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This item is taken from PN Review 252, Volume 46 Number 4, March - April 2020.

Letter to the Editor
I read with interest the appreciation in PNR 251 of Glen Cavaliero as a link to the Cambridge of E.M. Forster and F.R. Leavis. No doubt there are other links – and I am one of them. In the summer of 1966 I set out, with James Fraser, a fellow undergraduate reading English at Clare, to persuade the Cambridge University Senate to accept Jim Ede’s offer of Kettle’s Yard and its collections as a gift to the university. As he was on Jim’s list of Kettle’s Yard supporters, I made an appointment to visit E.M. Forster in his rooms at King’s. I found him seated on a rather spartan chaise longue with letters and envelopes from his plentiful, recently opened, morning post in pleasing confusion around him. He fed me water biscuits and eagerly signed the letter, with that quick, one movement action often used by the very old (he was 87). It seems that Forster signed the letter because he found me plausible rather than because he understood its purpose – I was so in awe of him that perhaps I didn’t explain very well. (I had not only read his novels and essays but spent quite a lot of my time at Cambridge being Rickie, the protagonist of The Longest Journey). A week later I received a postcard from the great man, by then in Aldeburgh. A friend had written the message out for him and it was signed in the same pell-mell style. Forster wrote to tell me that he now realised what the petition I’d brought him was for and was very pleased he’d signed it as he greatly admired Jim Ede. I thought this was remarkably conscientious. It was also rather amazing that the Senate accepted the gift of Kettle’s Yard a few months later.

F.R. Leavis taught Clare undergraduates in my time, first in a room at Downing, later in his house in Bulstrode Gardens. Eventually I became exasperated by his frequent diatribes against T.S. Eliot (‘pusillanimous old woman’, etc). If you said, ‘yes, but he wrote Four Quartets...’ Leavis would change gear and give an excellent disquisition on Eliot’s merits. However, the following week the needle would get stuck in the same place, so I stopped going. However, one aspect of our sessions still impresses me. One term Leavis allowed us to set ‘unseens’ for him. So we assembled a few sheets of Eng. Lit. poems and prose - selecting the most abstruse examples we could find. He was able to date all of them to within some ten years of their writing. It was admirable of him to allow us to turn the tables and splendid that he performed so well.

Mark Haworth-Booth
Swimbridge, North Devon

This item is taken from PN Review 252, Volume 46 Number 4, March - April 2020.

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