Many Walks of Life by D J Taylor

D J Taylor

Many Walks of Life

 

The first literary biography I ever read, back in 1977, was Christopher Sykes’s life of Evelyn Waugh. Even at the age of sixteen, I seem to remember, I had my doubts, impressed, on the one hand, by what the book clearly gained from the author’s friendship with his subject, yet puzzled, on the other, by the emollience of the tone and the reluctance to confront one or two of the, shall we say, more challenging aspects of Waugh’s personality. Subsequently, and by degrees, the path led to Marie-Jacqueline Lancaster’s Brian Howard: Portrait of a Failure (1968) and David Newsome’s wonderful biography of A C Benson, On the Edge of Paradise (1980).

Both these books turned out to be very different from each other and also from Sykes’s. The Howard biography is a work by many hands in which those reminiscing sketch out the (non-)career of a legendary interwar-era scamp whose countless schemes for literary advancement perished on the vine of

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