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

The Sapper C.J. Fox

I first heard of him in 1962 when - an addled journalist enjoying a day off - I was browsing in the Greenwich Village branch of Marlboro Books, a shop dealing in remainders but also in highbrow reviews from across Anglosaxony. Among the latter, obscured by battalions of publications representing the last stand of Abstract Expressionism and the Beat circus, happened to be a magazine from England called X. In it, I found an article on one C. H. Sisson by Martin Seymour-Smith, whom I knew of as author of a striking Encounter piece from 1957, occasioned by the deaths of Wyndham Lewis and several other literary notables that year. In X, Seymour-Smith baldly announced that the unknown Sisson, as satirist and ironist, merited the closest attention as an original voice in English literature, being master of a disturbing style more intellectually controlled than that of Swift, no less. The essay, still one of the best on Sisson, was followed by a selection of his poetry which impressively vindicated the praise heaped on it by Seymour-Smith and by the editors of X themselves in a subsequent note. Eventually, after much savouring of all this, I took the liberty of sending Sisson an enthusiastic letter, which brought a somewhat abashed reply along with two high-voltage collections of his verse.

It was appropriate that I should have discovered Sisson - deeply English though he is, with his roots far down in the soil of this relatively serene island - ...


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