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This item is taken from PN Review 18, Volume 7 Number 4, March - April 1981.News & Notes
On 31 August ANNE TIBBLE-poet, autobiographical writer, novelist, anthologist and editor of neglected and forgotten work by John Clare-died. She was born in Yorkshire in 1906, her father being coachman to the scientist Sir Lowthian Bell. She attended the University of Leeds. Her first major literary project was John Clare: A Life (1932) which she wrote with her husband J. W. Tibble, later Professor of Education, Leicester. Her advocacy of Clare was unflagging. In 1978 she edited The Midsummer Cushion, a massive collection including much previously uncollected material. Her final service to Clare was the recently published Journals, Essays and the Journey from Essex. Her novels include The Apple Reddens (1942) and The God Spigo (1976). Her most widely-acclaimed work was the autobiographical trilogy Greenhorn, One Woman's Story and Alone (1973, 1976, 1979). Her work is characterised by a keenness of observation and an inwardness with her subjects; also a candour in her autobiographical writings which in the verse becomes a kind of intellectual honesty, generalizing from the particulars of an experience she set down assiduously in her journals kept up until the week before her death.
The death of MAX-POL FOUCHET, the distinguished publisher, was announced in Paris recently. Fouchet's activity was especially valuable during the Second World War when he published subtly in the teeth of the censors. His record is an impressive one: he championed the work of Gide, Beckett, Lowry and Eluard among others. Fouchet was fortunate by birth: his was a ship-owning family. When he was seventeen he published his first journal, Fontaine, in Algiers. It was 1936. After the war he taught art history at Columbia University and, later, returned to Paris. He was a critic and novelist as well as a publisher and he appeared regularly on French television as an art critic.
We were sad to note the death on 23 September of the great philologist PROFESSOR ALAN ROSS. He was seventy-three. He founded the journal English Philological Studies and was an important editor of texts. One of his most interesting projects was his attempt to chart the genetic relationships between the Indo-European languages by means of statistical mappings. He managed subtly in his scholarly researches to combine his deep interest in mathematics with his philological discipline, editing a huge two-volume work on the Indo-European numerals. He was also profoundly interested in the diction of the upper classes, writing an essay for Neuphilologische Mitteilungen on 'Linguistic Class-indicators in Present-day English' (1954)-the first in a series of contributions to the U and Non-U 'texts'.
Q. D. LEAVIS contributed a valuable supplementary obituary to The Times regarding the death of Adrian Bell. She pointed out how-apart from Bell's last collection of essays (1976), 'the work of this widely-loved writer is wholly out of print'. Mrs Leavis continues: 'The sad occasion of his death should surely be an opportunity for at once honouring him and giving us what we need, a "Suffolk" or "Beccles" edition of his complete works, or at least a selection from his main ones, though I find nothing he wrote is negligible, in his unassuming style which is effortlessly elegant, often subtly ironic and always sensitively shrewd in its insights.' Mrs Leavis places him in the tradition of Cobbett and Jefferies.
It is lamentably the case that the absence of in print titles by Adrian Bell is the rule rather than the exception. Critical work, for instance, on Wyndham Lewis, proliferates, while the texts on which it builds are out of general circulation. The same is true of W. H. Hudson, of Jefferies himself, and of many others. PN Review invites readers to submit the titles of important out-of-print works so that a register can be compiled and presented to an enterprising publisher or to the Arts Council for their long-mooted subsidised reprint list. It is important that re-issued texts be at a price which the general reader can afford. It is especially unfortunate that the virtues Mrs Leavis praises in her note-unassuming style, effortless elegance, subtle irony. sensitivity and shrewdness-are not at a premium today. Because they are uncommercial virtues, they are increasingly unobtainable. Publishers with high warehouse charges, under the eye of strict accountants, their meagre capital hungry for return, have shortened the life of books from the generous decade and the statutory three years to-in some instances-four to six months. The book is a commodity, no doubt, in that it is bought and sold. But the analogy, when pursued too far, and when the literary market consciously and cynically begins to ape the mass consumer market, is damaging to choice, to readers, and finally to writers.
The ARTS COUNCIL published its 1979/80 accounts with a press conference in which Sir Roy Shaw contributed his own voice to the sad 'consumerization' of the arts. He spoke of 'low growth' due to modest investment; he spoke of the success of those commercial ventures, My Fair Lady and Oklahoma which the Arts Council funded (at least in part to keep open some of the great old theatres, including the Hippodrome in Bristol); he answered critics of the Council almost entirely on commercial grounds. The Arts may lose quite a bit of money, but they have not been nationalized despite the generous investments of the Arts Council. It was bad enough when the Scottish Arts Council, speaking through Mr Dunbar, evoked- the 'Arts Cake'. Evidently the contagion of that terminology has spread as far as 105 Piccadilly. It is also, to say the least, rather trendy of Sir Roy to speak disparagingly of 'dusty museum culture' when some of his clients have been preparing that disposable culture, surely quite as-if not rather more-repugnant to people seriously interested in the Arts? We have in mind not only the Community Arts programme.
The Arts Council's thirty-fifth annual report shows how that institution is becoming increasingly vulnerable from within to the very pressures from which it was established to defend the Arts. It must watch its language-that, or declare the Arts a nationalized industry and featherbed them accordingly. One cannot answer Mr Kingsley Amis in his own terms, for they are not the right terms in this debate. The debate about Arts Subsidy is a debate about choice and, in the longer term, about taxation.
The editors of ENCOUNTER prefaced the October issue with the startling announcement that publication might have to be decreased or indeed suspended-after twenty-seven years. The reduction or demise of Encounter would be a serious loss to writers and readers here and abroad at the best of times; and these are not the best of times. The Arts Council has helped before: it is to be hoped that they will help again. Few journals manage successfully to combine critical and creative functions; and even fewer do this successfully on an international scale. Encounter has survived many difficult patches; but the survival of financial ills is the most difficult. It is a time in which its friends and its resilience will be put to the test.
The Friends of Stonypath Garden hope to ensure the survival of IAN HAMILTON FINLAY's garden and garden temple at Stonypath, Dunsyre, in Lanarkshire. The survival of both garden and temple is threatened by the arbitrary removal (before the onset of the present 'cuts') of the 50% Rates Relief previously allowed. The initial and modest aim of the Friends is to raise the £372.75 levied by Strathclyde Region for the period 1980/81. This excludes the rates on the Finlay's dwelling house, of course. In saving the internationally renowned Garden the Friends seek to demonstrate to Strathclyde Region and to the Scottish Arts Council Regional Advisory Committee that there is a reasoned opposition to their opinions and actions. It is also hoped that bodies such as the Tourist Board and the British Council, who have so often placed the Stonypath garden in their 'shop window', will be encouraged to take a responsible public stand. As Burke said, 'All that is needed for the spread of folly is for wise men to say nothing.' The Strathclyde Bailiffs may descend on the Finlays' garden temple at any time. for this reason some urgency attaches to the Friends' appeal. Contributions may be sent c/o PN Review or to the New Arcadians account (number 705 62 52), Lloyds Bank Ltd., Bradford University Branch, 45 Great Horton Road, Bradford BD7 1AZ, Yorkshire. Those wishing further details should write to the Friends of Stonypath Garden, 40 North View, Wilsden, Bradford, Yorkshire.
After the publication of British Poetry since 1970 by Carcanet, Martin Booth wrote critically of the bibliography. It was decided to ask Mr Booth to compile, at six-monthly intervals, a comprehensive bibliography of new British poetry for publication in PNR and ultimately in British Poetry since 1980. The bibliography should be of use to general readers and librarians. Mr Booth will attempt to include details of large and small press publications. Readers with suggestions and additions are invited to write to him c/o the PN Review office.
In the wake of a circular letter which he sent to several score of large and small houses, he received a substantial number of replies from publishers indignant that PNR or Carcanet should undertake this function. The chief objection, it appears, is that neither the magazine nor the Press has done enough for the Little Presses Movement; that both are narrowly based and perilously right-wing. The Press has been publishing books for a dozen years, the magazine is in its seventh volume, and yet these virulent critics have never taken advantage of the post to air their grievances in our pages or with the Editorial staff. This- despite the fact that the magazine invited criticism four years ago. There is a hegemony of silence. We renew our invitation and declare our letters columns open to substantive discussion.
The NEWCASTLE FESTIVAL OF MUSIC AND ARTS runs from September through November. The literary highpoints seem to be John Fowles, Melvyn Bragg ('one of Britain's most talented novelists'), Anthony Burgess and Seamus Heaney (each at £1.00); John McGahern and Richard Murphy, together, are 80p; Geoffrey Hill and C. H. Sisson, together, are 70p-but on a Saturday night. Jon Silkin is talking about poets of the war, for 50p. In what George Steiner refers to as the bourse,' these price variations are enigmatic market indicators.
In PNR 17 'News & Notes' we briefly described the work of MENARD PRESS. Its most recent publication is only at first glance a departure from the policy we suggested emerged from the list. 'Science Advisers, Scientific Advisers and Nuclear Weapons' by Lord Zuckerman (90p from 23 Fitzwarren Gardens, London N19) is part of Menard's commitment to 'the prevention of nuclear or other catastrophe'. 'The Menard Press, while continuing to publish literary texts, intends to participate in this essential work'. Lord Zuckerman's pamphlet is the first of several publications on this vexed subject. Lord Zuckerman's point of departure is C. P. Snow's controversial Godkin Lectures (Science and Government) and the Rede Lecture which led to the controversy with F. R. Leavis, 'The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution'. He raises issues of confidence, control and secrecy of the greatest moment.
For a subscription of £3.00 to 28 Catterick Road, Didsbury, Manchester M20 OHJ, MEGAPHONE, the new quarterly, is available. Edited by John Ash and Paul Edwards, it is a magazine already showing a distinctive character. Roy Fisher contributes 'Irreversible', a charming poem about the power of misprints; Andrew Crozier, David Gascoyne and others have sent valuable work ; the translations of Elytis and Aspenstrom are readable, the criticism and reviews are informal and enthusiastic. It seems a generous enterprise, marred perhaps by its graphics, but, even despite the quality of the typesetting, a welcome and rather eccentric addition to the world of little magazines.
Kathleen Raine is publishing a new magazine, TEMENOS, from 47 Paulton's Square, London SW3. Her editorial advisers include Philip Sherrard, Jonathan Griffin and Rafael Nadal. The first issue features translations from the French-notably of work by the late Henri Corbin; articles on David Jones and Angelos Sikelianos, Griffin's translations of Jean Mambrino, etc.
The first number of TWOFOLD (15 rue Neuve Popincourt, 75011 Paris) appeared in June, including Hans Bosma's versions of Trakl, French and English poetry, translations of Hopkins and Yeats into French, and extracts from Benjamin Fondane's Ulysse. The editors are Hans Bosma, Nina Bogin, Stephen Romer and Eric Freedman.
YVES DE BAYSER was awarded this year's Prix Mallarmé for his book Inscrire (Granit, 35 f.). Bayser, a translator of Keats and of Yeats, has been active for the last thirty-five years, contributing to journals such as Fouchet's Fontaine, Cahiers du Sud the Mercure de France, Botteghe Oscure, and others.
To mark Sir Roland Penrose's eightieth birthday, the Arts Council are reissuing (in facsimile) his 'image diary' of the 1939 journey through the Balkans which he made with his wife. In their leisure moments readers are sometimes engaged by what the General Editor of this journal has termed the 'perpetuated misprint'. This refers to a misprint occurring in the first edition of some famous work and never subsequently corrected. Sometimes these PMs are of little consequence; sometimes they are highly comic, and always they carry with them the anarchic suggestion that the famous book in question, though continually bought, is not much, or not carefully, read.
One such PM occurred in Edmund Wilson's Axel's Castle (1931). Wilson quotes Laforgue's remark about the lines of yew trees expressing infinite sadness. But instead of les files (for 'lines') it came out as les filles ('daughters') and for nearly forty years the sad daughters of the yew trees appeared in edition after edition. How many theses they must have engendered, those tragic females! In 1970 I decided at last to put them out of their misery and wrote to Fontana who were currently perpetuating them. To my polite letter I got no reply but in Fontana's next impression (May 1971) the misprint had at last vanished, which is all I really wanted.
A PS to this story of a PM is that, when four years later Mr Frank Kermode, Fontana editor, wrote somewhere on a related theme, I mentioned to him those daughters of the yew trees-but the friendly PC I received from King's College, Cambridge, gave little sign of remorse, expressing only amusement that England was fast becoming 'a nation of textual editors'.
PNR invites its readers to become textual editors and to send the General Editor (for publication in these columns) examples of their favourite PMs.
Fans of Hibernia magazine, one of the most consistently engaging, open and readable of Irish news-and-cultural journals, will have been briefly apprehensive at the announcement that Hibernia as they know it ceased publication on 16 October. However, the news is not bad, for it is closing down only in order to open up again in a new format-calling itself The Sunday Tribune-and increasing its print run from the already ambitious 28,000 to 110,000, at least to start with. Hibernia has always found at least four large pages per issue for reviews and commentary on new books. This is a tradition we hope The Sunday Tribune will maintain. The Hibernia Literary Editor, Nuala O'Farrell, remains at her desk, and the address is unchanged: 4, Beresford Place, Dublin 1.
After careful advance publicity, Gay News launched a literary supplement on 2 October as part of their 200th issue. They have evidently judged that sufficient books on homosexual themes and sufficient buyers now exist to sustain a supplement, and that publishers will choose to reach this 'market' with advertisements in that quarter.
The POETRY BOOK SOCIETY has announced its choice and recommendations for Christmas 1980. The choice is Alan Brownjohn's A Night in the Gazebo (Secker & Warburg) and the two recommendations are The Illusionists by John Fuller- who has become remarkably prolific of late-(also Seeker); and Gerda Meyer's Monkey on the Analyst's Couch (Ceolfrith).
The Arts Council has decided to phase out its scheme of providing free subscriptions to select magazines to public and institutional libraries in Britain. The magazines affected include this one. At least five hundred of our subscriptions are supplied under this useful programme.
The scheme was mooted long ago at the Arts Council and implemented about four years back. It was of immense benefit to all concerned: the library was able to keep up-to-date on cultural journals; its readers had access to the best new writing and criticism; the magazines were able to increase their print run and their readership and to pay their contributors better fees; and contributors had a wider readership. The scheme was similar to one practised in Scandinavia, but rather more careful and discriminating. However, the Arts Council- despite the success and popularity of the scheme-have chosen to phase it out (by a complex mechanism of half-payments and fractional refunds) on a point of principle: it wishes to avoid 'open-ended commitments' of this sort which 'tie up' funds year after year. There may perhaps be a touch of monetarism in the decision, too: 'people ought to pay if they want it' and 'everybody should be subject to the disciplines of the market'. The problem is that, just as Libraries are not 'people' and, for the most part, are not profit-making concerns, so too Magazines of the sort that have benefited from the scheme are not likely to survive within the disciplines of the market. The Arts Council will continue-we are told-to subsidize select magazines as they have in the past. Yet how much better than that is support through sales, which benefits the literary community at large. Perhaps the scheme will be re-introduced when the effect of its termination is felt by libraries and readers. The editors and writers have already registered their alarm. It was, after all, one of the undisputedly successful schemes initiated in the area of literature by the Arts Council.
Journalists have been turning a good deal of attention on the publishing of poetry in recent months. The Birmingham Post-which always finds space for poetry reviewing-ran an informative report by Keith Brace, the literary editor, asking whether perhaps too much poetry was not being published. He established that one leading London publisher (unnamed) claims to lose £1000 per volume of poetry produced, but bravely continues producing. He also discovered that Faber and Faber are becoming increasingly active in the area where their pre-eminence was for so many years unchallenged, and that they admit that their list is profitable (which it should be). Generally, the large and smaller presses are rather dazed by changes in the cost of printing, the active poetry-reading public, and the recession. There is an air of caution-but not a marked decrease in the number of new titles published.
This item is taken from PN Review 18, Volume 7 Number 4, March - April 1981.