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

The God of Chance Michael Schmidt

Edgell Rickword once referred to this publisher as 'one of those inexplicable generosities of the God of Chance'. But it was to us that the God was generous, setting in our path so important a writer and editor and so good a friend as Edgell. Indeed, Edgell was that God's first major gift to the Press, and only one or two subsequent gifts have equalled it.

It is hardly a compliment to 'the age' that Edgell's work should have fallen so completely into neglect in the twenty-odd years after the publication of his first Collected Poems (1947, duly remaindered). Casting about for explanations, I ask myself if it was his politics gave offence? Or was it the change in his approach to audience, his attempt to address a wider readership than in his early years, and a consequent high-brow loss of interest in someone miscast as a 'popularizer'? Or was it merely evidence of the spurns that patient merit of the unworthy takes-for after all, a similar fate has overtaken other writers, whose true merit is only established after long neglect. No doubt these were factors in his neglect: he was never completely lost sight of (as these tributes make clear); but he cannot, for twenty-odd years, have had a much wider audience than those Elizabethan poets and essayists whose work was circulated only in manuscript. An audience of so few was hardly fit.

It is hard to estimate Edgell's effect-as writer and 'mentor by ...


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