Dreaming of Babylon: The Life and Times of Ralph Hodgson by John Harding - review by P J Kavanagh

P J Kavanagh

The Muse and the Mastiff

Dreaming of Babylon: The Life and Times of Ralph Hodgson


Greenwich Exchange 226pp £16.95

In the first decades of the twentieth century, the loose group that came later to be labelled 'The Georgians' all knew each other: poets, painters, editors, critics (there seemed enviably little rivalry among them) all met regularly and lengthily at little restaurants and tearooms. At the centre, for no very clear reason, was the poet Ralph Hodgson.

He had not published much verse. Nowadays he is chiefly known for his anthology pieces – ‘Time, you old gypsy man/Will you not stay,’ and ‘'Twould ring the bells of Heaven/The wildest peal for years’. They are as memorable as nursery rhymes, with a relish of mystery, unmysteriously expressed:

Reason has moons, but moons not hers,

     Lie mirror'd on her sea,

Confounding her astronomers,

     But, O! delighting me.

It seems that Hodgson even chose where these Georgians met. An early rendezvous was Eustace Miles's vegetarian restaurant near Leicester Square. Enid Bagnold insists that they were not vegetarians but gathered there because the place tolerated Hodgson's constant companion, his bull terrier. What they all talked about is uncertain. Hodgson's main interest was dogs. He told Siegfried Sassoon that Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch ‘was

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