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This report is taken from PN Review 156, Volume 30 Number 4, March - April 2004.

The Real Right Thing Neil Powell

Your starter for ten: whose work was described by T.S. Eliot in 1933 as being `more nearly the real right thing than any of the poetry of a somewhat older generation than mine except Mr Yeats's'? It's a puzzle made all the trickier by that careful-looking but, as it turns out, mildly misleading formulation `a somewhat older generation than mine'. For Eliot was born in 1888 and Yeats in 1865, a gap of twenty-three years which will just about pass for a `generation'; but the writer he is praising here was born in 1879, a mere nine years before he was, which is surely stretching `somewhat' more than somewhat. And that writer was Harold Monro.

Most of us, if we think at all of Monro, do not regard him primarily as a considerable poet but as one of the most remarkable poetic entrepreneurs of his day. After Radley and Cambridge, he relinquished his intended career as a lawyer and devoted himself to poetry: though not wealthy, he had inherited just enough money to get by, and he became one of those amiably unfocused literary young men who were so strangely plentiful in Edwardian England and the early novels of E.M. Forster. Since he couldn't marry his Cambridge friend, Maurice Browne, he did what must have seemed to be the next best thing and married his friend's sister Dorothy, an unbookish former international hockey player. This, as his biographer and editor Dominic Hibberd says with wry understatement, `was ...

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