deadfor he was a precocious reader, who, it is said,
is still one man living, a stockbroker, who has that smile.And, added
Allsop, to those who wish to see the only thing left on earth of Lamb, his
best and most beautiful remainhis
I will indicate its possessor:
people, I am sure I should be hung before I had
rst chapter.
No, I must keep to my own style and go on in my own way; and though I
may never succeed again in that, I am convinced that I should totally fail
in any other.
I remain, my dear Sir,
Your very much obliged, and sincere friend,
J. E. Austen Leigh,
supported, during two months, all the varying pain, irksomeness,
and tedium, attendant on decaying nature, with more than resignation,
that Charles Lamb should like the poem of mine which I
Matthew Gregory (Monk) Lewis
(author of the Gothic novel
Lord Melbourne
told me the other day a queer trait of Lewis. He had a
long-standing quarrel with Lushington. Having occasion to go to Naples,
amidst a quivering apprehension of making himself ridiculous. He darted
out of our house, and never came again, because, after warning, he sat
down in a room full of people (all authors, as it happened) on a low chair
of my old aunts which went very easily on castors, and which carried him
back to the wall and rebounded, of course making everybody laugh. O
; and, well as I had long known him, I never
saw him again: and I was not very sorry, for his sentimentality was too
William Hazlitt
evening. The most provoking part of this scene was, that he was gracious
and polite past all expressiona perfect pattern of mute elegancea
silent Lord Chester
eld; and his unlucky host had the misfortune to be
very thoroughly enraged, without anything to complain of.
Thomas Moore
Thomas de Quincey
rejoinders, or some fresh feelers which were not di
nd, away he
wentfull speed.
The original subject soon became two; by-and-by it branched and
became half a dozen. The torpor and depression seemed to disappear as
the active, awakened brain found expression through the tongue, and in
two or three hours I would leave him quite a new man.
James Hogg,
On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts
The Private Memoirs of a Justi
ed Sinner.
James Payn visited De Quincey at his home a few miles outside
his dislike of throwing anythingbooks, papers, manuscriptsaway,
combined with an even more intense objection to having his belongings
tidied. In this he did not di
Lord Byron
women, and Lady Byron judged men by her father and the country
neighbours, and Byron was so dissimilar to them in all his ways as to
bewilder her. She would come into his study when he was in the throes of
composition, and
nding he took no notice of her, say,
Am I interrupting you?
Yes, most damnably.
This was to her a dreadful shock; he thought nothing of it; he had
received his greater shock in being interrupted.
E. J. Trelawny,
bragged, too, of his prowess in riding, boxing, fencing, and even
You may do as you like, he called out, and plumped in, and we swam
on shore.
He never afterwards alluded to this event, nor to his prowess in swim-
ming, to me, except in the past tense. He was ill, and kept his bed for two
days afterwards.
E. J. Trelawny,
raising enough money, and after years of e
ort turned over its funds to a
group in Cooperstown, which added to them and erected a charming
how varied are the shapes, build, rigging, and decoration of the di
vessels. There lies an English cutter, a French chasse mare, an American
clipper, a Spanish tartan, an Austrian trabacolo, a Genoese felucca, a
Sardinian zebeck, a Neapolitan brig, a Sicilian sparanza, a Dutch galleot,
a Danish snow, a Russian hermaphrodite, a Turkish sackalever, a Greek
bombard. I dont see a Persian dow, an Arab grab, or a Chinese junk; but
there are enough for our purpose and to spare. As you are writing a poem,
, about the modern Greeks, would it not be as well to take a look at
them amidst all the din of the docks? I hear their shrill nasal voices, and
should like to know if you can trace in the language or lineaments of
own way, and to readily yield the same privilege to all others, so that our
coming on board, and examination of the vessel, fore and aft, were not
considered as intrusion. The captain was on shore, so I talked to the mate,
a smart specimen of a Yankee. When I commended her beauty, he said:
I do expect, now we have our new copper on, she has a look of the
brass sarpent, she has as slick a run, and her bearings are just where they
I said we wished to build a boat after her model.
sister, whose name is spelt Hellen. She was lively and chatty, and I
looked at and listened to her with great interest. She is tall, very slender,
and must have been graceful and handsome in her youth. I saw, or fan-
cied, a likeness to Shelley. She was sumptuous in light purple silk, which
became her. She looked about
fty-six, but must be much more. Her
sister, who seemed rather younger, was much less lively. Tennysons name
she had ever heard of Browning.
Mr Grantley Berkeley at dinnera tall strong man over sixty, like a
militaire. He lives in this neighbourhood on small means, is a great
sportsman, and his talk worth listening to on the habits of animals,
John Clare
the night we got into London it was announcd in the Play Bills that a
song of mine was to be sung at Covent garden by Madam Vestris and
we was to have gone but it was too late I felt uncommonly pleasd at the
circumstance we took a walk in the town by moonlight and went to
westminster bridge to see the river thames I had heard large wonders
shoud have seen a fresh water sea and when I saw it twas less in my eye
then Whittlesea Meer I was uncommonly astonished to see so many
John Keats
the spring of
a nightingale had built her nest near my house.
Keats felt a tranquil and continual joy in her song; and one morning he
took his chair from the breakfast-table to the grass-plot under a plum-
tree, where he sat for two or three hours. When he came into the house,
I perceived he had some scraps of paper in his hand, and these he
night, at eleven oclock, he came into the house in a state that looked
erce intoxication. Such a state in him, I knew, was impossible; it
therefore was the more fearful. I asked hurriedly, What is the matter?
You are fevered?Yes, yes, he answered, I was on the outside of the stage
this bitter day till I was severely chilledbut now I dont feel it.
Fevered!of course, a little. He mildly and instantly yieldeda property
in his nature towards any friendto my request that he should go to bed.
I followed with the best immediate remedy in my power. I entered the
Thomas Carlyle
was clever and just in an amusing dispute with Thomas about
never allowed it to escape even for a moment until the party was at an
end. Greatly dissatis
ed at the issue of a morning from which he had
present as a member of the Committee, looking at him in a noticeable
way. He took no part in the discussion, C. said, but I could see that he
was looking at me with a face of brotherly recognitiona wholly sympa-
,I am reading Shakespeare again. I read
yesterday all
through, and it quite distressed me. O what a fellow that ishonest Iago!
I was once at this Play at Drury Lane (it would be in Macreadys time
did not do me any good in it), and when Emilia said
O the more angel she
And you the blacker devil!
a murmur swelled up from the whole audience into a passionate burst of
approval, the voices of the men risingin your imaginationlike a red
mountain, with the womens voices
oating round it like blue vapour, you
might say. I never heard the like of it. (I thought this a curious remark
Thomas Hood
Hood published his poem The Song of the Shirt in
was certainly astonished, and a little amused at its wonderful popular-
ity, although my mother had said to him, when she was folding up the
arranged in three parallel columns down each of the four pages. This
Jane Welsh Carlyle
(married Thomas Carlyle in
does himself.That I can
believe; but we can make nothing of
inging my document contemptuously on the table. The horned
owl picked it up, glanced over it while Rhadamanthus was tossing
papers about, and grumbling about people that wouldnt conform to
rules; then handed it back to him, saying deprecatingly: But, sir, this is
a very plain statement.Then what has Mr Carlyle to live upon? You
Heaven forbid, sir! but I am not here to explain what Mr Carlyle has
, only to declare his income from Literature during the last three
years.True! true! mumbled the not-most-important voice at my
elbow, Mr Carlyle, I believe, has landed income.Of which, said
I haughtily, for my spirit was up, I have fortunately no account to render
in this kingdom and to this board.Take o
fty pounds, say a
hundredtake o
a hundred pounds, said Rhadamanthus to the
horned owl. If we write Mr Carlyle down a
he has no
reason to complain, I think. There, you may go. Mr Carlyle has no reason
was already introduced, and I was motioned to the
door; but I could not depart without saying that at all events there was no
use in complaining, since they had the power to enforce their decision.
On stepping out, my
rst thought was, what a mercy Carlyle didnt come
the interests of science, Miss Martineau had already left her head to the
Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of Beaconsfield
, Vivian Grey
Whistler went, and with him the Great Poseurs chance of immortality
on canvas. He shortly afterwards graciously assented to sit to Millais,
who producednothing in particular to everybodys entire satisfaction.
W. Graham Robertson,
Nathaniel Hawthorne
and it was not all for the glory of Shakespeare; much of it was pure,
sh pity for a brilliant but unstable woman who was rapidly
approaching a
nal crack-up. He admitted he would rather that Provi-
dence had employed some other instrument, but since it had not, and
since Miss Bacon must be kept alive, it seemed to him there was only
one thing to do. You say nothing about the state of your funds, he writes
Francis Sylvester Mahony
original. In his
Prout gravely charges that
Moores song Go Where Glory Waits Thee is but a literal and servile
translation of an old French ditty which is among my papers, and which I
believe to have been composed by that beautiful and interesting lady
Francoise de Foix, Comtesse de Chateaubriand, born in
; that Les-
bia hath a Beaming Eye was stolen from an old Latin song of my own,
which I made when a boy, smitten with the charms of an Irish milkmaid;
and so on through half a dozen of Moores best-known poems.
William Walsh,
John Stuart Mill
Mill stood as parliamentary candidate for Westminster. One of the
Mill stayed with Lord and Lady Amberley (soon to
Wednesday September
. After dinner Mr Mill read us Shelleys Ode
to Liberty and he got quite excited and moved over it rocking backwards
and forwards and nearly choking with emotion; he said himself: it is
almost too much for me.
, ed. Bertrand and Patricia Russell,
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
the most unlikely visitor, from our point of view, was the
Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin, who had escaped from Siberia a few
months earlier and, having made his way eastward across the Paci
c, en
route to Europe, had reached the northern United States, and came to
call at the Craigie House. He stayed so long, Ernest Longfellow [the
idiot, is the murderers own son. Poe later boasted to friends that he had
Reformed Church, where she was buried. Even after death, however, she
was not permitted to rest. As though she were indeed the symbol of all
his dying heroines and must continue her performance in one of his
fantastic, gruesome tales, in
A.Any of his Tales, or Mysteries, or Plays?
A.He was the one English writer who disparaged Shakespeare. He
was a Lord, and talked about, and he wrote vulgarly, therefore he was
T.Why am I popular? I dont write very vulgarly.
A.I have often wondered that you are, and Browning wonders.
possibly eat those. Im sure theyre most unsafe and poisonous. He said:
Emily, I know quite well what they are. Theyre very good to eat and I
should like to have them cooked for luncheon. I think my grandmother,
I feel sure Your Grace heard that story! he said.
Well, it wasnt so very bad after all, he replied.
E. F. Benson,
Edward Fitzgerald
FitzGerald moved to lodgings in Woodbridge, in Su
a long time his attendance at church had been little more than a
polite observance of social custom, but now he ceased going almost com-
was a very good one, forand here Lincoln bowed gravely to Douglas
he has made one of the best whiskey casks I have ever seen.
alfred, lord tennyson
Often Lincolns stories were drawn from a homely backwoods experi-
ence, as in the story of the little boy at a backwoods school who blundered
over reading the names of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and later
encounters with Yankees in the West. In a debate against the Mexican
War he mentioned an Illinois farmer who declared, I aint greedy about
land. I only want what jines mine. The narrow phrasing was Yankee; the
ation belonged to the West.
Constance Rourke,
Oliver Wendell Holmes
bravest of all opponents of the double standard in the campaign to repeal
the Contagious Diseases Act, was a young wife in Oxford in
bitterly remembered the dons pious insistence that no pure woman
should know of such things. She heard one young man saying he would
not allow his
to read
Jenny Uglow,
people on board gathered around it, and Bates [the steward] made a last
; I o
ciated at the august ceremony
on the 19th of october
i pasted the great placard of punch on
the pyramid of cheops
. I did it, the Fat Contributor did it. If I die, it could not
be undone. If I perish, I have not lived in vai
With the help of bemused Arab factotumsThackerays own illustration
shows three native assistants manhandling an enormously fat, mous-
tachoied man in a sun-hatthe placard was pushed into place as the clock
was not common then, but I had been told he liked a cigar, and so
provided for his tastes. To my dismay, when we rejoined the ladies in the
drawing-room, he approached Miss Bront and quoted a familiar and
much-criticised passage from
. It was that in which she describes
the warning fragrance which told of the approach of Mr Rochester.
The quotation, in one sense, was happy enough, and it did credit to
Thackerays memory of
; but not to his memory of his agree-
ment with me. Miss Bronts face showed her discomposure, and in a
chilly fashion she turned o
the allusion. But I was almost as much
discomposed as Miss Bront by this sudden assault on what she was so
anxious to guardher identity as the authoress of
. She cast an
Thackeray, however, had no sense of either awkwardness or guilt. From
my house he went to the smoking-room of the Garrick Club and said,
Boys! I have been dining with Jane Eyre! To have her identity
expounded in the smoking-room of the Garrick Club was the last experi-
ence which the morbidly shy and sensitive little lady would have chosen.
George Smith, quoted in Leonard Huxley,
told me that when Mrs Stowe was invited to dine with the
Atlantic Club, she refused to drink wine, and it was banished for that day.
But Lowell said, Mrs Stowe, you took wine with the Duke of Argyle
when you visited him? She acknowledged that she did. And now do you
mean to treat us as if we were not as good as he?No, she said. Bring
some champagne, cried Lowell, and Mrs Stowe and the company drank.
And how did you know, I asked, that she did take wine at the
Dukes?Oh, I divined that, he said, Of course she did.
R. W. Emerson, Journal, April
Charles Dickens
Dickens visited Portsmouth in the course of a reading tour. Before the
reading, he and his tour manager, George Dolby, decided to visit Southsea
Childhood of Charles Dickens
Dickens was entertained by the leading lights
trate ... for this shameful and demoralising o
encewhich is as common
culty, the
charge not being within the experience of anyone concerned; but he
insisted on the law, and it was clear (wonderful to relate!) and was
charles dickens
enforced. We can see Dickens hauling in an o
ender; insistent, peremp-
tory, in the face of what was no doubt the incredulity of the authorities.
Warwick Crescent to lunch with Browning by invitation. Pen
[Brownings son] plays Chopin. I say to R. B., Did you ever play as well
as that? to which he replied, A thousand times as well! We spoke of
Tennyson. T. told B. he thought Sludge too long. B. answered, I hope
thought it too long!that is, Sludge, when the confession was forced
from him. Sludge is Home, the Medium, of whom Browning told me
today a great deal that was very amusing. Having witnessed a sance of
Homes, at the house of a friend of B.s, Browning was openly called upon
to give his frank opinion on what had passed, in presence of Home and
the company, upon which he declared with emphasis that so impudent a
piece of imposture he never saw before in all his life, and so took his leave.
Next day Brownings servant came into his room with a visitors card, and
close behind followed the visitor himselfno other than Mr Home, who
through a wood and gather burrs and thousands of dead leaves and all
kinds of rubbish, and
nd them sticking to our clothes, but when we
Interview with the painter George Henry Boughton,
Red Cotton Night-Cap Country
There was an allusion to it in a prank played by studentswhen he was
, while he sat in the Sheldonian Theatre, attired in a
colored gown and awaiting an honorary D.C.L. from Oxford, an
immense cartoon of himself descended from a thronged upper gallery.
Lowered jerkily on a string, a red cotton night cap collapsed on the head
of a Professor of Divinity. As if aware of a sublime error, it hopped away,
paused, and alighted at last on Roberts white curls.
Authorities threatened terrible reprisal until Browning worked won-
ders: Am I, or am I not, a member of your University? he demanded of
the vice chancellor.
Certainly you are one, came the deferential reply.
Here, said one, is that archdeacon whom we have had in every novel he
has ever written.And here, said the other, is the old duke whom he has
talked about till everybody is tired of him. If I could not invent new
characters, I would not write novels at all. Then one of them fell foul of
Mrs Proudie. It was impossible for me not to hear their words, and
The Bronts
(see also separate entries under Charlotte Bront and Emily Bront)
of talking of the Bronts is an old lady of eighty-seven who lived in
Haworth the
rst half of her life, and, after the manner of the old, it is to
Haworth, the place of her youth as it was in the days of her youth when the
Bronts lived there, that her thoughts turn now, where her memory lingers.
Eh, dear, when I think about them I can see them as plain to my
minds eye as if they were here. They wore light-coloured dresses all
print, and they were all dressed alike until they gate into young women. I
dont know that I ever saw them in owt but printIve heard it said they
were pinchedbut it was nice print: plain with long sleeves and high
Concise Oxford Dictionary
as a
Charlotte Bront
her imagination received powerful impressions, her excellent
understanding had full power to rectify them before her fancies became
realities. On a scrap of paper, she has written down the following
The following strange occurrence happened on the
nd of June,
:At the time papa was very ill, con
ned to his bed, and so weak
that he could not rise without assistance. Tabby and I were alone in the
kitchen, about half-past nine antemeridian. Suddenly we heard a knock
at the door; Tabby rose and opened it. An old man appeared, standing
without, who accosted her thus:
old man
. Does the parson live here?
. Yes.
old man
. I wish to see him.
. He is poorly in bed.
old man
. I have a message for him.
. Who from?
old man
. From the Lord.
old man
. The Lord. He desires me to say that the bridegroom is coming,
nestlings in the presence of the parent birds. She said that none but those
who had been in the position of a governess could ever realise the dark
side of respectable human nature; under no great temptation to crime,
but daily giving way to sel
shness and ill-temper, till its conduct towards
Henry David Thoreau
My Aunt Maria
asked me to read the life of Dr Chalmers [the Scottish
theologian], which, however, I did not promise to do. Yesterday, Sunday,
she was heard through the partition shouting to my Aunt Jane, who is
deaf, Think of it! He stood half an hour today to hear the frogs croak,
and he wouldnt read the life of Chalmers.
noted what repeatedly befell him, that, after receiving from a distance
a rare plant, he would presently
nd the same in his own haunts. And
those pieces of luck which happen only to good players happened to him.
One day, walking with a stranger, who inquired where Indian arrowheads
could be found, he replied, Everywhere, and, stooping forward, picked
one on the instant from the ground.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Thoreau,
kitten Min, two-thirds grown, was playing with Sophias broom this
morning, as she was sweeping the parlour, when she suddenly went into a
t, dashed round the room, and, the door being opened, rushed up two
ights of stairs and leaped from the attic window to the ice and snow by
asked Swinburne [who was staying in the Masters Lodgings]
to look at his translation of Platos
very content with their successful incursion into high
nance, and would
hear nothing of Charlottes subsequent doubts of George Hudsons hon-
esty when he multiplied his activities at the expense of his railway stock,
and they resolutely joined the subscribers to the testimonial raised by his
grateful share-holders, with a guinea apiece, the record of which still
stands on the companys books. When, in
, Hudsons fortunes began
uctuate, and there was a rush by shareholders to sell out, Emily and
Anne stuck to their guns and would not be persuaded by the prudent
Charlotte to follow the trend.
Winifred Grin,
John Ruskin
mother had, as she afterwards told me, solemnly devoted me to God
damned. I came out of the chapel, in sum of twenty years of thought, a
-converted man.
, April
, quoted in Tim Hilton,
, in one of my walks at Abingdon [where Ruskin was living in an
inn, while preparing his lectures as Slade Professor at Oxford], I saw
some ragged children playing by the roadside on the bank of a ditch, and
gathering what buttercups they could
nd. Watching them a little while,
I at last asked them what they were doing. This is my garden, answered a
little girl about nine years old. Well, but gardens ought to be of use; this
is only full of buttercups. Why dont you plant some strawberries in it?I
have none to plant.If you had a little garden of your own, and some to
plant, would you take care of them?That I would. Thereupon I told her
to come and ask for me at the Crown and Thistle, and with my good
landlady Mrs Wonnacotts help, rented a tiny piece of ground for her.
Her father and mother have since died; and her brothers and sisters (four,
in all) are in the Union [the workhouse] in Abingdon. I did not like this
child to go there too, so Ive sent her to learn shepherding at a kindly
Herman Melville
Mrs Hawthorne
used to tell of one evening when he [Melville] came
in, and presently began to relate the story of a
an island in the Paci
George Eliot
(born Mary Anne Evans)
gravity at the age of nine or ten is illustrated by an authentic anec-
dote recalled by Mrs Shaw, who at a childrens party noticed Mary Anne
sitting alone. Going up to her, Mrs Shaw said,
My dear, you do not seem happy; are you enjoying yourself?
No, I am not, said Mary Anne. I dont like to play with children. I
like to talk to grown-up people.
Gordon S. Haight,
until his death in
the winter of
my wife and family were at Pau, while I was alone
in London. George Eliot was a very fair pianist, not gifted, but enthusi-
astic, and extremely painstaking. During a great part of that winter I used
to go to her every Monday evening at her house in North Bank, Regents
Walt Whitman as a heading to one of her chapters, but when the book
Walt Whitman
Leaves of Grass
early as
he had become mildly interested in the books on phren-
ology which he reviewed in the [Brooklyn]
, and in the summer of
large. Leading traits of character appear to be Friendship, Sympathy, Sublimity,
and Self-Esteem, and markedly among his combinations the dangerous faults of
Indolence, a tendency to the pleasure of Voluptuousness and Alimentiveness and
a certain reckless swing of animal will, too unmindful, probably, of the conviction
Gay Wilson Allen,
Whitman wrote his great poem in memory of President Lincoln
[When lilacs last in the dooryard bloomd] it was Burroughs who sug-
gested the shy and hidden bird. The lilacs were in their April bloom on
the day that Lincoln diedthey were always to bring back to Whitman a
memory of the momentand, as it happened, in the early spring just
before the assassination the great star Venus in the West seemed
exceptionally brilliant. Restlessly haunting the Potomac, he had watched
it, far o
, aloof and somehow moody as himself. The star and the lilacs
connected themselves in his mind with Lincoln, and then Burroughs
described to him the hermit thrush he had known as a boy, a bird that
Audubon apparently had never discovered. Burroughs had occasionally
heard its song, a quarter of a mile away rising over a chorus of wrens and
warblers, resembling no other sound that he recalled in nature, a beati-
tude that was religious, pure and serene. This was the bird that appeared
in Whitmans poem.
Van Wyck Brooks,
Oscar Wilde
Matthew Arnold
formal achievements were unimpressive, but his clothes,
laughter, antics, and minor feats were remarkable. People recalled his leap
over Wadhams railings. [He jumped over a
inch spiked railing
Emerson, as a reporter felt, in a wavering, indistinct voice as if reading
prayers, and
nally, just as his British voice ended, Mrs Clementine
Lassar Studwell stood up and sang The Star Spangled Banner. Arnold
had trouble even in sitting down. After the national anthem, there was a
matter they had been discussing, saying that he would see it more clearly
now, after his laudanum dose. But Hall Caine persisted. Did laudanum
have the same stimulating e
matthew arnold
It had on Bulwer Lytton. He told me so himself.
Hall Caine, claiming that he himself su
ered severely from nervous
McGonagall yelled louder still, with a fury which I fancy was not
wholly feigned. It was like a squalid travesty of the wildest scenes of
. I left the hall early, saddened and
Hugh MacDiarmid,
Walter Bagehot
(writer on literature and politics; editor of
; author of
with the bluish pink bloom that you
George Meredith
through the garden and saw an old man sitting by a table, looking
smallish in his big chair. His hair and beard were both white, not like
horror from the sight. It was her
rst, never to be forgotten, experience of
Georgina Battiscombe,
present within the message, and then as running home while the recipi-
ent reads it,
one hand on the Head, for methe unmentioned Mourner.
glimpses of Emily Dickinsons ordinary life remain from the last
years. Cooking activities of a limited sort engaged her energies. Mme
Bianchi [Martha Dickinson Bianchi, her niece] remembered that her
aunt was rather prcieuse in the kitchen, that she chose to stir with a
silver spoon and to measure with a glass. A kind of imaginary line or
taboo separated her cooking utensils from those used by Maggie [the
family servant] and Lavinia [Emilys sister]. Her nieces memory is that
Aunt Emilys craftsmanship was delicate and precise in such feats as
sliding the wine-jelly uninjured from its mould. In making even such
delicacies as the one she called Homestead Charlotte Russe, she rigor-
ously curbed the temptation to imaginative improvisation and stuck
closely to the rules, lest, as her niece remembers her to have said on one
quite appreciated the value of being the author of that book, when he
wanted to make a fresh child friend. He now wrote to the mother of this
little girl, saying who he was, and inviting the child to tea. He received a
curt and crushing reply. The lady wrote:
The young lady whom you speak of as my little girl is not so very
childish after all, and she is not my daughter, but my niece. If she were my
own child, I should certainly ask you your intentions before allowing her
to accept your invitation, and I must do the same now.
Mr Dodgson replied that his intentions were honourable, though one
does not usually have speci
cintentions with regard to a child of four
and the degree of violence used by or against the police. Finally, after
some rather irrelevant remarks about the nationality of the prisoners and
translation, or rather analysis, of the
, while they were sick all round
Jesus. That was one of them negro spirituals songs, and when he come to
the end, to the Glory Halleluiah, he gave a great shoutjust like the
negroes dohe shouted out the Glory, Glory, Halleluiah! They said it
seemed to him an unworthy display of temper.
Once, when luck seemed to have quite deserted him and he was unable
to make any of his favorite shots, the air became fairly charged, the
erce and picturesque. Finally with a regular thunder blast he
seized the cue with both hands and literally mowed the balls across the
table, landing some of them on the
oor. I do not recall his remarks
during that performanceI was chie
trotting round the edge of the table, which was just on a level with the top
Edward Marsh,
Sir W. S. Gilbert
cutting Gilberts hair once bent over his ear to murmur, When
are we to expect anything further, Mr Gilbert, from your
What do you mean, sir, by
uent pen? snapped Gilbert. There is no
uent pen. A pen is an insensible object. And, at any rate,
I dont presume to enquire into your private a
airs; you will please
Algernon Charles Swinburne
Mr Arthur Severn
has related how on one occasion Swinburne was
leaving a club and looked for his hat in the hall. He only found four tall
top-hats belonging to other members of the club. He tried on the hats
one after another, and as they did not
t his large head, threw them, in
turn, on the
oor. When the hall porter, hearing a noise, appeared, he
to her.
Thomas Beer,
Walter Pater
went imperturbably on ... Life became, increasingly, a system of
profounder and more exquisite pleasure in the colour of a crocus, the
pulsations of a chord of music, or a picture of Botticellis. Mr Rose,
conveys, is more than a little odd. He
is made to show undue interest in certain books of a curious character,
including the
antry, Maha
y saved the situation by saying: Your Majesty, I have only
had the honour of the Queens acquaintance for twenty minutes and we
good example; and have followed him. I should like to know that man;
she was run over by a train. ... this is Pella, the same thing happened to
her. ... this is Kitkin, she was cut clean in two, clean in twoHow is it
that so many of your cats have been run over, Mr Hardy? Is the railway
near?Not at all near, not at all nearI dont know how it is. But of
protested against the outrageous pertness of the American child and the
meek pusillanimity with which the older generation su
ered the be-
haviour of their children without protest.
It was not long, William James said, before he became aware of what
had aroused this second line of thought; it was the droning sound which
lled the horse-carthe voice, in fact, of an American child, who was
squeaking over and over again an endless, shrill, monotonous singsong.
Growing more and more irritated by this squeaking, William James
resolved that he at least would not su
er it without protest; so, addressing
the mother of the vocal infant, he said politely, I think, madam, you can
hardly be aware that your childs song is a cause of annoyance to the rest
of us in this car. The lady thus addressed paid no attention; but a gallant
American, who had heard it, turned on him and said with great indigna-
tion, How dare you, sir, address a lady in this ungentlemanly fashion! At
this insult William James, recalling the doctrine of naked force which his
wife had impressed upon him, replied with manly promptness, Sir, if you
repeat that remark, I shall slap your face. The remark, to his consterna-
tion, was repeated, and the professor was compelled to make good his
word. The slap was conscientiously administered; the occupants of the
horse-car arose in indignation, pressing their cards upon the victim of the
assault, and protesting their willingness to be witnesses at any legal pro-
ceedings which might ensue. Then they all sat down; and as the car
clattered along through the dust towards Boston, with the child still
shrilly singing, the grave burden of the public disapproval which William
James had encountered became almost more, he said, than he could
He looked from hostile face to hostile face, longing for some sign of
sympathy and comprehension, and
who had taken no part in the uproar, and whose appearance suggested
foreign travel perhaps, or at any rate a wider point of view. He felt that
she at least understood the motive of his action; and so great was his
longing for sympathy that when at last the car reached Boston and they
all got out he committed the error of trying to make sure of her approba-
tion. You, madam, he said, addressing her, you, I feel sure, will under-
stand ... Thereupon the lady drew back from him and exclaimed, You
Logan Pearsall Smith,
william james
Ambrose Bierce
(American journalist and short-story writer; his best-known collection of
stories was
rst came to London, he sold a collection of newspaper articles
to John Camden Hotten, who took over SwinburnesPoems and Ballads
when it was withdrawn by J. Bertram Payne, of Moxons, who shrank
from the storm created by John Morleys anonymous attack in the
. Hotten paid Bierce the sum of twenty pounds for the book
rights of the articles; and, as Bierce had no banking account in London,
his friend Henry Sampson, the founder and editor of the
, gave
mind ... Some lady of the English middle class whom he had lately
visited in the country had said to him, That is true of the aristocracy, but
in ones own class it is di
erent, meaning, said James, her class and
mine. He did not wish to be confounded with the mass of English
gave me a wonderful illustration of it. He said that Mr James was staying
him I was going on a
rst visit to Paris, and he warned me against
a possible disappointment. ... Do not, he said, allow yourself to be put
cial and external aspect of Paris; or rather (for the
cial and external aspect of Paris has a considerable fascination) by
what I may call the super
the super
external aspect of Paris. This was surely carrying lucidity to dazzling-
point; I did my best to pro
t by it, but I couldnt be sure that I was
exercising exactly the right discrimination, and in the end I surrendered
to the charm of Paris without too much circumspection.
Edward Marsh,
told me, some years after I
What else may have contributed to the mirth of the Theologians is not
clear, but his intensity must have seemed amusing to them, presumably
because it was very much what they already knew of Hopkins. At last, in
ve times the words of Christ, Make the men sit
down. It was too much for his auditors. As Hopkins himself wrote,
People laughed at it prodigiously, I saw some of them roll on their chairs
with laughter. This made me lose the thread, so that I did not deliver the
last two paragraphs right but mixed things up. The last paragraph, in
is often repeated, far from having a good
ect, made them roll more than ever. A blue pencil mark on the sermon
indicates the spot at which he had to stop speaking.
one house he was left alone for a few minutes before his hostess
appeared, and when she walked into the drawing room he was seated
before the
re with his coat o
, sewing up a rent in his waistcoat. At the
College his behaviour became increasingly odd: once he was discovered
meant Grocyn. And there is the well-known story of the sermon which
referred throughout to Aristotle, in rather surprising contexts, at the end
of which, after a brief pause, Spooner is supposed to have said In the
sermon I have just preached, whenever I said Aristotle, I meant St Paul.
But the matter is generally more complex than this. There is the well-
authenticated story of Spooner walking with a friend in North Oxford
Robert Louis Stevenson
A friend recalls a dinner party given by Stevensons parents at their home in
end of the table was, to me, almost uncomfortably brilliant. Mr
Stevenson had taken me in, and Louis Stevenson was on my other side.
but for a moment he had been almost tearfully in earnest. One could see
it was not a matter of mere vocabulary with him.
Flora Masson in
, ed. Rosalie
endurance in illness and in work we have seen: no pain was too great
to bear, no malady too long: he never murmured until it was over. No task
was too irksome, no revision too exactinglaboriously, and like an eager
apprentice he went through with it to the end.
But on the other hand, when impatience came to the surface, it blazed
up like the anger of a man who had never known a check. It was generally
caused by some breach of faith or act of dishonesty or unjusti
able delay.
The only time I know of its being displayed in public was in a Paris
restaurant, where Stevenson had ordered a change of wine, and the very
bottle he had rejected was brought back to him with a di
erent label.
There was a sudden explosion of wrath; the bottle was violently broken;
in an instant the restaurant was emptied, andso much for long-
friend, Edmund Gosse, dead. The lady interrupted gently, I beg your
pardon, Mr Moore, she said, it is Martin Ross who is dead, not Edmund
Gosse. Moore drew himself up and looked at her in an indignant fash-
ion: My dear woman, he said, surely you dont expect me to go through
Roger McHugh, in
, edited by W. R. Rodgers,
Sir Hall Caine
for the family stage-name.) I shall cherish that observation of yours. Yes,
that is one of the nicest things ever said to me. And so true!
Compton Mackenzie,
Oscar Wilde
came upon a spot where a number of small
ends were tormenting a holy
hermit. The sainted man easily shook o
their evil suggestions. The devil
watched their failure and then he stepped forward to give them a lesson.
What you do is too crude, said he. Permit me for one moment. With
that he whispered to the holy man, Your brother has just been made
Bishop of Alexandria. A scowl of malignant jealousy at once clouded the
serene face of the hermit. That, said the devil to his imps, is the sort of
thing which I should recommend.
Arthur Conan Doyle,
peut adorer une langue sans bien la parler, comme on peut aimer une
femme sans la connatre. Franais de sympathie, je suis Irlandais de race,
George Bernard Shaw
rst moral lesson I can remember as a tiny child was the lesson of
Shaw sat for the sculptor Jacob Epstein:
day Robert Flaherty [the documentary
lm-maker] brought along
the Aran boatman, Tiger King, who was the chief character in the
, written about
shermen. In the studio, when Tiger King
was introduced, Shaw immediately started talking to him on how to sail a
boat, what happened in storms, and generally instructed him in sea-lore.
Jacob Epstein,
Gabriel Pascal
told me on one occasion that when he heard that Mrs
Shaw was dying he came back by planethe plane was delayed so he
didnt arrive in time for the funeral. He came to Ayot St Lawrence and
over the whole plot again in his mind. He had a disillusioning, a frightful
revelation. What he had dreamt was
Max Beerbohm in S. N. Behrman,
profound. Harris continued: But I must say that if
asked me,
S. Schoenbaum,
Joseph Conrad
Conrad signed on as second mate aboard the
storyYouth (
crew Conrad extolled in Youth was recruited from Liverpool hard
cases who not only could work with impressive self-discipline in critical
moments, but also display surprising understanding for the beauty inher-
very great, but I overcame it. Its humour, I said, and took Conrad out
into the garden to cool. One could always ba
e Conrad by saying
humour. It was one of our damned English tricks he had never learnt to
H. G. Wells,
had been persuaded to write about books occasionally for the
, and would, of course, have given of his hearts blood to the work, as
Jacob Epstein worked on his bust of Conrad at the novelists home in Kent:
had previously made a bust of him which represented him as
an open-necked, romantic, out-of-door type of person. In appearance
Conrad was the very opposite. His clothes were immaculately con-
ventional, and his collar enclosed his neck like an Iron Maidens vice or
garrotters grip. He was worried if his hair and beard were not trim and
neat as became a sea captain. There was nothing shaggy or Bohemian
about him. His glance was keen despite the drooping of one eyelid. He
was the sea captain, the o
cer, and in our talks he emphasised the word
responsibility. Responsibility weighed on him and weighed him down.
He used the word again and again and one immediately thought of
the conscience su
ering at the evasion of duty. It may have been
coat. As it happened, I had not money enough with me, but su
home. I was living at Islington. Having spoken with the bookseller, I
walked home, took the cash, walked back again, andcarried the tomes
doyle school of writing teach you how to sell
And the terms? What royalty shall I pay? What business arrange-
ments are we to have?
Royalties? I want no royalties. You may produce the bookthats all.
But the pro
learn to save themselves the trouble.
Grant Richards,
colourless comment on the slow movement; the others he ignored. It was
not the result one could have wished, nor did it suggest the desirability of
continuing the music; for us at least it was enough that the turbulence
Prince. Forty, said Sir Sidney. The Prince was appalled. For-r-ty! he
gasped. For-r-ty wr-ri-ter-rs! I cant have for-r-ty wr-ri-ter-rs in Marl-
borough House! Gi
me the list! Sir Sidney gave it to him, and the
Prince, with a heavy black pencil, started slashing o
names. Sir Sidneys
heart sank when he saw that the
rst name the Prince had slashed was
that of Sir Leslie Stephen. He conveyed, as tactfully as he could, that this
was a bad cut, since Stephen was the animating genius of the whole
enterprise. Reluctantly, the Prince allowed Sir Leslie to come. Eventually,
Sir Sidney put over his entire list. The dinner took place. Among the
contributors present was Canon Ainger, a distinguished cleric whose
passion was Charles Lamb, on whom he was considered a very great
authority indeed. He had written the articles on Charles and Mary Lamb
. Sir Sidney sat at the Princes right and found it heavy
weather, dont you know. The Prince must have found it heavy going also;
to be having dinner with forty writers was not his idea of a cultivated way
to spend an evening. His eye roamed the table morosely, in self-
Sir James Barrie
the rehearsals of
Rabindranath Tagore
Rudyard kipling
Kipling lived with his parents in Bombay. His
were far-going Arab dhows on the pearly waters, and gaily
Carrie [his wife] had su
ered its worst excesses in New York in
his rebu
s but, with her help and after initial perusal of the days mail,
after-life I came across several Seers, Witches and Warlocks, but none
pleasant and not a laborious task, he scrawled in the margin, Insolent
Ernest Dowson
Or, as an artist whom he did not know very well shouted to him across
, with Osbert Sitwell, late into a theatre, I was given a fearful
pinch on my left buttock. It was a savage pinch. The culprit? Lord Alfred
Douglas. Then a porter at Calais selected the same plump portion for a
manly nip, and later on Thomas Hardy forgot himself before luncheon:
He gave me a surprisingly strong, virile pinch, again on my left buttock:
all three pinches have been on that side: I wonder why? Of the
three pinches, recollected in tranquillity, Lord Alfreds comes out as the
sharpest. Blood will tell.
Arthur Marshall,
Hilaire Belloc
the great Requiem which was o
ered for Chestertons soul in West-
minster Cathedral, it was inevitably to Belloc that the newspaper cameras
and reporters turned. In the course of the mass he managed to sell his
exclusive obituary of Chesterton to no less than four di
erent editors.
A. N. Wilson,
Stephen Crane
reported that Crane had drowned.
[Hubbards magazine] for February,
. In
amboyant sentiment Hubbard wrote: How he faced death the records
do not say; but I know, for I knew the soul of the lad. Within the breast of
that pale youth there dwelt a lions heart. He held his life and reputation
lightly. He sided with the weak, the ignorant, the unfortunate, and his
strength and in
uence were ever given lavishly to those in need ... So
heres to you, Steve Crane, wherever you may be! You were not so very
When a Yankee says such things he is bragging, but I guess an English-
man is just lugging the truth out from some dark cave.
Theodore Dreiser
nised, and by now none of the objections once so loudly proclaimed seem
valid. Indeed, no one seemed to
nd it either surprising or even amusing
that when the Abbey company, in
, had a special audience with the
Pope, they presented him with a rare edition, bound in white leather, of
the play which once caused riots:
James Kilroy,
ThePlayboy Riots
Sir Max Beerbohm
Max Beerbohm
s own exquisite aquatints in prose of the visits he had
paid to various great men might induce in the most con
dent writer a
sense of presumption in venturing to record a visit to him. I remember
with a qualm of self-reproach that on this very visit Max told me that his
last hours would be haunted by the fancy of the good story that would be
fathered on him by the paragraph gossips on the morning of his obituary
Ford Madox Ford
English Review
Thomas Hardy remained for the whole afternoon round the corner of
that L talking in low tones to the wife of the Bishop of Edinburgh.
The rest of the room was occupied by beautiful creatures who had
come specially to hear Thomas Hardy and those young men. The young
produced from his Gladstone bag not only his proofs but a bottle of port
Gertrude Stein
was a paci
st and argumentative and although they were very old
friends Doctor and Mrs Whitehead did not think they could bear hear-
ing his views just then. He came and Gertrude Stein, to divert every-
bodys mind from the burning question of war or peace, introduced the
subject of education. This caught Russell and he explained all the weak-
nesses of the american system of education, particularly their neglect of
the study of greek. Gertrude Stein replied that of course England which
was an island needed Greece which was or might have been an island. At
any rate greek was essentially an island culture, while America needed
essentially the culture of a continent which was of necessity latin. This
argument fussed Mr Russell, he became very eloquent. Gertrude Stein
then became very earnest and gave a long discourse on the value of greek
to the english, aside from its being an island, and the lack of value of
greek culture for the americans based upon the psychology of americans
erent from the psychology of the english. She grew very eloquent
on the disembodied abstract quality of the american character and cited
examples, mingling automobiles with Emerson, and all proving that they
did not need greek, in a way that fussed Russell more and more and kept
everybody occupied until everybody went to bed.
Gertrude Stein,
surgeon was called in, and Gertrude told him bluntly, I order
you to operate. I was not made to su
er. It was the choice she made.
The operation was scheduled for the afternoon of July
. Alice [her
companion, Alice B. Toklas] waited anxiously beside Gertrudes bed
Gertrude was already under heavy sedation. She turned to Alice and
murmured, What is the answer? Alice, unable to answer, remained
silent. Gertrude said, In that case, what is the question? The afternoon,
Alice remembered, was troubled, confused, and very uncertain. Then
the orderlies arrived and Gertrude was wheeled down the long corridor.
In the course of the operation, what was suspected proved to be true;
Gertrude had inoperable cancer. At about
in the evening, she lapsed
into a coma. Doctors worked on her for an hour. At
, she was
pronounced dead.
Knowledge had been her province. During the long years of the
German occupation, she had drawn a valuable lesson from life. You have
to learn to do everything, she observed, even to die.
James R. Mellow,
Sir Winston Churchill
popularity of his list. If you had just committed murder would you feel
inclined to read Gibbon?Well, the stern and speedy process of the Law
might place a noose around my neck and string me up before I had time
to launch myself on that broad stream. But for robbery with violence,
arson, rape ... Here followed a long inventory of crimes well
my phrase, it was Tennysons.Never read him. Should I like his books?
Not much I think, nor would the criminals.
Bonham Carter,
Robert Frost
that T. S. Eliot was sitting in the third row, Frost made a witty
W. Somerset Maugham
Willa Cather
(novelist; her books include
Nebraska State Journal
her day at the University she would spend the evening at the
theatre, then go over to the
ce and write her review of the play,
E. M. Forster
joined the party, and Forster made e
orts at conversation, in
Italian, which went as follows:
. Lei stato in Inghilterra? [Have you ever been to England?]
Mai. Ma lanno prossimo vengoscusa! ecco una donna bellissima
che passa ... [Never. But I am coming next yearexcuse me! theres the most
beautiful woman just going by ...]
. Una donna francese, credo. [Shes French, I think.]
. FranceseItalianaTedescaa me lo stesso. [French
ItalianGermanits all the same to me.]
. Whats he saying?
. He has seen a beautiful lady.
. Oh, I see.
(to Forster). Ma scusa tanto! Cosa diceva? [I do beg your pardon.
What were you saying?]
. Lei non stato in Inghil ... [You have never been to Eng ...]
(grasping him a
ectionately by the wrist). Ecco unaltra! Non mi
piace tanto. E un po borghese. [Theres another! But I dont like her so much.
Too middle-class.]
not outraged. Indeed, this weekend, they were unusually in harmony,
and to her diary she con
ded that he was timid, touchy, in
P. N. Furbank,
, vol. ii,
he accepted the o
award was announced in the New Years Honours for
, and he
went to Buckingham Palace for the investiture the following month. It
was quite a lengthy audience, in the course of which the Queen said how
sad it was he had published no book for so longupon which he politely
corrected her. As he left, he brandished the insignia to an equerry,
exclaiming brightly Well, I got my little toy, and was received with
Wallace Stevens
ally becoming vice-president. Not everyone there was fond of himhis
worked for Wallace for many years. Stevens had a lot of respect for
he told us one or two smoking-car stories. They wouldnt be considered
anything today, but in those days they might have been considered
slightly risqu. My colleague Walter Jackson Bate was there. Hed always
had a very good sense of humor, but with each joke he grew grimmer.
nally said, Im afraid Im not amusing you, Mr Bate. And Bate,
who was then very much the
of the department, said,
Youll have to be funnier than that to make me laugh, Stevens! Poor
Stevens was quite humiliated, got very red, and stopped talking.
Harry Levin in Brazeau,
Frieda Lawrence
their spacious apartment you could see through the big windows
the boats and barges going past on the Thames. For lunch there were
several people: Lady S., a feminist, and a famous bookseller and another
man, I think a general. We had chicken for lunch, but Shaw, who sat
and far away from everything the place was and how we loved it. He
listened and said: And that man wrote. I wanted to say: Yes, but not like
you, but didnt. Then they both said: We will visit you at the ranch. But
that never happened.
Lytton seemed pleased. Ah yes, thats nice. Then a pause. But I dont
Babbitt money. The Babbitts dont want syphilis licked. They want
er for their so-called sins.
But dont Babbitts sin themselves? I asked.
Sure, they do. But always with a crying conscience, and so their sinning
has no pleasure. Ever been to bed with a ministers wife?
Then you dont know what conscience can do to mess up a bed.
Did you ever go to bed with a ministers wife? I asked.
Hell, no. Think Im crazy?
Clive Bell
and other books; husband of Vanessa Bell, brother-
in-law of Virginia Woolf)
it curious, now that I have written so much about him, to recall
how softly and undramatically Jeeves entered my little world ... On that
occasion, he spoke just two lines.
Mrs Gregson to see you, sir.
Very good, sir, which suit will you wear?
That was in a story in a volume entitled
to the porter of the hotel where she stays. So I said to her: What did your
hotel porter think of your work? She said: He objected to a scene in my
novel where my hero goes out into the forest,
Besides, there were his memory exercises. He had kept them up since his
james joyce
word about that devil and I will murder you! Her response had a strange
mixture of genuine anger and burlesque acting, and such a beautiful lan
that I suddenly wished I could see this high-spirited Irish woman, who
was now standing at the head of the table with her drawn knife, confront-
ing Hitler not Joyce, like an armed and fearless Charlotte Corday. The
of them were real), but his ways of discom
ting them were so grotesque
cult to believe he took the feuds seriously on a personal
levelon the level of art he took everything seriously. I remember his
description of how a well-known critic, regarded by Lewis as an enemy,
was brought up to him at the Leicester Galleries.
I wasnt paying much attention you see, Symons, and then Eddie
Phillips came up to me and said Heres Mr
way of speech and thought were parodied.
Julian Symons,
Virginia Woolf
Virginia Woolfs sister Vanessa recalls an incident from childhood:
one evening, as we were jumping about naked, she and I, in
the bathroom, she suddenly asked me which I liked best, my father or
mother. Such a question seemed to me rather terrible; surely one ought
not to ask it. I felt certain Thoby [their brother] would have snubbed the
questioner. However, being asked, one had to reply, and I found I had
little doubt as to my answer. Mother, I said, and she went on to explain
why she, on the whole, preferred my father. I dont think, however, her
preference was quite as sure and simple as mine. She had considered both
critically and had more or less analysed her feelings for them which I, at
any rate consciously, had never attempted. This seemed to begin an age of
other guest at that time was a lady novelist. After dinner, about
all watched her scramble up the bank to the road and then walk across the
bridge swinging the stick in her hand; she was smelling her bunch of
owers and didnt look back at us again.
Dirk Bogarde,
William Carlos Williams
Maxwell Perkins
(celebrated publishers editor; the authors who bene
ted from his advice
included Hemingway, Faulkner, and Thomas Wolfe)
seems that Hemingways novel, in its serial form, had to be expurgated
for the readers of
. And when Maxwell Perkins came
to go through the manuscript, he found three words which he was doubt-
ful about printing even in the book. The words were
. So he had a solemn conference on the subject with old Mr
Charles Scribner. The
rst two words were discussed, and it was decided
to suppress them, but when Perkins came to the thirdwhich he
he with his usual sardonic charm, that you were fond of me but, frankly, I
At last we rose, and went into another Gothic room, very cold, where
moments later, all that I could add was that if any such numskull could
D. H. Lawrence
s irruption into Augustus Johns studio is one of the
what Sir Edwin Lutyens used to call the uproar, D.H.L. announced that
he would like to howl like a dog.
Augustus John,
Lawrence and his American friends Earl and Achsah
twilight outside was bitter cold; Lawrence decided to keep warm
at the cinema until train time. Half an hour we watched
uttering around baby-faced blonde dolls, brutal Romans accursed
with hearts of stone, galleys of inhuman slaves, galloping horses whizzing
perilous chariots. There was no human touch, nothing resembling a real-
ity of any phase of life we knew or could imagine. Lawrence gasped out
that he was going; if we did not take him out immediately he would be
violently sick; such falsity nauseated him; he could not bear to see other
people there open-mouthed, swallowing it, believing it to be true.
Earl and Achsah Brewster,
will be remembered that when Lawrence held a show of his paintings
Marianne Moore
having found her at a loss on any topic whatsoever, I wanted to
give myself the pleasure at least once of hearing her stumped about some-
Edith Sitwell
Mrs Patrick Campbell
sailed inand later sent Edith a dozen silver
teaspoons, having been inconvenienced by the fact that these articles
were not provided at
Pembridge Mansions. She meant it kindly.
Mrs Patrick Campbell was an old friend of Lady Idas [Lady Ida was
Ediths mother], and used to say to Edith, Youll never have your
mothers beautypoor child! ... But never mind! You look at one in
such a nice way, it doesnt matter. This became such a regular observa-
Hatred and Horror when the red headed piece of dried Dung produced a
Volume of Lawrences poems and commenced to discuss Lawrence with the
others, in this perfect English and carefully picked long words! We had been
Eugene ONeill
he appeared to be totally recovered from tuberculosis ONeill
friends or acquaintances to his only daughter and his new son-in-law.
There is enough wry comedy in life as it is, he remarked.
Sir Lewis Namier
, The Structure of Politics at the
Accession of George III,
review which had the most dramatic consequences was by G. M.
Trevelyan, doyen of those Whig historians for whom Namier had so little
respect. Trevelyan wrote of the Namier way:Mr Namier is a new factor
in the historical world. Reading the review at tea, Professor Jacob at
er Namier the vacant chair of
modern history. Namier was always grateful to Trevelyan and, character-
istically, claimed to have repaid his debt by refusing ever to review
Trevelyans books.
John Cannon, in
Raymond Chandler
Chandler paid a number of prolonged visits to
T. S. Eliot
Bertrand Russell taught a course in symbolic logic at
a post-graduate class of twelve, who used to come to tea with me
once a week. One of them was T. S. Eliot, who subsequently wrote a
poem about it, called Mr Apollinax. I did not know at the time that
once gave a friend some obscene poems back in
and never
got them back. They think the friends sister, whos a nun, saw them and
burned them. Its all right if you know theyre burned, but if youre not
sure its always worrisome.
W. H. Auden in
, ed. Alan Ansen,
, deux.
ourselves of course, these luncheons were a matter for tactful
boasting. I had lunch with Eliot the other day was a phrase which
I remember hearing, and I am sure I must have uttered it too, though I
remember that less clearly. The tone of voice appropriate to such an
utterance was very level, unemphatic, almost a throw-away, such was the
inherent force of the fact itself. Only one of us, much the most resourceful
in the management of English idiom, found a way of improving on it, to
I was lunching with Eliot the other day, and we were left to wonder
a lady living in Richmond Row, Shepherds Bush. I wrote to her at once
and received no answer. Meanwhile, I had observed that no further issues
of the review had appeared on the bookstalls, and the booksellers were
unable to give me any information. I wrote again to the addressthis
Robert Benchley
(American humorist; frequenter of the Round Table at the Algonquin)
Harold Ross,
editor. He was a professional lunatic,
but I dont know if he was a great man. He had a profound ignorance. On
one of Mr Benchleys manuscripts he wrote in the margin opposite
Andromache,Who he? Mr Benchley wrote back, You keep out of this.
Paris Review
rst series,
Jean Rhys
which took most of her work and paid high prices. Poirot is rather
erable, she wrote to Cork [her agent]. Most public men are who
Sir Osbert Sitwell
Un Amricain qui pisse.
Quoiencore un pisseur Amricain?
Would you do that in your own country? asked the o
Yes, replied Cummings.
Menteur! screamed the sergeant of police.
Why do you call me a liar? asked Cummings.
Because I know about AmericaI have a relative there.
In Brook-leen.
Cummings was asked where he lived, and a gendarme went outside to
check with Seldes and Dos Passos. When it was found that he had
told the truth, he was permitted to leave, but with orders to report to a
magistrate the next morning. ... When Cummings showed up, he was
and studied Charlies writing more closely. Then, still suspicious, she
asked, Did you write this while you were in an unnatural or cramped
position? Aldous then admitted that the writing was not his own but
he assured the lady that it had been done quite normally. Then, said
the expert, I dont know what to say, because if what you tell me is true,
the man who wrote this is a God-given genius. We were all duly
impressed. Later Aldous came to know the handwriting lady personally;
Anita Loos in
, ed. Julian Huxley,
Robert Graves
rst terms work, I attended the usual college board to
give an account of myself. The spokesman coughed, and said a little
y: I understand, Mr Graves, that the essays which you write for your
English tutor are, shall I say, a tri
e temperamental. It appears, indeed,
that you prefer some authors to others.
The White Goddess
I did not tell, though it got back to Rahv anyway. When I saw Wilson
after I was back in America, I told him I had joined the sta
; he merely laughed and remarked of Rahv and Phillips Potash
and Perlmutter. He was citing an earlier comedy of his own playgoing
F. R. Leavis
Zelda summoned the
remen (as she had done as a child in Mont-
gomery). When asked where the blaze was, she struck her breast and
exclaimed: Here!
rey Meyers,
William Faulkner
living in New Orleans, doing whatever kind of work was necessary
Mr Faulkner, how could you do this to me? How could you leave town
I asked, steering us out of embarrassment. If our names on that occasion
Nol Coward
the stage, when did Nol act, and when was his private behaviour
totally spontaneous? Given an audience, he seldom entered a room; he
almost always made an entry; and I remember another occasion, this time
at a house in France, where a number of English guests were assembled.
Among them was the singer Olga LynnOggie to her large a
ate circlea remarkably short and rather stout lady, inclined to wear a very
broad hat, so that she had somewhat the appearance of a perambulatory
mushroom. She was then recovering from a slight stroke; but of this Nol
happened to be unaware. He arrived late and, a suitable entry having been
made, moved genially around the room, distributing kisses and smiles
and bows, until at last he came to Oggie. Darling Oggie; and how are
? he demanded. Thank you, Nol; Ive been ill you see, she replied in
accid cheek. Nol dramatically
threw up his hands. Notatiny
Oggiedarling? he
enquired in tones of heart-felt consternation, carefully spacing out the
words and lending each a poignant emphasis. We were all tempted to
laugh, and quickly resisted the impulse; but although the enquiry may
perhaps sound brutal, it had the right e
erer, since it
implied that a stroke was the kind of harmless minor mishap, mildly
ridiculous rather than really grave, like tripping over a dog or tumbling
downstairs, that might come anybodys way.
reluctance to accept Hemingways invitation became pronounced at this
point. He didnt really like to hit other people, he explained, any more
than he liked being hit himself. But Hemingway refused to take no for an
In the living room of the Hemingways suite, the two men touched
gloves and commenced to circle one another, while Hadley acted as
timekeeper. After a minute or two, during which time neither man threw
a single punch, Galantire straightened up and laughingly said that he
had had enough. After removing one glove, he put on his glasses and
began to unlace the other glove. In the meantime, Hemingway had been
shadow boxing, throwing lefts and rights and dancing about. Suddenly,
he lunged at Galantire and hit him in the face, breaking his glasses.
Luckily, no fragments
ew into the victims eyes or cut his face.
Hemingway was obviously relieved about this, but he felt no contrition,
in Hadleys opinion. He had e
ectively demonstrated his masculine
Vladimir Nabokov
robert robinson.
First, sir, to spare you irritation, I wonder if you will
instruct me in the pronunciation of your name.
vladimir nabokov.
one hears here are Yids. At an migr party where Nabokov was the
guest of honor, he heard the host himself use the word Yid. Normally
extremely correct in his speechthere is not a single obscenity in his
published workNabokov responded by swearing deliberately and
forcefully. When his host reacted with astonishment, Nabokov replied,
I thought this was the language you used in this house, and promptly
Brian Boyd,
dinner he and Vra would play a game of Russian Scrabble on
a board Vivian Crespi had given them early in the year. Scrabble
deliberately teasing his friend. When Wilson wrote that he had begun to
learn chess, for instance, Nabokov replied: I hope that you will soon be
playing well enough for me to beat you.
C. L. R. James
Stevie Smith
Stevies impatience with sentimentality could make her
seem hard and intolerant. Moreover, if at a dinner party the conversation
did not interest her she simply threw it aside and darted elsewhere or
sang one of her poems, her tremulous, atonal chant shattering the
ongoing discussion. When her stories went on rather long, in a giggly
and sensibility. His face was long and delicate, like a borzois, he wore
views too dramatic by dating them too earlythat they actually
George Bowling, joining a west London tennis club in
, listens to its middle-class suburban members calling out the score in
voices that are a passable imitation of the upper crust. His creators was
the real thing, ripe for modi
cation if he thought the social circumstances
demanded it. There were occasional forays, for example, into the style
known as Duke of Windsor cockney. A BBC colleague once heard him
assuring an Asian contributor that skin tone played no part in their
relationship: The fack that youre black and Im white has
D. J. Taylor,
Richard Rees
recalled a curious exchange on the subject of his
: seeing his name in print gave him an unpleasant feeling, Orwell
explained, because how can you be sure your enemy wont cut it out and
work some sort of black magic on it? This was whimsy, Rees thought,
while noting that on occasions of this sort one could never be sure if
Orwell was being serious or not.
was once arguing with a Communist sympathizer about the
true nature of Stalins Russia. Forced to concede that there might be
political repression, his opponent fell back on what was then a much-
favoured clich.
communist sympathizer.
Government should, in honesty, try to convert the British electorate to
ordinary garment with which he was greatly delighted, an old army
greatcoat dyed mud brown, of which he said proudly (and wrongly): You
absurd to say that I never forgave him, but he was permanently marked
down in my estimation from that moment, in ways which no amount of
sexual transgression would have achieved.
Auberon Waugh,
Cyril Connolly
would introduce me to some of his older friends like Philip Ritchie
Nathanael West
(pen-name of Nathan Weinstein; novelist, author of
day after Scott Fitzgeralds death, on December
, Nathanael
West and his wife, Eileen, were killed in a car accident as they traveled
back from a hunting weekend in Mexico. The worlds worst driver, West
had over the years been involved in many an auto wreckhe habitually
drove fast, was known to make U-turns across six lanes of rush-hour
c, and was more or less color blind. He was also famous for day-
dreaming at the wheel; several of his friends refused to drive with him.
When bluntly warned by one of them that some day he would be killed
if he did not keep his eyes on the road ahead, his answer was always the
same scornful laughter. On the day of his death, West skidded out of a
side road onto the main northbound boulevard and hit the
car: he had not noticed a red light, or he noticed it too late and was
Ian Hamilton,
Frank OConnor
(pen-name of Michael ODonovan; Irish author, critic, and translator, best
known for his short stories)
him to London for the very
rst broadcast of his Irish
Christopher Isherwood
Thomas Manns daughter Erika learned that the Nazis were
her, so that she could acquire a British passport, but he reluctantly refused
Juneby chance, the very
, not long after their arrival in the United States, Wystan and
Christopher visited Thomas and Katia Mann, who were then living at
we sat down the Queen asked if I was writing anything now.
Thinking it best not to mention a Diary, I replied only odds and ends of
third, as the Katyn massacre was mentioned. HM then spoke of the Iron
Curtain, saying whenever she went to Berlin e
orts were made to make
her look at the Wall, but she would not go. I asked if she had ever seen it,
she replied, Once, but it gave her such horrors she never wanted to see it
John OHara
(novelist: his books include
No one to help them. One day his fathers birthday came. Then that man
became very rich. Then his son became poor. Then another day his uncle
came. His fathers sons birthday came. Then his uncle became so rich.
Give me the monies, said the man. Then the uncle became so poor. Then
his father told uncle, Go to R. K. Narayan and take some monies. Then
he will be so poor.
I liked the story for the ease with which it conveys in one sweep the
complexities, muddles, and demands of kinship, and the ups and downs
of mans fortunesenough substance to
ll a novel; above all my name
involved in it a
orded me a refreshingly objective view of myself.
Recently I confronted my grandson with his composition. (Not easy to
he said. So I went, and there indeed beneath the glass of one of the show-
cases, which someone had I suppose carelessly left unlocked, was a small
was worthy of his hire and that nothing should ever be given free. It is
bit of a pat, like this, Campbell had replied, tapping Louis lightly. I dont
believe you, Louis had said. I think it was a real swipe, like this. And he
had slapped Campbells face, hard.
Dan Davin,
while people came in and shook his hand and said a few kind words.
asked what was the most important thing that Mr Berlin had written. He
replied, White Christmas.
Sensing social disaster, Clementine Churchill said gently that they
should all be grateful to Mr Berlin because he had been so generous.
Generous? her husband growled, looking about him in consternatio
suggesting to him that his worries were symbolic. Whats it
I asked: loss of power or control? Declining hold on things? Its quite
common to feel that way at your time of life.
He glared at my impertinence. Dont be so bloody stupid, he said, its
nancial concerns were, he admitted, exacerbated by the terror
that he might go to jail for tax evasion.
I have nightmares about it, he said.
Talk to Rick about it, urged Ann. Hell tell you how silly it all is.
, Golding said, I visited Canada, and did a series of lectures.
Well, one of the universities gave me a cheque for $
distressed at having to remember and speak of it.
I cashed it in Canada, and spent it.
It never happened again?
He shuddered. Certainly not! I lie awake at night worrying that
Inland Revenue will catch up with me, and put me in jail.
I was careful not to laugh. Well, I said judiciously, I dont suppose you
nd that many Nobel Prize winners in jail for tax evasion.
Lester Piggott was sent to jail!
He was a jockey, and it was for a VAT fraud, I said. The
gure was
apparently four million pounds.
The principle is the same, said Bill, with conviction.
So he had come, I think, to regard the manuscript of
a little nest egg, and was receptive to the idea of cashing it in. He was a
man of many doubts, but he had never doubted, from the moment of its
inception, the value of
, as either text or object. When he
rst draft, he announced to his family that one day it would
nancial value. Though he had
asked me to value it, he had a
gure in mind.
If you can
nd a nice rich American or Japanese, he said, with an
attempt at worldly o
handedness utterly foreign to his nature, I would
A million what? I asked, maybe a little puckishly.
He seemed to consider.
Pounds, of course! (As if I had insulted the Queen.)
Surely theres got to be some super-rich collector who would be dying
Flaws in the Glass,
Osborne, arts bureaucrat, biographer and Australian Londoner,
received a review copy from the
and was so startled by
Whites account of Cynthia Nolans suicide that he rang the painter and
read the passage to him. Nolan had no inkling that Whites feelings
Goodman and the playwright-barrister John Mortimer, who, he says,
advised him the book was defamatory, but urged him not to take action
because the case would be expensive and very painful. Nolan claims also
to have been told by one of the editors at Cape that White was prevented
by the publishers from saying even worse things about him. Whatever
may have been said to mollify the painter, this does not appear to have
been the case. Greene [the publisher Graham Greene] and White insist
that no cuts were made to
before its publication. Nolan
took his own revenge. He sent a diptych out to Australia called
, which had an ashen-faced White in a pale blue cap (inmate? pris-
oner? magician?) standing by a dogs arse. A line on the animals haunch
might be a tail curled back or a map of its bowel. A cruci
the dogs belly and its head bears a crude likeness to Manoly Lascaris
[Whites lover]. Nolan also sent out some drawings based on the
in which White is thrust into the sodomites circle of hell. When
these went on exhibition, Nolan told the press, Im a good hater ... Ill
bury him ... He doesnt understand much about life does he? Hes just
lived with a man for forty years. White began to claim he had never
much liked or been impressed by Sid Nolan. It was far more Cynthia.
Hes done far more harm to himself than he has to me. I didnt like what
Nigel Dennis recalled that incident to con
rm his claim of Adlers
brilliance as a diagnostician.
Anthony Quinton,
Robertson Davies
(Canadian novelist, playwright, teacher, and, for many years, full-time
ask me for the story I have always wanted to write. Like most
newspapermen I know a lot of stories that it would have been an exquisite
pleasure to writeif one had intended to suspend publication the follow-
ing day. But what is the point of grieving for them now? I have written
what had to be written.
Very early in my newspaper experience I was given the job of writing
an obituary notice of a priest who had died in a rural community within
the circulation range of the newspaper I was working for; the facts avail-
able made one slim paragraph, and I had to piece it out, somehow, to
respectable length. Nobody seemed to know anything about Father
Blank, and so, in despair, I wrote a description of a perfect priest, ascrib-
ing all the virtues to him, and tacked it on the end of my story. Within
the week after it was published I received several warm commendations
on the skill with which I had captured Father Blanks character. I had, it
appeared, described him to a T.
Confessions of an Editor, in
George Barker
most beautiful story in the whole Barker legend is how, when as a
very young man, on arriving home for tea one day, his invalid Irish
grandmother, tightly gripping her constant companion, a thin ebony
Barbara Pym
An Unsuitable Attachment
would have regarded as quite useless and
t only for the pawnshop. She
told him to put it down, which he did, and with the expression of the
Swansea schoolboy caught cheating at maths and in a ham actors tones
of outraged innocence, he asked:
Are you accusing me of
Yes, she said.
Well! he replied, and bore no ill feeling.
Constantine FitzGibbon,
Was it a champagne glass? Elsewhere, Burroughs described the puta-
days on our arrival at the end of April
, there had been a scene that
was a trope for our marriage. I wakened in the middle of the night in
panic: Where was John? I had heard him come in hours before and crash
into the armoire that jutted out from the wall before dropping into bed.
Now his bed was empty. The French windows, which opened onto a
narrow balcony, were ajar. In the glaucous moonlight, I could just make
gure, poised on the balustrade. Suppressing an impulse
to cry out, I went as quickly as I could to his side and said his name.
Without a word, he took the hand I held up to his, as he had done on his
mothers terrace, and allowed meeyes open or closed? I could not see
to lead him back to bed. When his breathing became deep and regular, I
locked the window. The remainder of the night, I sat in a chair thinking.
Johns life had become a high-wire act. He was
irting with his subtle
Saul Bellow
from about eight oclock in the morning until one, he once told
a reporter: Then I go out and make my mistakes.
James Atlas,
was later mordant on the subject of Bellow ... When October,
Nobel month, rolled round a few years after they had become estranged,
Roald Dahl
not imagine why this form of transport had been thought neces-
sary on a perfectly normal
ne day, a Sunday as I remember, nor was any
explanation pro
ered. At some stage, not by my choice, I found myself
ity and such, arent they? Again, youre the man who understands about
When he seemed to have no more to say for the moment I went on
with more on previous lines, boring him a good deal, it seemed, but that
was perfectly all right with me. At length he roused himself.
Well, its up to you. Either you will or you wont. Write a childrens
of motor car engine, or part of a central heating system, and Cal was
standing there holding it up and saying, The Chief Engineer gave me
this. This is a present from the Chief Engineer. I said, Oh yes. And he
said, You know what this is? This is the Totentanz. This is what Hitler
used to eliminate the Jews. I said, Cal, its not. Its a piece of steel. Its
nothing to do with the Jews. And then this awful sad, glazed look in his
Carson McCullers
(novelist; her books include
She was like a fairy. She had the most delicate kind of tinkling,
dazzling little way about her ... like a little star.
What sort of people interested her?
the bill, and I paid it then and there.
But no, nothis is marvellous news. I love Poland, I love Pole
But it doesnt mean that the Roman Church will chang
Of course it wont, in one sense ... but I dont know! It
to. It is
bound eventually to accept women priests, for instance.
You think a Polish Pope will ordain women?
I dont see why not. The Roman Church has changed much more
radically in many ways than the Anglican Church, than my Church, if I
can call it that...
Do you think that the Polish Pope will ordain women before they
ordain women in the Church of England? I ask.
IM is swigging the white wine very fast and has already put away about
half a litre of the stu
when she asserts, Certainly! (Sortunlah!)
He says to me, I ought to tell you that these days I am more interested in
food than in sex. I was absolutely, coldly furious. That it was so grace-
lesswell, what did one expect? meaning, speci
cally, from Americans;
but there had never been, not for one second, any suggestion of a physical
attraction, and anyway he was old. Now I see this as a quite sensible (if
graceless) way of dealing with the situation. After all, he had come from
Hollywood, and from the Left in America, and probably had had a
by the dozen. To his contemporaries he must have seemed an attractive
man. None of us
nd it easy to know that we are not as attractive as we
once were. He had thought, Im not going to sit through the whole
dinner while she is wondering if Im going to make a pass.
Doris Lessing,
most bizarre sexual encounter was with Ken Tynan. I had gone with
him to the theatre and then to some party of actors winding down after a
performance. Ken was the star, shedding witticisms and benevolent
advice and criticism. Then it was very late, and he suggested I stay the
And so we fell asleep and were woken by a female menial bringing
breakfast on two trays. (Ken refused to cook, and so did Elaine Dundy
[Tynans wife at the time]. Neither knew how to boil an egg, they proudly
claimed, and they always ate in restaurants. Even breakfast was brought
: A famous American feminist is visiting London, and I go to see
her with a man who has consistently taken a feminist position, and long
before it was fashionable. As we walk through the hotel she deliberately
slams one door after another in his face.
D. J. Enright
and taken to parks, large, open areas in the city which werent
rubble. The Germans got funeral pyres going, burning the bodies to keep
them from stinking and from spreading disease. One hundred thirty
thousand corpses were hidden underground. It was a terribly elaborate
Easter egg hunt. We went to work through cordons of German soldiers.
Larkin joined the sta
of Queens University, Belfast, as a sub-
could see what he meant when he referred to his taste for depriv-
ation: my own austere digs in Wellesley Avenue became for him a source
of unbelievable richnesssheer fantasy, of course, as were our mutual
notable double by having an obsequious piece written about him by John
Mortimer in one Colour Supplement, and Kingsley himself being egre-
giously rude to Mortimer in another on the same day. Among other
things, Mortimer stated in his interview that Kingsley hit his son with a
hammer, when in fact Kingsley had said he hit his thumb with a
Anthony Powell,
Norman Mailer
I was out of the army and in college, it was
nal exam time, and I
ipping through the back pages of
magazine and saw a picture
Brendan Behan
Oh, I dont know, countered Truman, it occurred to me that maybe I
nd one in a pawnshop. You know, one that had been hocked by a
defrocked bishop.
He drawled out defrocked bishop in a way that left no doubt of his
implication. The bishop turned redder than usual and excused himself
from the table and we were not disturbed by his persistent approaches for
the rest of the voyage.
Tennessee Williams,
James Baldwin
Keen claims that Baldwins friends in the hotel and at the Caf de
Flore, where they spent many evenings, did not think of him as a black
person. But although Baldwin made no show of being the odd one out,
he was forced to see himself as black and incorporated the self-
deprecatory tricks of the inferiority trade into his wit. Mary Keen
remembers that strangers assumed he was a jazz musiciantheir de
tion of a black man in Parisand one of the mock titles for a book she
and Baldwin concocted for fun was Non, nous ne jouons pas la
ection. But he was also making the
ort to be released from the description young Negro writer, and even
truman capote
John Ashbery
mark ford.
rst poem was The Battle, which you wrote when
you were how old?
john ashbery.
Eight. Actually, one in
movie of
, made in
, with Mickey
Rooney as Puck. I remember boning up on Lambs version before
seeing this movie in which there were lots of fairies sliding down
Well, your poemwhich is about a con
presumably much as it had been when she had been alive and had written
Ted Hughes
later readings of his poem The Thought-Fox, he often gave an
account of the strange dream that prompted his abandoning the study of
English Literature [while an undergraduate at Cambridge] as an aca-
while and relax. Id no idea what was going to happen. Suddenly there
was a most appalling noise through the earphones and I nearly jumped
through the roof. I felt my heart go ...
! The noise lasted a few
. The doctor came in grinning and
said, Well, that really gave you a start, didnt it? I said, It certainly did.
And they said, Thanks very much. There was no interrogation, as in the
then I heard no more. Weeks passed, and months. I wrote and wrote and
used to be told of him by West Indian friends. Asked on the
John Updike
myself I observe the very traits that used to irritate me in men of late
early life, converted to Bahaism, and died in an instant, of a heart attack,
while making a telephone call from the hospital to say he was being
Geoffrey Hill
was a di
The curious thing is that you usually do have a title
rst. You have the
working title, that you put on the front of the
le when you begin work,
just so that you know which
les which. The working title, as its name
suggests, works. Thats to say, it actually succeeds in telling you which
Wole Soyinka
(playwright and novelist; the
rst African writer to be awarded the Nobel
Prize for Literature)
was no ordinary night at the pub; indeed, a section of the pub was
closed to the general public that night, and that was where the party was
Place a barber at the immigration posts and insist that your visitors shave
before they are granted entry? Do you really feel that this straggle of hair
on my chin constitutes the slightest threat to the hirsute triumph in
which your leaders face is camou
aged? But the man remained
unimpressed by any arguments. As a young, and seemingly intelligent
Simon Gray
The Smoking Diaries
they havent, although since his Oscar Ive sent him an idea for a
lm, just
a few lines, but written out in neat and sober handwriting, to which he
replied courteously, in a loose sort of scrawl, but then why should he be
careful with his handwriting, he has no need to be. And why rake over
these old ranklings, when there are older ranklings that I still havent
writing a play. He must have seen the disbelief on my face. Its about a
couple of characters from Shakespeare, he explained, what happens
behind the scenes. Deranged, I thought, but felt compelled to be polite.
Oh, who? I asked. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, he replied, from
tore the gates o
towns and slew enemies wholesale, and ended up as one
prepared to pull the factory down rather than work.
On Being Subject Matter, in
Margaret Atwood
Seamus Heaney
evening, I went
shing with a friend of mine called Barrie Cook,
shing. Theyre a toothless
sh and they send up bubblesthey
love the slime and the mud, and you
sh for them in the dark. Theres
this kind of slimy goodness about them; they told me they were called a
sh because there was a superstition that the slime upon them
shpike and so onthat touched them as they went
past. Then later on I was in a hotel up around County Monaghan one
Oh right. (
: Hes writing his memoirs at
Have you got a good agent? Anyone you think I could send it to?
Well, you could send it to my agent. (
: See where sending it to
dislike England. England is Dunkirk and the Battle of Britain. England
Bob Dylan
Thats wonderful. I understand youve done the de
My Yiddishe Momma.
Craig Raine
, Rich,
the same time, I had begun to read books. Aged nine, I joined the
library and was introduced by a boy called Sid Staveley to the photo-
graphs in Lord Russell of Liverpools
bulging book bound in jaundiced polythene which was kept in the adult
August Wilson
(dramatist; his plays include
language is de
ned by those who speak it. Theres a place in
Pittsburgh called Pats Place, a cigar store, which I read about in Claude
. It was where the railroad porters would con-
gregate and tell stories. I thought, Hey, I know Pats Place. I literally ran
there. I was twenty-one at the time and had no idea I was going to write
about it. I wasnt keeping notes. But I loved listening to them. One of the
. Someone said,
I came to Pittsburgh in
on the B & O, and another guy said, Oh no,
you aint come to Pittsburgh in
... the B & O Railroad didnt stop in
Pittsburgh in
rst guy would say, You gonna tell
railroad I came in on?Hell yeah Im gonna tell you the truth! Then
someone would walk in and theyd say, Hey, Philmore! The B & O
Railroad stop here in
? People would drift in and theyd all have
various answers to that. They would argue about how far away the moon
was. Theyd say, Man, the moon a million miles away. They called me
Youngblood. Theyd say, Hey, Youngblood, how far the moon? And Id
miles, and theyd say, That boy dont know nothing! The
miles. I just loved to hang around those old guysyou
got philosophy about life, what a man is, what his duties, his responsi-
Occasionally these guys would die and I would pay my respects.
Thered be a message on a blackboard they kept in Pats Place: Funeral
for Jo Boy, Saturday, one
Id look around and try to
gure out which
one was missing. Id go across to the funeral home and look at him and
Id go, Oh, it was
guy, the guy that wore the little brown hat all the
I used to hang around Pats Place through my twenties, going there
less as the time went by. Thats where I learned how black people talk.
Interview in
Salman Rushdie
the radio programme Desert Island Discs celebrity interviewees are
invited to choose one book and a luxury item in addition to the eight
records they would like to hear if marooned on an imaginary atoll. Salman
Rushdie appeared on the programme on
as part of the
pre-publication publicity attending
, his
rst novel for
ve years. Given his Indian Muslim background and his fondness for
fabulous, phantasmagorical narratives, his choice of book was not surpris-
, that great collection of tales which, as
he said, contains all other stories. His choice of luxury was much more
unexpected: I would like to have an unlisted radio telephone, he said.
That would allow me to ring up anybody else, without anyone ringing
me. Not the least of the many ironies accompanying the Rushdie A
is that within six months of that interview Rushdies wish, in this regard
at least, had been ful
lled. On
, after the Ayatollah
or legal ruling declaring Salman Rushdie an
apostate from Islam and one whose blood must be shed, the Indo-British
novelist and his wife were obliged to go underground for their own
protection. From the safe houses where armed Special Branch o
are presumed to guard his person day and night, he can telephone his
agents, publishers, associates and friends with whom he makes occa-
sional, closely-guarded sorties. They cannot phone him, and few of them
know where he is.
Malise Ruthven,
Ian McEwan
, The Innocent,
Did you do medical research for
I went to have dinner with Michael Dunnill, who was the
University Lecturer in Pathology at Merton. I told him I was planning
a scene in which an inexpert and frightened man cuts up a body
And he said, Oh, you must be Ian McEwan.
I began to have serious doubts about this Monday morning
appointment. I felt the writing was going well and I didnt want to be
blown o
course. At the same time, I felt it was my novelists duty to
go. Then, very fortunately, I had supper with Richard Eyre, who
rubber torch hung on the cistern, and I had to divide my money from a
Early today J. K. Rowling was granted a High Court injunction
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eld, Charles
eld, Mrs W. H.
eld, Revd William H.
Brooks, Van Wyck
Clapp, Susannah
Clare, John
Clarke, Charles and Mary Cowden
Clarke, J. S.
Clarke, Jeremiah
Clarke, M. L.
Clemens, Samuel,
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Dos Passos, John
Douglas, Lord Alfred
Douglas, Stephen A.
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