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This article is taken from PN Review 9, Volume 6 Number 1, September - October 1979.

on Edgell Rickword C.H. Sisson

Plus ça change. In 1929, Rickword wrote of a volume of verse which shows signs of intellectual curiosity: 'it is one of the few published during the last twelve months which the ordinary intelligent person can read without blushing for the exceptional fatuity of that part of humanity which still indulges in the composition of verse'. Sobering to remember that the author of the volume was Lascelles Abercrombie. But Rickword was right. He was reviewing for the Sunday Referee, and where in the Sunday papers now will you find such precision in placing, and such rigour for the productions of the verse industry at large? In the same column he characterized Humbert Wolfe, then riding high, as 'such a poet . . . an adept at high-sounding nonsense'. One warms to such integrity, fifty years after the printer's ink first dried on the words. Now, at eighty, the old warrior should be content, looking back on his battles.

Rickword himself is certainly a poet of an intellectual curiosity of an altogether different order from that of Abercrombie, so that we see it as a distinguishing mark of his work not merely against the background of that 'published in the last twelve months' but against that of the productions of fifty or sixty years. Those who are looking for his beginnings as a writer should seek out not only the poems of Behind the Eyes, now happily easily available, but the curious prose tales in Love One Another ...


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