Letters From a Life: The Selected Letters and Diaries of Benjamin Britten Vols One & Two 1923-1945 by Donald Mitchell & Philip Reed (eds) - review by Patrick O’Connor

Patrick O’Connor

Too Many B…s

Letters From a Life: The Selected Letters and Diaries of Benjamin Britten Vols One & Two 1923-1945

By

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In his introduction, itself a short book, Donald Mitchell invokes that old devil Freud to be a witness at the dismembering of Benji Britten’s young self: ‘If a man has been his mother’s undisputed darling he retains throughout life the triumphant feeling, the confidence in success, which not seldom brings actual success with it.’

Mrs Britten, ambitious for her son to be the ‘Fourth B’ – after Bach, Beethoven and Brahms – wilful, controlling his friendships and study, or so witnesses remember her, is the first recipient of Britten’s affectionate gush; Peter Pears is the second. His way of addressing them is somewhat similar,

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