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The least you can do is read it

Ian Hamilton, 2 October 1997

Cyril ConnollyA Life 
by Jeremy Lewis.
Cape, 653 pp., £25, May 1997, 0 224 03710 2
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... Cyril Connolly is famous now, and was famous in his lifetime, for not having written a masterpiece. A peculiar sort of fame: after all, many thousands of literary persons share the same distinction. Connolly, though, made a career out of insisting that his failure had a special poignancy, a poignancy which we should all attend to ...

When the Mediterranean Was Blue

John Bayley, 23 March 1995

Cyril ConnollyA Nostalgic Life 
by Clive Fisher.
Macmillan, 304 pp., £20, March 1995, 0 333 57813 9
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... His friends used to say that Cyril Connolly had been sent into the world for one purpose: to be talked about. He was an object of fascination to everyone who knew him. It was not exactly that he was a legend, or that there was anything romantic or Byronic about him. Though his funny face had great charm he was the reverse of handsome: John Sparrow, in one of his feline mots, remarked that ‘the trouble with Cyril is that he is not so beautiful as he looks ...

Young Marvin

Frank Kermode, 24 January 1991

A Tenured Professor 
by John Kenneth Galbraith.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 197 pp., £12.95, November 1990, 1 85619 018 8
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Shade those laurels 
by Cyril Connolly and Peter Levi.
Bellew, 174 pp., £12.95, October 1990, 0 947792 37 6
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... some genial padding, and the whole thing is good fun, stylishly written and altogether civilised. Cyril Connolly is famous for having wanted to be the author of a totally civilised stylish masterpiece. In all the circumstances such a production would have to be a novel, a genre for which his gifts do not appear to have been ideally suited. He worked at ...

Wounding Nonsenses

E.S. Turner, 6 February 1997

The Letters of Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh 
edited by Charlotte Mosley.
Hodder, 531 pp., £25, October 1996, 0 340 63804 4
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... how much he will give me for them.’ Literary jackals abound. Waugh warns that Cyril Connolly is ‘up to something rather fishy in collecting letters, I think for sale in America. Be wary! There is a nice nest egg for us all in our senility in our correspondence. American Universities are buying them at extravagant prices.’ It is an ...

Speaking well

Christopher Ricks, 18 August 1983

Cyril ConnollyJournal and Memoir 
by David Pryce-Jones.
Collins, 304 pp., £12.50, July 1983, 0 333 32827 2
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J.B. Yeats: Letters to His Son W.B. Yeats and Others, 1869-1922 
edited with a memoir by Joseph Hone.
Secker, 296 pp., £7.95, May 1983, 0 436 59205 3
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... Unlike the publication in 1975 of the touching acute letters of Cyril Connolly to Noel Blakiston, the publication of Connolly’s Journal (1928-1937) does not serve him, except right. He found D.H. Lawrence insufficiently magnanimous (‘Notice how carefully Lawrence refuses to recognise virtue in anyone but himself’), and his sponsor David Pryce-Jones now finds F ...

Quarrelling

Mary-Kay Wilmers, 29 October 1987

Tears before Bedtime 
by Barbara Skelton.
Hamish Hamilton, 205 pp., £12.95, September 1987, 0 241 12326 7
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In the Pink 
by Caroline Blackwood.
Bloomsbury, 164 pp., £11.95, October 1987, 0 7475 0050 9
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... You must explain to me why Cyril wants Barbara,’ Evelyn Waugh wrote to Ann Fleming in September 1955, a year after Barbara Skelton’s marriage to Cyril Connolly had formally ended. ‘It’s not as though she were rich or a good housekeeper or the mother of his children ...

Astrid, Clio and Julia

Alan Bell, 17 July 1980

The Wanton Chase 
by Peter Quennell.
Collins, 192 pp., £8.95, May 1980, 0 00 216526 0
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... in 1939, with the author, not uncharacteristically, on a French holiday with a girlfriend and Cyril Connolly, in the course of which Mr Quennell and his nameless companion were stoned in a small provincial town for their immodesty. It was to be the last such excursion for many years, the onset of war soon finding Mr Quennell, confessedly slothful and ...

Cockaigne

Frank Kermode, 24 October 1991

Orwell: The Authorised Biography 
by Michael Shelden.
Heinemann, 563 pp., £18.50, October 1991, 0 434 69517 3
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... to infer that this person is now at hand. Shelden did a satisfactory job in his first book, about Cyril Connolly and Horizon, but Orwell is an altogether more substantial, and more difficult, subject. Biographers of ordinary competence, if allowed to quote, cannot hope to avoid the contrast between the way they write and the way ...

Dogface

Ian Hamilton, 28 September 1989

Wartime: Understanding and Behaviour in the Second World War 
by Paul Fussell.
Oxford, 330 pp., £15, September 1989, 0 19 503797 9
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War like a Wasp: The Lost Decade of the Forties 
by Andrew Sinclair.
Hamish Hamilton, 312 pp., £17.95, October 1989, 0 241 12531 6
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... to have little time for home-front ironists like Henry Reed or look-the-other-way aesthetes like Cyril Connolly or Osbert Sitwell. As it turns out, and this is a paradox that runs throughout the book, his hostility to America’s ‘unironic’ temper, to its earnestness and sentimentality, is of such depth and ferocity that it leads him to over-value ...

What’s Happening in the Engine-Room

Penelope Fitzgerald: Poor John Lehmann, 7 January 1999

John Lehmann: A Pagan Adventure 
by Adrian Wright.
Duckworth, 308 pp., £20, November 1998, 0 7156 2871 2
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... Punch table. John himself had been at Eton with Alan Pryce-Jones, Anthony Powell, Eric Blair and Cyril Connolly, who, we are told, stood at the door of his room in the Sixth Form Passage asking, ‘Well, Johnny Lehmann, how are you this afternoon?’ While he was at Trinity his sister Rosamond published her first novel, Dusty Answer, which shed a little ...

Drab Divans

Miranda Seymour: Julian Maclaren-Ross, 24 July 2003

Fear & Loathing in Fitzrovia: The Bizarre Life of Writer, Actor, Soho Dandy, Julian Maclaren-Ross 
by Paul Willetts.
Dewi Lewis, 403 pp., £14.99, March 2003, 1 899235 69 8
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... literary life in Britain during the Second World War; the contributors included John Betjeman and Cyril Connolly. The show was stolen, however, by a figure in a voluminous overcoat and dark glasses, whose recollections were delivered slowly, deadpan, between puffs on a large cigar. A month later, at the age of 52, Julian Maclaren-Ross died of a heart ...

Diary

A.J.P. Taylor: An Unexpected Experience, 6 December 1984

... in it even though some of them have become as obscure as Maclaren-Ross himself. Chief of them is Cyril Connolly, once the centre of what was called Bohemia. I wonder whether anyone still remembers him. Cyril wrote The Rock Pool, a novel highly praised: but I doubt whether a conscientious historian anxious to recapture ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Blurbs and puffs, 20 July 2006

... their agents and publishers? There’s only one thing for it: open the book up and start reading (Cyril Connolly thought that scanning the first page of a novel was enough to decide whether or not it was going to be any good). Franzen’s willingness to give a junior colleague a leg-up is surpassed only by that of Salman Rushdie, J.M. Coetzee and Thomas ...

Never the twain

Mark Amory, 4 March 1982

Evelyn Waugh, Writer 
by Robert Murray Davis.
Pilgrim Books, 342 pp., $20.95, May 1981, 0 937664 00 6
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... In a letter to Cyril Connolly in 1948 Evelyn Waugh listed the ideas that had been in his mind when he was at work on The Loved One: immediately after ‘over-excitement with the scene at Forest Lawn’ came ‘The Anglo-American impasse. Never the twain shall meet.’ Not a new thought even thirty years ago, but, though we may run into one another occasionally in the corridors of the Humanity Research Center of the University of Texas (their territory), or share a train compartment on the way to Combe Florey (ours), it still holds good for those in the Waugh industry ...

Diary

Mary-Kay Wilmers: Putting in the Commas, 15 September 1988

... are published which are of interest outside the universities. Take novels. Seventy years ago, Cyril Connolly described the reviewing of novels as ‘the white man’s grave of journalism’: ‘for each scant clearing made wearily among the springing vegetation,’ he moaned, ‘the jungle overnight encroaches twice as far.’ The jungle has now ...

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