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This review is taken from PN Review 74, Volume 16 Number 6, July - August 1990.

A POET AT WAR Charles Hobday: Edgell Rickword: Poet at War (Carcanet) £16.95

Edgell Rickword began his literary career as the most verbally witty poet of the Twenties, was co-editor of the decade's finest literary magazine The Calendar of Modern Letters, and then for roughly half a century before his death in 1982 remained a very British radical, for a time a member of the Communist Party but never a theoretician, more in debt to Swift and Morris than to Marx. He married twice, had other sexual relationships, maintained himself sometimes with difficulty by reviewing, editing, bookselling, enjoyed the companionship of pubs and was a quiet, steady drinker. His was a bohemian life of absolute integrity, one that refused ever to acknowledge the prime importance of money. Charles Hobday has told the story of it with a clarity and directness Rickword would have admired.

He was born in 1898, the youngest by several years of five children born to the borough librarian of Colchester, a romantic Anglo- Catholic Tory intestested in local history and genealogy, who traced the family ancestry back to the sixteenth century. Edgell's life was decisively affected by the 1914-18 War. He joined up when he was eighteen, was twice wounded, and won the M.C. for a daring feat in swimming across a a river and noting the enemy positions on the other side. He lost the sight of an eye, not in battle but through a vascular infection, began to write poetry, and went to Oxford under a scholarship scheme for ex-officers. He abandoned the University ...


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