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This review is taken from PN Review 44, Volume 11 Number 6, July - August 1985.

LEAVIS LIFE AND TIMES The Leavises: Recollections and Impressions, edited by Denys Thompson (Cambridge) £15.00

According to Denys Thompson, this book assembles 'the basic material for a Life'. It brings together a range of contributors who were involved with and influenced by the Leavises in various ways: for instance, L. C. Knights, Boris Ford, Raymond Williams, David Holbrook, D. W. Harding, as well as some less obvious names. Thompson's claim for the book is exaggerated; though much of the material it contains is interesting - often, it must be said, in an anecdotal way - a good deal more would be needed to provide a basis for biography. None the less, it does raise the issue of the kinds of ways in which the life and work of the Leavises should be studied and appraised in future. It makes us aware of the need for a comprehension biography, but also for complementary historical and sociological investigation.

The very title of the book indicates a shift of emphasis that has taken place in recent years: not 'F. R. Leavis', but 'the Leavises'. The question of Q. D. Leavis's role in her husband's life and work has become a subject of discussion - sometimes of a gossipy sort, but not without deeper implications - and it is active in this book. There is undoubtedly a tendency, especially among some of the male contributors, to cast Queenie as the Ogress of Bulstrode Gardens. Boris Ford quotes from a postcard she sent him: 'Mrs Leavis informs Mr Ford that he is no longer an acceptable visitor ...


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