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This review is taken from PN Review 53, Volume 13 Number 3, January - February 1987.

THE DOMESTIC GURNEY Stars in a Dark Night: The Letters of Ivor Gurney to the Chapman Family, edited by Anthony Boden, with a Foreword by Michael Hurd (Alan Sutton, Gloucester) £9.95

Gurney's star is rising, as it deserves to do. While he was alive, the embarrassing fact of his being in the City of London Mental Hospital at Dartford, complicated by his alarming appeals for help, seemed to discourage a wide audience. Not forgotten but dangerously neglected, his music claimed the interest and dedication of Gerald Finzi who, helped by material gathered by Marion Scott, laid the foundations of Gurney's growing reputation. The current high level of interest is demonstrated by a further collection of his published music, a substantially extended collection of his poems, an edition of his war letters, and a biography. There remains a good deal of unpublished and perhaps even unpublishable material, but now that we have a substantial body of work, an important task is to define the character of Gurney and his work. A difficulty and a danger is that the sensational might take over and Gurney be seen as a writer limited by a category like 'War poet' or 'mad poet'. This volume is a helpful rooting of Gurney in normality.

Gurney's life can certainly seem as if it passed in a heightened intensity of creativity and pain. It was not for nothing that his biographer, Michael Hurd, called his account The Ordeal of Ivor Gurney. Gurney was born into the family of a Gloucester tailor but seemed to have as much relationship with the rest of the family as a cuckoo to its hosts. He developed his musical talent in ...


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