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This report is taken from PN Review 145, Volume 28 Number 5, May - June 2002.

Memories of Sidney Keyes Milein Cosman

It must have been in the late autumn or winter of 1940, not long after Sidney Keyes had come up to Queens and while I was at the Slade in Oxford (which had been evacuated to the Ashmolean at the outbreak of war) that we met. It was probably through John Heath-Stubbs at one of those crowded Sunday 'Jorams of Tea' salons at Mary Stanley-Smith's house in Ship Street.

I cannot remember the first encounter, but Sidney's looks and manner are ever present. His was a grave countenance for one so young. He had fine hazel eyes, a longish nose and pointed ears. His mouth, although he liked to laugh, exuded sadness, and his sallow skin was echoed by the camel hair coat in which he seemed to shelter even when spring was round the corner. He would come up the stairs to my studio swinging his walking stick (was it an heirloom? - an unusual accessory at that time) and, shuddering, would exclaim 'I'm all shrivelled up with the cold.' He was, I think, essentially alone, but curiously keen to be sociable; he loved parties, at which he might be found immersed in leafing through the host's books or, indeed, writing.

Not just surprising, but amazing in one just out of school, Sidney was acutely observant. At the time, I resented his putting me on a pedestal, but now I am aware of his perspicacity in pinpointing one of my deep flaws in 'The ...


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