Manly Decency

Boris Ford

To arrive in Cambridge to study English literature with F.R. Leavis in the mid-Thirties was an act, on my part, of unconsciously astute timing. Since coming to Downing in 1932 as Director of Studies in English, he had written New Bearings in English Poetry and Revaluation, among other books, and had helped to launch Scrutiny. His reputation for iconoclastic criticism, his demotion of Milton compared with Dryden, Pope, and the ‘Line of Wit’, or of Shelley compared with Wordsworth and Keats, underpinned by his close reading of ‘the words on the page’, had linked his name with Richards and Empson, two other Cambridge figures whose work had blown gusts of fresh air across the face of English literary studies.

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