Cyril Connolly was always fascinated by the ways in which writers scraped a living. Shortly after the end of the war he sent a questionnaire to various eminent authors asking them what jobs or means of earning money were most compatible with the literary life, and published their answers in Horizon. Connolly himself recommended a rich wife: a common ideal among his less worldly contributors was a job, preferably manual, which wasn’t too exhausting, left the mind free, and didn’t compete with the business of writing. Wood-turning and vegetable-growing were among those mentioned, I seem to remember. None suggested a job in publishing, so confirming Connolly’s own belief that the enemy of promise was not so much the pram in the hall as work in what he termed ‘cultural diffusion’ – publishing, journalism, broadcasting, the British Council and other agreeable, convivial and literate activities which brought one into contact with writers and could all too easily become a substitute for writing itself.
Despite such warnings, publishing houses inevitably include among their staff an above-average number of would-be writers, part-time writers and writers manqués. Every now and then one of them moves to the other side of the desk, and becomes a full-time writer – myself among them. Most of them, no doubt,