By the light of the log fire, the poet leant back. ‘You’ve met my sons, have you?’ he inquired in a husky drawl. ‘They all play rugby for England.’ This was two decades ago, and my mind drew a blank. The poet was George Barker (1913–91), and he was reputed to have fifteen children. Did they constitute a team? It seemed an uncomfortable prospect: The Barkers versus The World.
Ten years after his death, when my biography of Barker appeared, some facts had sorted themselves out. ‘Rugby for England’ had been schoolboy seven-a-side. The player sons were Christopher (1943– ), photographer and portraitist of poets, and Sebastian, himself a poet, now editor of the London Magazine. Both are products