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This review is taken from PN Review 17, Volume 7 Number 3, January - February 1981.

RENAISSANCE MAN Michael Roberts, Selected Poems and Prose, ed. Frederick Grubb (Carcanet) £7.95

This welcome collection should revive interest in an altogether remarkable personality who died in 1948 after a tragically truncated but enormously fruitful career as poet, critic, philosopher, anthologist, educator, scientific and social commentator, pioneer ecologist, wartime intelligence man for the BBC and, in the grand litero-athletic tradition of Leslie Stephen, fanatical mountaineer. Michael Roberts, dead at 46, drew an eloquent tribute from T. S. Eliot, fortunately reprinted in this book. Roberts's widow, Janet Adam Smith, introducing his Collected Poems a decade later, portrayed him as an explorer relentlessly prodding those around him in the direction of a greater intensity of life and awareness. His poetry is suffused with this spirit, and to read the considerable body of his work in verse and prose and about his own fiercely energetic life is an exhilarating experience.

Roberts is most widely remembered today as editor of The Faber Book of Modern Verse. Noting another of his still familiar editorial achievements, the celebrated New Signatures anthology, G. S. Fraser called him an elder brother figure to the Auden-Spender circle. But Roberts was by no means a typical thirties man. On the contrary, he transcended the age, a fact well demonstrated by this new selection, from which he emerges as a writer of enduring intelligence and relevance. In the thirties, he went his own way. He criticized Eliot for political aloofness in a decade of desperate need and looked forward eagerly to the elimination of private profit-seeking and to due representation for ...


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