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This article is taken from PN Review 222, Volume 41 Number 4, March - April 2015.

On Stanley Middleton Philip Davis
Stanley Middleton died in 2009, aged 89. Between 1960 and 2008 he published 44 novels of provincial realism, including the Booker Prize-winning Holiday in 1974. He had toilingly waited a long time to get published, finally under Hutchinson’s ‘New Author’ series. His last and forty-fifth novel, A Cautious Approach, I edited for publication in 2010. There remains a typescript in need of revision entitled Old Age and Poetry.

It is a significant title, though it may come as a surprise to Middleton’s admirers that he wrote poetry not only in old age but throughout his life. Nearing the end, he gave me six exercise books, containing his poems written out in spidery but precise blue-ink handwriting. (Once, he told me, when, unusually for him, he was away from home and about to write the last pages of a novel, he found his fountain pen had run out of ink: he had to top it up, unfussily, from the tap. Like Keats, he said, his name was ‘writ in water’.)   

The exercise books are headed ‘S. Middleton Poems’ and dated ‘1941–50’, ‘1951–76’, ‘1976–87’, ‘1987–92’, ‘1992–95’, and ‘1995– ’ (the dash there says everything). Each poem is precisely dated and the last entry is 23–24 October 2006. He told me to do with the poems what I liked, adding, with characteristic diffidence, thar somebody might be interested in them. I am now making a selection for publication, and the seven poems that follow are an early view, including poems of old age and mortality from the later years. ...

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