- Partisans: Marriage, Politics and Betrayal Among the New York Intellectuals by David Laskin
Simon and Schuster, 319 pp, US $26.00, January 2000, ISBN 0 684 81565 6
A man I met told me that F.R. Leavis had once been invited to Columbia University to talk, and was afterwards bidden to a reception in his own honour. The co-editor of Scrutiny had been very much himself and, after his departure, was discussed as visitors tend to be. A certain elderly member of the English Department even observed: ‘He seemed perfectly all right to me. I can’t think why everybody calls him “Queenie”.’
Vol. 22 No. 16 · 24 August 2000
When I first heard, in Cambridge around 1970, a version of the ‘I can’t think why everybody calls him Queenie’ story about F.R. Leavis, the observation was attributed to Nevill Coghill, and not, as Christopher Hitchens has it (LRB, 10 August), to an academic at Columbia University. In those days the story was told either as evidence of Coghill’s unworldliness, or of the failure of Leavis to be taken seriously beyond his circle of Cambridge acolytes and the pages of Scrutiny. I can’t remember now. Of course, it might just have been a joke.
‘When love congeals/It soon reveals/The faint aroma of performing seals’ was not written by Cole Porter, as Christopher Hitchens states, but by Lorenz Hart, and it comes from one of his many collaborations with Richard Rodgers, ‘I Wish I Were in Love Again’. My sudden loss of spirits on encountering this solecism might best be described as ‘a quick toboggan when you reach the heights’ (Hart again).