Unlike Robin Daniels, who confesses to having been under the ‘Cardusian’ spell since boyhood, my relationship with Neville Cardus falls somewhat short of idolatry. Indeed I’m a little suspicious of a book which comes prefaced by six pages of tributes along the lines of ‘a magically observant writer … such magnificently sculpted prose’ (from Sir Nicholas Kenyon, no slouch himself), and follows up with forewords from Colin Davis and Daniel Barenboim, plus cricketers Dennis Silk and Andrew Flintoff. Had I been his editor I would have assured Daniels that four forewords is three too many and that there was no need to feel insecure: Cardus’s reputation is assured. After all, he was knighted, the only music critic in the twentieth century to receive that honour. Perhaps more people knew him for his cricket writing, though Daniels allots only forty pages, less than a tenth of the book, to examples of the master’s evocation of the mellow sounds of leather on willow. That’s because what he is concerned with here, beneath the disguise of a ‘memoir’, is nothing less than a comprehensive primer on the very nature of criticism.
Yet the book certainly is a memoir in that Daniels, in true Boswellian fashion, recalls Cardus’s sayings on almost every page and never without a tribute to the master’s linguistic mastery, his personal modesty, how he wore his knowledge lightly and so on. One chapter analysing him is