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This report is taken from PN Review 92, Volume 19 Number 6, July - August 1993.

Cavafy and Bayswater David Arkell
E.M. Forster once described him as 'a Greek gentleman in a straw hat, standing absolutely motionless at a slight angle to the universe'. And since Forster was himself (in the words of D.J. Enright) 'a sort of genteel Cavafy' we get quite a good picture of both the poet of Alexandria and his English admirer.

Other people have described Cavafy (1863-1933) as 'a sort of old sad boy'. In fact he looked a boyish old man for so long that it is strange to think that once upon a time he actually was a boy … in Bayswater.

He spent seven years in England altogether (aged 7-14). One thinks of Poe who - half a century earlier - was here for five years (aged 5-11). On both England left an indelible mark, and the Elgin Marbles were not all they had in common. Cavafy all his life spoke Greek with a slight English accent.

When he first arrived in England from Alexandria in 1870 he was accompanied by his 36-year-old mother, once described as a delicious round ball swaying on the highest of high heels and known affectionately to her sons as 'Fat One'. She was a widow and hoped that England would allow her to be a merry one. Her husband had left her a little nest-egg (nothing ostentatious) which she promptly picked up from Cunliffe Brooks and Co, the Lombard Street bankers, on 7 November 1870. The future didn't look too bad. It's ...


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