THE MORE ONE reads about, or by, Benjamin Britten, the more perplexing he becomes. He remains perhaps the only genius British music has produced in modern times, a man who by his mid-twenties was writing works of an originality and brilliance that make him the equal of any composer in history. Yet, no doubt because of this, he possessed a self-centredness and an egotism that make him at times seem almost repulsive. He could be a man of great personal generosity and kindliness: yet he would dump people - they called themselves 'corpses' - who were no longer of any use to him on his mission. He had an instinctive rapport with children, but seems to have found many adults unfathomable.
All these traits are exhibited in this third volume of his letters. as they were in the first two. This is the time after Britten has become internationally famous, with the success of Peter Grimes in 1945. They are years in which, while consolidating his own career, he supports his