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This article is taken from PN Review 39, Volume 11 Number 1, July - August 1984.

from On the Lookout C.H. Sisson

It would be fair to say, however, that to my colleagues collectively I owe a large part of my education, which has consisted in the suppression of my private interests. When I first entered this establishment, years ago, I did not hesitate to talk to people about the things that interested me - about Dante or about Tourneur, if I happened to be reading them. I then learned that it was no business of theirs what I read, and that the thoughts to be cultivated were those which were generally accepted as such and so of some practical use. The other kind of thought worth cultivating (but privately) was that which explained the mechanism of public behaviour. For many years life in the office seemed to me to be a sort of tight-rope turn; it consisted wholly of trying to move in accordance with laws imposed by the circus-master. It is not that the circus-master was wrong and I was right; but after all he knew what would make one fall off the rope and if the laws of nature didn't, he could give you a push. So I learned simultaneously to keep my counsel and to do as I was bid. [. . .] If people don't see my jokes, so much the worse for them. But my poems, written at odd moments in trains, in my room or on the staircase at home, or while walking through the town, represent a world quite different from the one ...


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