Richard Davenport-Hines

Lodging with Old Possum

Tarantula’s Web: John Hayward, T S Eliot and Their Circle

By

Michael Russell 343pp £19.95 order from our bookshop

Who was John Hayward, and does he deserve a full-length biography, readers may ask? The first answer is that Hayward, who died in 1965 at the age of sixty, was a disabled bookman who created a South Kensington salon centred on T S Eliot in the 1930s, and shared a Chelsea flat with Eliot from 1946 until the poet’s second marriage 11 years later. The second response is that John Smart has written a biography of grace and charm, without any padding, but invoking a metropolitan literary London in which sumptuously well-read and mentally disciplined men and women wrote first-rate and enduring books. Smart does not flinch from the unpleasant aspects of Hayward’s temperament, but he is a generous and gentle biographer who, one imagines, wrote this book with a worldly smile.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • With our February issue about to go to press, enjoy a slice of LR history - Hilary Mantel on Joan Haslip's biograph… ,
    • What did London look like in the 6th Century? Rory Naismith's 'Citadel of the Saxons' tries to answer that questi… ,
    • Start your week with a dose of Russian Revolutionary zeal. Donald Rayfield reviews Tobie Mathew's 'Greetings From t… ,
    • A treat from the LR Archive: exactly 20 years ago, Malcolm Bradbury reviewed John Updike's 'Bech at Bay' ,
    • ‘When bullets come close, the noise they make as they go past changes from a zing to a crack’ John Lanchester's dy… ,
    • Man with a Bloody Paintbrush: Robin Simon on Lucian Freud ,
    • Jane Ridley reviews The Diaries of Kenneth Rose (ed. D R Thorpe) ,