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This article is taken from PN Review 88, Volume 19 Number 2, November - December 1992.

Dear Donald Dudley Young

I REMEMBER your writing to me in the early seventies 'Here I am in my prime and still without influence'; and twenty years later, slowing but still adamant, mischievous and sharp, you remain as busy as a bird dog.

The devotion and tenacity are admirable and exemplary. But the word I would choose to put on your birthday cake is 'Integrity', a northern rigour which risked the adulterations of American richness (and muddle) in its pursuit of an urbanity adequate to the times. When it works, as so often, it is truly impressive; and when it doesn't, the air thins out, the righteous angers turn to crankiness, the god of details begins to look like an eccentric, and one starts longing for the saving irony.

But if one thinks that a lack of tolerance and sympathy are your bugaboos (and I do), it is important to see how this is tied to the rigour that drives and sustains your work. What's more, the past 30 years have been lonely ones for those of the rigorous party: who would now deny that the expansive liberalism of the 60s led directly into the moral vacuity of nihilist relativism and 'anything goes', which has now finally spawned that nasty little contrapuntal monster called political correctness? The trahison des clercs during this period has been breathtaking, and though it was first properly forecast (I think) by Lionel Trilling, last of the eminent liberals, you were already in your foxhole ...


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