In the latest issue:

Consider the Hermit Crab

Katherine Rundell

Emigrés on the Make

Sheila Fitzpatrick

Autopsy of an Election

James Butler

Short Cuts: Harry Goes Rogue

Jonathan Parry

‘Cosmo’ for Capitalists

Stefan Collini

Kara Walker’s ‘Fons Americanus’

Cora Gilroy-Ware

So many ships and fleets and armies

N.A.M. Rodger

British Sea Power

Paul Rogers

Richard Holbrooke

Samuel Moyn

Four poems after Callimachus

Stephanie Burt

‘Your Duck Is My Duck’

Christian Lorentzen

On Paul Muldoon

Clair Wills

Leanne Shapton

Namara Smith

Antigone on Your Knee

Terry Eagleton


Michael Wood

Walter Pater

Elizabeth Prettejohn

Two Poems

Rae Armantrout

Diary: In Monrovia

Adewale Maja-Pearce

William Empson remembers I.A. RichardsWilliam Empson

Terms and Conditions

These terms and conditions of use refer to the London Review of Books and the London Review Bookshop website ( — hereafter ‘LRB Website’). These terms and conditions apply to all users of the LRB Website ("you"), including individual subscribers to the print edition of the LRB who wish to take advantage of our free 'subscriber only' access to archived material ("individual users") and users who are authorised to access the LRB Website by subscribing institutions ("institutional users").

Each time you use the LRB Website you signify your acceptance of these terms and conditions. If you do not agree, or are not comfortable with any part of this document, your only remedy is not to use the LRB Website.

  1. By registering for access to the LRB Website and/or entering the LRB Website by whatever route of access, you agree to be bound by the terms and conditions currently prevailing.
  2. The London Review of Books ("LRB") reserves the right to change these terms and conditions at any time and you should check for any alterations regularly. Continued usage of the LRB Website subsequent to a change in the terms and conditions constitutes acceptance of the current terms and conditions.
  3. The terms and conditions of any subscription agreements which educational and other institutions have entered into with the LRB apply in addition to these terms and conditions.
  4. You undertake to indemnify the LRB fully for all losses damages and costs incurred as a result of your breaching these terms and conditions.
  5. The information you supply on registration to the LRB Website shall be accurate and complete. You will notify the LRB promptly of any changes of relevant details by emailing the registrar. You will not assist a non-registered person to gain access to the LRB Website by supplying them with your password. In the event that the LRB considers that you have breached the requirements governing registration, that you are in breach of these terms and conditions or that your or your institution's subscription to the LRB lapses, your registration to the LRB Website will be terminated.
  6. Each individual subscriber to the LRB (whether a person or organisation) is entitled to the registration of one person to use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site. This user is an 'individual user'.
  7. The London Review of Books operates a ‘no questions asked’ cancellation policy in accordance with UK legislation. Please contact us to cancel your subscription and receive a full refund for the cost of all unposted issues.
  8. Use of the 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is strictly for the personal use of each individual user who may read the content on the screen, download, store or print single copies for their own personal private non-commercial use only, and is not to be made available to or used by any other person for any purpose.
  9. Each institution which subscribes to the LRB is entitled to grant access to persons to register on and use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site under the terms and conditions of its subscription agreement with the LRB. These users are 'institutional users'.
  10. Each institutional user of the LRB may access and search the LRB database and view its entire contents, and may also reproduce insubstantial extracts from individual articles or other works in the database to which their institution's subscription provides access, including in academic assignments and theses, online and/or in print. All quotations must be credited to the author and the LRB. Institutional users are not permitted to reproduce any entire article or other work, or to make any commercial use of any LRB material (including sale, licensing or publication) without the LRB's prior written permission. Institutions may notify institutional users of any additional or different conditions of use which they have agreed with the LRB.
  11. Users may use any one computer to access the LRB web site 'subscriber only' content at any time, so long as that connection does not allow any other computer, networked or otherwise connected, to access 'subscriber only' content.
  12. The LRB Website and its contents are protected by copyright and other intellectual property rights. You acknowledge that all intellectual property rights including copyright in the LRB Website and its contents belong to or have been licensed to the LRB or are otherwise used by the LRB as permitted by applicable law.
  13. All intellectual property rights in articles, reviews and essays originally published in the print edition of the LRB and subsequently included on the LRB Website belong to or have been licensed to the LRB. This material is made available to you for use as set out in paragraph 8 (if you are an individual user) or paragraph 10 (if you are an institutional user) only. Save for such permitted use, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt such material in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department.
  14. All intellectual property rights in images on the LRB Website are owned by the LRB except where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited. Save for such material taken for permitted use set out above, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt LRB’s images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department. Where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, reproduce or translate such images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the copyright holder. The LRB will not undertake to supply contact details of any attributed or credited copyright holder.
  15. The LRB Website is provided on an 'as is' basis and the LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website will be accessible by any particular browser, operating system or device.
  16. The LRB makes no express or implied representation and gives no warranty of any kind in relation to any content available on the LRB Website including as to the accuracy or reliability of any information either in its articles, essays and reviews or in the letters printed in its letter page or material supplied by third parties. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) arising from the publication of any materials on the LRB Website or incurred as a consequence of using or relying on such materials.
  17. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) for any legal or other consequences (including infringement of third party rights) of any links made to the LRB Website.
  18. The LRB is not responsible for the content of any material you encounter after leaving the LRB Website site via a link in it or otherwise. The LRB gives no warranty as to the accuracy or reliability of any such material and to the fullest extent permitted by law excludes all liability that may arise in respect of or as a consequence of using or relying on such material.
  19. This site may be used only for lawful purposes and in a manner which does not infringe the rights of, or restrict the use and enjoyment of the site by, any third party. In the event of a chat room, message board, forum and/or news group being set up on the LRB Website, the LRB will not undertake to monitor any material supplied and will give no warranty as to its accuracy, reliability, originality or decency. By posting any material you agree that you are solely responsible for ensuring that it is accurate and not obscene, defamatory, plagiarised or in breach of copyright, confidentiality or any other right of any person, and you undertake to indemnify the LRB against all claims, losses, damages and costs incurred in consequence of your posting of such material. The LRB will reserve the right to remove any such material posted at any time and without notice or explanation. The LRB will reserve the right to disclose the provenance of such material, republish it in any form it deems fit or edit or censor it. The LRB will reserve the right to terminate the registration of any person it considers to abuse access to any chat room, message board, forum or news group provided by the LRB.
  20. Any e-mail services supplied via the LRB Website are subject to these terms and conditions.
  21. You will not knowingly transmit any virus, malware, trojan or other harmful matter to the LRB Website. The LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website is free from contaminating matter, viruses or other malicious software and to the fullest extent permitted by law disclaims all liability of any kind including liability for any damages, losses or costs resulting from damage to your computer or other property arising from access to the LRB Website, use of it or downloading material from it.
  22. The LRB does not warrant that the use of the LRB Website will be uninterrupted, and disclaims all liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred as a result of access to the LRB Website being interrupted, modified or discontinued.
  23. The LRB Website contains advertisements and promotional links to websites and other resources operated by third parties. While we would never knowingly link to a site which we believed to be trading in bad faith, the LRB makes no express or implied representations or warranties of any kind in respect of any third party websites or resources or their contents, and we take no responsibility for the content, privacy practices, goods or services offered by these websites and resources. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability for any damages or losses arising from access to such websites and resources. Any transaction effected with such a third party contacted via the LRB Website are subject to the terms and conditions imposed by the third party involved and the LRB accepts no responsibility or liability resulting from such transactions.
  24. The LRB disclaims liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred for unauthorised access or alterations of transmissions or data by third parties as consequence of visit to the LRB Website.
  25. While 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is currently provided free to subscribers to the print edition of the LRB, the LRB reserves the right to impose a charge for access to some or all areas of the LRB Website without notice.
  26. These terms and conditions are governed by and will be interpreted in accordance with English law and any disputes relating to these terms and conditions will be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales.
  27. The various provisions of these terms and conditions are severable and if any provision is held to be invalid or unenforceable by any court of competent jurisdiction then such invalidity or unenforceability shall not affect the remaining provisions.
  28. If these terms and conditions are not accepted in full, use of the LRB Website must be terminated immediately.
Vol. 2 No. 11 · 5 June 1980

William Empson remembers I.A. Richards

The death of I.A. Richards has at least endangered an opportunity which he had accepted with eager energy. In 1937, the Chinese Ministry of Education had decided to use Basic English in the schools, for the first years of English there, but just as the details were being fixed up the Japanese launched an all-out attack and captured Peking. One might argue that this was the right time to introduce a far more economical method: but it would require a great deal of organising from the centre, and to organise the refugeeing of the west-coast universities to the interior was already imposing an almost unbearable strain. There were some local centres where the method was already in use, and contact had to be maintained with them as far as possible; I was able to go with Richards to Kweilin and meet a distinguished headmaster. This seems worth recalling, as Richards returned to Kweilin on the final tour, 42 years later, and was soon afterward struck down. Touring the schools in provincial cities, and speaking in each of them, would be the most exhausting part of the work. He had been warned by a friend that the visit would probably kill him, but after all he had for years been risking his life on mountains, and this occasion might make all the difference (for him) between dying in triumph and dying as a failure.

There had been another exasperating bit of bad luck in Ghana, where Richards had made all the arrangements, touring the schools and so on, and was just going contented to his aeroplane when he was tapped on the shoulder and told it was all off: the dictator Nkrumah had been angered by a careless word from the sponsor (not from Richards) and had used this rejection for a punishment. ‘It is a new way to fail,’ said Richards, from his wide experience: but it would not be so painful, as the Chinese had understood the principles and taken an interest. Meanwhile there was always a barrage of vilification from the rival firms. It seemed when he retired from Harvard that he must admit that he had failed to launch Basic; and he took up other interests, continuing to be very good company; but his face when alone had come to look very grim, even soured. Interview and article, however, remained stubbornly optimistic, assuming that the cause could not have been lost; and indeed the Chinese invited him back as soon as they settled down after the departure of the Japanese, the defeat of Chiang Kai Shek, and the death of Mao. Let us hope they had already made up their minds, so that the heroic death of Richards in their service will merely help to make welcome the agreed procedure. They could have given him no death that would make him happier.

Mrs Richards allowed me to visit him in hospital and he seemed so full of life that I felt sure he would recover: but he was delirious, and not much could be understood. Two recurring sentences were clear: ‘It’s time for me to go’ and ‘I ought to come back,’ meaning he was ready for death except that the work was incomplete. I said, ‘Of course you must come back; you are urgently needed,’ and he looked at me quizzically, entirely himself for a moment. He was doubting my competence to pronounce upon the question. This of course was charming, but also, taken with some other phrases, suggested that he had done as much on this visit to China as he could usefully do. A too sustained pressure becomes irritating, he had long understood; they must now have time to think it over. He was struggling for life, with the tireless support of Mrs Richards, but he did not feel an immediate exasperating regret.

This fighting aspect of him is not what is most admired in his books, but it lay near the root of his achievement, and I had been eager for anything he let drop about his life in the mountains. He was firmly unboastful, but felt it all right to praise a technique; there was a flavour of H.G. Wells. Asked whether he had slept in an igloo, he said: ‘Of course; those were the only comfortable nights we spent in Alaska.’ It was only to explain how easy the thing is, once you know the trick, that he recalled what can surely not be a standard bit of life-saving. A fellow climber had broken his leg, and could not be carried down the cliff; one of the party went to get help, and Richards and another stayed with him. The important thing was to find a rock of the right size, which even the crippled man, after being planted out of the wind, could receive and pass on. They handed it round all night, ‘and did not even catch cold’.

Professor Basil Willey, in a festschrift for the 80th birthday of Richards (1973), said that he not only founded modern literary criticism but supplied it with a vocabulary which has become accepted currency for so long that its origin is often forgotten. I now think this is true, but it was not clear to me when he was my supervisor. Willey was present at the first lectures by Richards at Cambridge, which became the Principles (1924), whereas I (then a Math student) attended one or two of the lectures which became Practical Criticism (1928). His position had become familiar. My literary faction (Bronowski, for instance) accepted Richards as a great liberator who had made our work possible: but he kept telling us that each of his doctrines was only common sense, and that somebody had said it in the 18th century. Like the Mona Lisa of Pater, we imagined ourselves to be older than the rock on which we sat. Also he was then expecting an intellectual revolution from Psychology. While I was having a weekly supervision from Richards, in my final year, I was listening to the James Smith group, who favoured T.S. Eliot and Original Sin. After each of his supervisions, as I remember, though I had enjoyed and learned from them enormously, I would goad the enemy by reporting some theologically absurd remark, typical of an expert on Scientism. Within a year, I was defending him in some periodical against a particularly gross attack, so I was not actively disloyal: but it would be a mistake to suppose that Cambridge ever agreed on a monolithic acceptance of the views of Richards. He found himself warmly accepted by audiences but fiercely attacked in magazines, and there was the same contrast after he had moved over from literary theory to teaching procedures. He was by nature a negotiator, and on principle did not expect any doctrine to be more than an approximation to the truth; but his analytic power always made people regard him as an extremist.

This must partly explain his immense success as a lecturer: in my time, no lecture hall was big enough for him, and he enjoyed making ad hoc arrangements. And yet most of what he was saying was negative, and it was said rather drily. He never played the fashionable game of ‘revaluation’, switching round the price ticket, upping Donne and downing Milton, for example. He was concerned with a bafflement about what happens when people read, or about the aesthetic experience in general; it is important to realise that they are usually reading wrong, but apart from that, when is the effect a good one? The difference between a deadlock and a balance of the impulses must be crucial, but what can it be? Some satisfaction of other impulses perhaps, or a general readiness; but we must hope for Psychology to cast some light. Before trying to taste a literary work, he advised in Practical Criticism, it would be a good thing to clean the palate from previous assumptions by reflecting on the ‘enormity’ of time and space, and the ‘oddity’ of human birth and death. This advice was met with fierce ridicule by the professional literary critics, who seem to me now even more absurd than they did then. No wonder the audiences liked him for taking the guff out of the experts, and his dry manner was suited to it. But the only definite part of the programme, it seems fair to say, was the removal of obstacles.

Such was the appearance, but I have to add that he was a spellbinder, not at all shy about being Welsh. In his later writings he depends upon Plato rather than science yet unborn, but even there a reader could hardly guess that he had this extra power. Nor was he above calculating his effects. When he visited Peking after the Communist victory, he required among other props a folding card-table at the side of the stage, not an easy thing for the British Council to find, and he used it by leaning upon it, as he went out from his lecture, to say: ‘In my end is my beginning.’ He would not have done this in either of the Cambridges, but the Chinese students would find hearing English a serious effort, and would need a bit of action; it went over very well. He was expounding something about Plato, as I remember, but he literally did mean to return to Peking.

The point is not at all that he would weaken or coarsen a doctrine to placate his audience; audiences had always been his friends, to whom he would tell things he dared not say in print. Only a few years ago, I heard him lecture on ‘Complementarities’ in London, and I was spellbound. When the book of that name came out, it reported only a slighter lecture elsewhere on the same topic. I wrote and begged him to restore what had been omitted, and received no reply. The big lecture, as I remember, had made no rash attempt at a solution, but merely quoted a much wider range of startling examples (of such findings as that light consists at once both of waves and of particles). He had written an introduction to the milder lecture, for the book, and here for once he sounds exasperated by the silliness of his opponents. It had always been central to his mind that an apparent intellectual conflict need not be a practical obstacle. He had not felt ready to print more at the time, but probably he would have gone further with this extremely uneasy topic if he had survived his call to China.

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

Please include name, address, and a telephone number.

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.