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This article is taken from PN Review 28, Volume 9 Number 2, November - December 1982.

Life with Lord Lowell at Essex U Dudley Young

WE first met Robert Lowell in the spring of 1970 when he was shopping for a University and came down to inspect us. The lunch was long and animated, such a success that dessert was followed by whisky and more so. This was our introduction to the Robert Lowell marathon. The party ended in the early evening; and I remember driving him to the station in my two-seater, the softness of spring, a female colleague on his knee, himself still in spate, and one hand absently cupped to her breast all the way there.

Expansive, careless, and yet needful: a disconcerting mix it then seemed, and so it remained. Compelling too: that voluminous brain, the relentless talk, the charm, the wit, the malice: all driven by a deceptively powerful body burning manic energy and whisky at about twice the rate of us who were half his age. He was the large and lethal Carnival King, the Candlemas Bear come to release us from common prose; sublime, sexy, and frequently mad.

When not this, of course, frighteningly depressed, a condition almost as infectious, at least to his intimates, as the mania. As he often admitted, his grasp of the middle register was insecure.

Essex in those days provided a fitting theatre for such magic, as we too had been running on a manic-depressive curve since our own rather admirable version of the glorious revolution had been presented in the spring of 1968 (sparked off ...


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