Edward Upward: Art and Life by Peter Stansky - review by Richard Canning

Richard Canning

Onward & Sideways

Edward Upward: Art and Life

By

Enitharmon Press 368pp £25 order from our bookshop
 

This timely book reacquaints us with one of the most commonly mentioned but rarely read ‘nearly men’ of literary history. Edward Upward’s imprint on 20th-century British literature was almost entirely indirect. Upward (1903–2009) was befriended by Christopher Isherwood at Repton, where the latter, his junior by a year, evidently idolised him. Isherwood’s fictional memoir Lions and Shadows (1938), in which Upward features as Allen Chalmers, records this: ‘Never in my life have I been so strongly and immediately attracted to any personality, before or since. Everything about him appealed to me. He was a natural anarchist, a born romantic revolutionary; I was an upper-middle-class Puritan, cautious, a bit stingy, with a stake in the land.’

Later at Cambridge, Upward and Isherwood collaborated on the Mortmere Stories, dark, gothic and sensually transgressive tales about an imaginary and sinister English village. The Mortmere writings were circulated among friends but remained unpublished until 1994, eight years after Isherwood’s death; Upward destroyed many of them in the

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