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This article is taken from PN Review 2, Volume 4 Number 2, January - March 1978.

A Note on Julian Orde Abercrombie David Wright


The present number of PNR prints a selection of poems by Julian Orde Abercrombie (1917-74). What follows is not a critical exegesis but a form of personal memoir and appreciation.


ABOUT A year after her death, Julian Orde's daughter Emily Abercrombie sent me all she could find of her mother's manuscript verse. I knew Julian's poetry, of which I had read a good deal in the forties, but while admiring some, had not taken it seriously. Jill of all trades, she wrote radio plays and long-short stories for the Third Programme (London suburban life seen from an angle a little askew, a surrealistic realism like Kafka's or Elias Canetti's), besides being an actress, both on the stage and on radio. Later she became one of the best copywriters at Olgilvy and Mather; later still, she took up photography, and won a Sunday Times award; and last of all, painting, when she filled her house with brilliant flower-canvases, till one hardly knew where the sitting-room ended and the long garden behind the bay windows began. At least that is how I remember it one summer evening in 1974 when my wife and I, en route for Cumberland, escaped the afternoon traffic-crawl up the Finchley Road by paying an unexpected call on Julian at her home in Lyndale Avenue. We had never seen her look so beautiful. Three weeks later she was dead.

Emily's parcel-a bundle of notebooks, a coloured scrapbook of poems ...


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