A Waste of Spirit

Review of The Cambridge Quarterly Leavis Special Issue, Vol. 25 No 4 1996, published in Leavis. Dr Mackillop and ‘The Cambridge Quarterly’ (Brynmill 1998).

Richard Stotesbury

They wept like anything to see
Such quantities of sand:
‘If this were only cleared away,’
They said, ‘it would be grand.’

To say that The Cambridge Quarterly’s F.R. Leavis Special Issue, [1] occasioned by the publication of Ian MacKillop’s biography, makes depressing reading on the whole is an understatement. True, there are some bright exceptions to the general run of the contributions. But these bits of gold ore are comparatively few; and for the most part the symposium contains such quantities of sand that it makes one want to weep like anything..

One of the things that stands out about the symposium is the way in which highly subjective attitudes tend to take the place of an impersonal interest in Leavis. This is encouraged by the editorial policy described in the introductory note. The editors explain that ‘rather than add to the many reviews which (Mackillop’s) book has had’ they felt that ‘they could perform a better service by inviting those who would be able to serve as witnesses either to the accuracy of Dr MacKillop’s facts, or to the effect on their own lives of so strong an influence’; and accordingly ‘with no pretensions either to be complete or to be perfectly representative, (they) wrote to a large number of people who had known Leavis, asking whether they would be willing to contribute to a Symposium, conceived in such terms, on the biography and by extension on its subject’. [2] This is an accommodatingly broad approach; and in the circumstances, it is very important to be clear just what kind of evidence is being presented. All too often, what appears to be unbiased testimony turns out to have been coloured by the private motives and vested interests of the contributors. The most notable case in point is the group of articles that deal with the F.R. Leavis Lectureship Trust and the foundation of The Cambridge Quarterly. Here, the underlying intention, whether conscious or not, is to prosecute an old grievance; and the descriptions of events and their significance that the reader is invited to accept are inevitably weighed against Leavis. As comparatively little space is given to Leavis’s defence, [3] there is a disturbing lack of balance about the proceedings; and it is therefore only right and fair to consider what might be said on his side.

The case against Leavis is put by R.D. Gooder and John Newton, both of whom were moving spirits in the creation of the F.R. Leavis Lectureship Trust and the foundation of The Cambridge Quarterly, assisted by their editorial colleagues Geoff Ward and Felicity Rosslyn, [4] with David Holbrook as an expert witness whose credentials are, unfortunately, not disclosed. Eve Mason offers corroborating evidence. Leavis is basically accused of privately approving H.A. Mason’s permanent appointment to the lectureship instituted in his name and then publicly disowning him, lying in order to avoid a domestic quarrel to the discomfiture and immense distress of colleagues and friends who had simply wished to honour him and carry out his wishes; and simultaneously denouncing The Cambridge Quarterly, which ‘had been started with his blessing and encouragement’, [5] in a fit of pique when he discovered it was not a mouthpiece for his views. These claims are presented by Dr Gooder and Dr Newton, supported by Mrs Mason; while Professor Ward and Dr Rosslyn testify to Leavis’s malevolent influence; and Dr Holbrook explains the pathological nature of his character and personality. The overall view of Leavis that emerges is of a gifted but utterly impossible individual: a bully with a sadistic delight in his destructive powers yet too cowardly to stand up to a shrewish wife, devious and manipulative, operating double standards in his life and work, and afflicted with a deep psychological disorder. This picture is used to undermine and discredit his critical achievement by a process of association. What justification there is for it must be considered; and it seems best to begin with the lesser pieces by Professor Ward, Dr Rosslyn and Dr Holbrook, concluding with the more important ones in which Dr Gooder, Dr Newton and Mrs Mason set out their allegations.

At the outset of his piece, [6] Professor Ward admits that he only heard F.R. Leavis ‘once, in…(his) final undergraduate year’. However, he not only ‘got the lot’ that evening, but found that ‘facets of personality that generally emerge on deepening acquaintance presented themselves with thudding immediacy’ in Leavis’s case. On this basis he tenders the view ‘that (Leavis) had no sense of humour whatsoever’ while possessing’ articulate venom…by the sackful’. Professor Ward is careful to emphasize the open-mindedness with which he came to listen to Leavis. He avers that none of those present, (himself) included, had much or any (my italics) knowledge of the falling out between Leavis and the editors of The Cambridge Quarterly’, while scrupulously acknowledging that ‘two of them, Richard Gooder and John Newton, (were) fellows of Clare’, the college in which he was enrolled. One can only wonder at such ignorance (at Clare of all places!) of this much-publicized quarrel. Moreover, as Leavis’s talk had been organized by ‘an American, over on a one year scholarship…on condition, first, that he be smuggled into College under cover of darkness, and second, that no fellows were to be invited’, the lack of curiosity displayed by Professor Ward and his fellow students about the reason for these extraordinary precautions seems try astonishing.

Dr Rosslyn’s [7] ‘one direct contact with Leavis’ was when she wrote to him as a schoolgirl ‘fulminating against the tedium of The Bostonians,’ and received ‘a very courteous reply saying that in five years’ time (she) might read the book differently’. Her ‘other encounter with (him) was with the wraith who passed (her) near a fruit stall on the market years later’, when she decided he was ‘clearly of the order of fierce ghosts one does not address’. How the world-famous critic, who had, with remarkable kindness and patience, taken the time and trouble to reply to an immature letter from an opinionated adolescent could have been transformed into this frightening spectre is made transparently clear. Dr Rosslyn explains that on coming up to Cambridge she ‘found (herself) amongst the group of convalescents from the Leavis Lectureship explosion’, and spells out the significance of this herself when she observes in another context that’ young people have to be sensitive to power, since it is the clue to their survival’. Here, in her new milieu she discovered ‘that Leavis taught one set of values, but lived by another’, with the result that her ‘prevailing sensation connected with him’ became one of ‘shame’. The depths of duplicity that Dr Rosslyn finds in Leavis are truly awesome. In an account that combines a curious echo of Proust’s homosexuals [8] with hints of the Branch Davidians, he is exposed as ‘the leader of a vast Freemasonry which recognized itself not by handclasps, but by a peculiar intonation of the word “Life!”’, whose ‘strange goings-on’ were those of ‘an increasingly unmanageable cult’. He recruited the young, using ‘(his) links with schoolmasters’ to give him ‘a grip on students at their most vulnerable period of development.’ His goodwill was a ruse for ensnaring his victims, whom he ruled by terror, teaching them ‘that the penalties for error were absolute’ and creating ‘fear in the midst of bounty’. Having indoctrinated them, he sent them out to spread ‘contagion,’ with devastating effects. All over the academic world, decades of Leavisites suicidally ‘exploded like landmines, rocking their institutions and terminating their own careers’. This has all the hallmarks of a good thriller; and as the evil genius always turns out to be mad in such cases, it comes as no surprise at all to her that Leavis was ‘paranoid’. The allegation of insanity is developed in somewhat different form, and at considerable length, by Dr Holbrook.

No useful purpose would be served by following the twists and turns of Dr Holbrook’s tediously diffuse discussion. [9] The gist of it is that ‘Leavis was insane’. In contrast to Dr Rosslyn, who calls Leavis’s condition ‘paranoid’ and interprets this fairly loosely, Dr Holbrook classifies it as ‘schizoid’ and intends the term to be understood in a strict sense. Since Dr Holbrook is proposing to deal with technical questions of psychopathology, it is not unreasonable to expect him to be qualified for the job. Unfortunately, all the indications are that he is not. The dated studies he relies on (his primary source, W.D. Fairbain, is described as ‘Consultant Neuropsychiatrist to the Ministry of Pensions’ c.1941!) point to a static amateur interest in the subject; and the Aristotle-Hath-Said spirit in which they are cited reflects the deference of the layman towards real professionals. In view of this, it is prudent to approach his clinical pronouncements with extreme caution, always bearing in mind that they are answerable to the test of common reason and sense. What immediately strikes one about them is the generous flexibility of their key term and the extensiveness of the class it picks out. Dr Holbrook presents ‘Blake, Swift, Henry James, T.S. Eliot, Dickens, James Joyce and D.H. Lawrence’ (there is a special dispensation for Shakespeare who ‘of course is everything and unfathomable’) as schizoid individuals, with the assurance that ‘to be one is a great advantage to a student of literature’. Wittgenstein is also declared schizoid, along with Mrs Leavis and more or less the entire academic community. Not only is the category of ‘the schizoid’ made to cover those who are attracted to ‘intellectual pursuits…literary, artistic, scientific or otherwise’, on the strength of Fairbain; it is also ‘found to include a high percentage of fanatics, agitators, revolutionaries, and other disruptive elements’, according to the same authority. Dr Holbrook quotes Fairbain to the effect that ‘the schizoid group…is a very comprehensive one’, and it is impossible not to reflect that this is a considerable understatement. However, the full extent of it only becomes apparent when Fairbain is said to have admitted that ‘if we follow his analysis, everybody without exception must be regarded as schizoid’. By this time, it is patently obvious that Dr Holbrook cannot be taken seriously. Pathological explanations of behaviour are appropriate only when normative or rational ones are unavailable.  Whatever significance can be attached to Fairbain’s use of ‘schizoid’ in its original context, it is evident that the expression is meaningless as Dr Holbrook employs it. In his incontinent hands it ceases to be a description of a specific form of deranged behaviour (if, indeed, it ever was one), and becomes a synonym for any human trait or disposition he cares to mention. Its only function is to invest Dr Holbrook with a spurious air of detachment, which provides a cover for his real aim of undermining and discrediting Leavis. This unwholesome blend of intellectual obfuscation and emotional dishonesty leaves a particularly nasty taste; and it is relief to turn to the clear-eyed antagonism of Leavis’s principal accusers.

At first sight, the essential case against Leavis seems to hinge on whether he lied about Mason’s appointment; and this, in turn, appears to be a simple question of fact. However, the impression of straightforwardness turns out to be delusive on closer inspection. It is not only that the charge of lying is based on ambiguous and inconclusive testimony, which requires careful analysis to separate fact from speculation and surmise. Even assuming, for the sake of argument, that it is in some sense true, the possibility of mitigating circumstances would still have to be considered and the rights and wrongs of the affair judged on balance. Also, it is necessary to decide what importance the episode has in relation to Leavis’s total achievement. M.B. Mencher says in his contribution to the symposium that its ‘most serious defect…is the disproportionately large amount of space given to the F.R. Leavis Lectureship Trust controversy’, which ‘when set in the context of Leavis’s long whole “life in criticism” seems a not very momentous affair’, [11] This criticism applies, mutatis mutandis, to the tendency of his fellow symposiasts to dismiss Leavis’s entire life and work on the strength of allegations about his conduct in the matter of the Trust, challenging their assumption that the connection they wish to make is self-evident and does not need to be argued.

A synoptic look at the testimony offered by Dr Gooder, Dr Newton and Mrs Mason to prove that Leavis lied shows that it is not identical. Dr Newton’s is the fullest and most categorical statement. He begins with the assurance that the Trust raised funds on the understanding that Leavis would have ‘the power of veto over any and every proposed appointment to any eventual Lectureship’, and then describes how ‘a wealthy private Trust asked the Secretary of the F.R. Leavis Lectureship Trust (myself) whether, if it contributed the large sum that, added to the other contributions that were being received, would be enough to create a full-time Lectureship, Harold Mason could be the first person appointed to the post’. Dr Newton says he ‘passed this enquiry-cum-offer on to the Chairman of the Trustees…and he instructed me to tell Leavis of it and ask whether he would approve of that appointment’. As regards his observance of these instructions, he is emphatic: ‘Leavis was duly told and asked, and gave his approval’. However he does allow that ‘through amateurishness some useful formalities were missing’. Firstly, all relevant correspondence appears to have been ‘hand-written, not typed with carbon copies’, including ‘the letter in which I told Leavis of that enquiry-cum-offer and asked him on their Chairman’s behalf whether he would like it accepted’. Secondly, Leavis’s approval was obtained ‘orally, not in any form of writing’. These omissions show a degree of reckless imprudence in the Trustees, given that they had ‘bound themselves over’ when raising funds in his name to ensure that he was fully satisfied with any proposed appointment.

Dr Gooder [13] admits that ‘it was obvious after the fact that some written confirmation ought to have been sent to Leavis, and his written approval sought’. He says this shows the Trustees were ‘culpably naïve’; and promptly proceeds to neutralize any suggestion of fault on their part by explaining that ‘at the time it would have seemed indelicate’ to have wanted Leavis to state his views in writing, and ‘we thought we were working in an atmosphere of trust’. Like Dr Newton, he insists that Leavis ‘knew what the Trust intended…(and) who its candidate was’, roundly asserting that his ‘subsequent denial…was a sickening lie’. By way of confirming this, he explains that Leavis had been a frequent visitor to his house. Although they ‘never talked much about the Trust, because Morris Shapira advised against it, and it seemed to embarrass Leavis (for reasons of modesty, we thought)’, the Trustees did ‘want to know who would be his candidate were the funds to be raised’. They ‘were given Leavis’s explicit re-assurance that “Mason is the only candidate”’. Dr Gooder also describes how in the course of a visit to Mason, who was ‘making up his mind about whether or not to accept the Trust’s offer of its lectureship’, he was asked ‘with unusual pointedness whether I knew what Leavis thought about it’; and observes that ‘it was with some relief that I was able to confirm Leavis’s stated support’.

At this point, the evidence of Mrs Mason [14] becomes crucially important. Mrs Mason says that her husband ‘certainly assumed (my italics) Leavis was in the know’, pointing out that ‘there had been many friendly letters from Leavis’ which seemed to show ‘that a worthwhile relationship between the two men would be possible’. She then states her ‘impression (my italics)…that Leavis knew that the planned lectureship was to be permanent and that H.A.M. was to be appointed’, scrupulously adding that ‘no doubt an element of “everybody heard what they wanted to hear”, as MacKillop puts it, played a part’. The italicized expressions, together with Mrs Mason’s concluding remark, make it clear as daylight that Leavis’s positon with regard to the appointment was for her and her husband a matter of surmise. In view of this, what can be made of Dr Gooder’s assertion that he ‘was able to confirm Leavis’s stated support’ to Mason? It is plain that what Mason heard was not enough to convince him of Leavis’s approval; and this casts doubt on whether the ‘explicit re-assurance’ really was as clear and decisive as Dr Gooder suggests. Equally, a question mark has to be put against Dr Newton’s claim that he had Leavis’s ‘unequivocal statement of approval’ of Masons’s appointment. Bearing in mind that the Trust had placed itself under a strict obligation to obtain Leavis’s approval, is it not reasonable to expect Dr Newton to have clarified this point to Mason’s satisfaction when offering him the lectureship? Yet, on Dr Gooder’s showing, Mason did not know what to expect from Leavis ‘when he was making up his mind whether or not to accept the Trust’s offer’, and was worried. The ‘unusual pointedness’ of his enquiry surely reflects anxiety about how the appointment would be received; not some general concern about Leavis’s attitude towards ’memorial gestures’, as Dr Gooder seems to have imagined. [15]

Dr MacKillop’s biography contains an important account of a chance meeting between Mason and Leavis some time after the Trust’s offer had been made and accepted. Mason ‘behaved…so oddly’ that he appeared to be drunk because ‘he was in any agony of embarrassment, having realized that Leavis did not know that the Trust’s lectureship was permanent’. [16] This not only corroborates the implicit suggestion in Mrs Mason’s testimony that the Trustees had obtained no clear assurance of Leavis’s consent when offering her husband the lectureship, but also indicates that even if it had, it would have been rendered void by his ignorance of a key fact about the appointment. [17] However, Mr Salingar, who was one of the original Trustees, asserts that Leavis did know the full details of Mason’s appointment. He quotes MacKillop’s reference to a missing letter from Leavis to Roy Littlewood ‘that appeared to show approval of Mason’s permanent appointment’ and declares that he is able ‘to support the substance of Littlewood’s claim.’ Nevertheless, what he actually offers is a vague account of a conversation with Leavis ‘in the Sidgwick Avenue Common Room’ while the English Faculty Board was considering its ‘attitude towards the Lectureship Trust’, when they ‘talked about the likelihood of Mason’s return to Cambridge as lecturer, to which Leavis then seemed to me quite favourable’. [18]. These flimsy impressions of a casual chat reveal nothing of substance about Leavis’s knowledge of the Trust’s offer; and, together with an unproducible document, [19] pose no serious challenge to Dr MacKillop’s version of events.

One way of approaching the puzzle about Leavis’s attitude towards Mason’s appointment is to consider the circumstances surrounding the whole affair. The Trust was born in the immediate aftermath of Leavis’s retirement, when powerful forces with the English Faculty were bent on obliterating every trace of his influence and he was fighting a losing battle at Downing to prevent ‘the destruction of a school of studies built over thirty years’. [20] At such a point in his career, the proposal from a group of close associates to raise funds for the express purpose of making ‘it possible for a full-time Lecturer in English to be appointed in Cambridge whose appointment he would have been glad of’ [21] would have seemed well-nigh irresistible, with the promise of continuity it extended. However, he clearly entertained reservations about them and their preferred candidate, Mason, which led him to hold back They are apparent in his palpable reluctance to welcome the Trust and associate himself with it.  It is against the background of these doubts that Dr Newton’s remarks about Leavis’s ‘original approval when the idea of the Lectureship Trust had first been broached to him’ and his ‘proviso…that he was not to be “known” to have anything to do with it’ have to be construed. Faced with a dilemma, Leavis evidently chose to let events develop of their own accord while remaining disengaged and non-committal; expecting the project to founder, but no doubt secretly hoping that by some miracle it might have a satisfactory outcome. Dr Gooder’s ‘we never talked about the Trust’ confirms this. That such talk ‘seemed to embarrass Leavis’ is not an indication of ‘modesty’, as he implies, but of the difficulty of refusing to be drawn in without seeming ungraciously dismissive about an apparent gesture of support.

In the light of this, the ‘explicit assurance’ Dr Gooder speaks of takes on a quite different significance to the one it first appears to have. Assuming that the words he quotes, ‘Mason is the only candidate’, are indeed Leavis’s, they appear to be not so much an enthusiastic endorsement of Mason as a wry acknowledgement of a lack of alternatives. What Dr Newton’s ‘unequivocal statement of approval’ really amounted to it is impossible to say; but there is no reason to suppose that his claim is any more well-founded than Dr Gooder’s. No doubt attempts were made to sound Leavis out at various times by members of the Trust. But, to quote Dr MacKillop, ‘Leavis was always courteously, or cannily, unspecific’; [22] and no hard evidence is available to show that his approval was ever forthcoming in any real sense. MacKillop’s penetrating comment that ‘the trustees, or core-members who were long-standing enthusiasts for Mason, had heard from Leavis what they wanted to hear’ [23] surely goes to the heart of the matter. The suspicious behaviour of the Trustees, the deplorable lack of openness and flagrant disregard for the need to maintain proper records, implies a weakness in their position, which Mason’s uncertainty also suggests.

Any attempt to take stock of the rights and wrongs of the affair must start from a recognition that the express purpose of the Trust was to honour Leavis and continue his work, and the Trustees were under a strict obligation to act accordingly. They were pledged to treat Leavis’s wishes as paramount, and the appointment of a lecturer as a subsidiary matter. In spite of this, providing for Mason’s future was a disproportionately high priority of the Trustees, who appear to have raised funds for the lectureship with the intention of giving him the newly created post. This is played down by Dr Newton when he describes in studiously neutral and businesslike language when he describes how ‘a wealthy private Trust’ approached him with an ‘enquiry-cum-offer’ which he ‘duly…passed on’. However, as MacKillop points out, the Newby trust had been found by Dr and Mrs Gooder; and it seems impossible to doubt that the donor was acting on the advice of the Trustees, or at least the ‘core-members’, in nominating Mason for the lectureship it was proposing to fund. Such a commitment to Mason points to a conflict, and raises the question of whether the Trust really was being managed for the benefit of Leavis.

What the ‘core-member’ of the Trust seem to have worked for was to bring Mason back to Cambridge as the spearhead of a new literary movement, in which they would have a leading role. This was to operate through the twin channels of the Trust’s lectureship and the mooted journal that eventually appeared as The Cambridge Quarterly. The prestige and influence of Leavis’s name were necessary to launch the enterprise. Without them there would have been no lectureship to provide the means for Mason’s return, or high profile publicity for the journal, which was being billed as the successor of Scrutiny. However, the ethos of the new movement did not sit easily with the intention of honouring Leavis or ensuring the continuance of his influence at Cambridge; and the tension between them inevitably led to a breach. Dr Gooder and Dr Newton present Leavis’s denunciation of the actions of the Trust as motivated by fear of displeasing his wife, whose reasons for disapproving of Mason are depicted as intense personal dislike arising from some nebulous ‘indiscretion’ of his many years earlier, jealousy of anyone close to her husband, and envy of the successes of others. These odious attempts to demonize Mrs Leavis are a smokescreen to hide the real source of the trouble. The truth is that the disagreement not only encompassed the lectureship appointment but also The Cambridge Quarterly, and was essentially literary. It seems likely that Leavis was tempted to flirt with Mason as a possible ally in the battle to save his work, while Mrs Leavis was always adamantly opposed to any such idea. But here can be no doubt that he finally came to see this as a mistake and to believe that he had been exploited for ends that were deeply inimical to his own cause.

Dr Newton explains the lack of congruence between Leavis’s views and those of the literary movement he was part of as a demonstration of independence. This was not only necessary because ‘personal pride’ required them to show the world at large that they were not ‘some kind of intellectual zombies’. It was also essential to dispose of ‘the damaging misrepresentation of the “English” school at Downing, whereby Leavis was depicted as closing his students’ minds’. Dr Newton goes on to insist that the ‘main reason why (he) felt so strongly about this slander’ was because of its unfairness ‘to the man (he) had actually worked with’; thus contriving to suggest in a rather sneaking Pecksniffian way that Leavis was to be undermined for his own good, if only he knew it, and from the highest motives! But disagreement is only desirable when there is something to oppose; and the suggestion that Leavis’s pupils and associates were required to reject his teaching simply to disprove the false allegation that they were brainwashed is a laughable sophistry. It is therefore fortunate that Dr Newton also believed that his criticisms were warranted, and can claim that his ‘main motive for arguing the disagreement (he) did ague was, of course, “the common pursuit of true judgement”’. However, this invites the question of how far disagreement can go before it becomes hostile, and ceases to be compatible with the maintenance of a common position.

If Dr Newton and his associates had elected to dissociate themselves from Leavis and go their own way, they would have been free to criticize him as much as they pleased. But they were not entitled to carry dissent to any lengths they chose while flying his banner. Opposition taken beyond a certain point constituted a breach of their duty as Trustees to foster and preserve his influence, and laid them open to the charge of illicitly profiting from their association with him. The Leavis’s judged that the point had been passed. Not only were there Mason’s lectures with their ‘insolent and unscrupulous tone and content’. [24] There was also Dr Newton’s own contribution to the second number of The Cambridge Quarterly. Dr Newton grows very hot at Dr MacKillop’s suggestion that it ‘rejected Scrutiny’, sternly censuring him for ‘careless misrepresentation – such as might be expected from a tabloid journalist manufacturing a story’. Yet, anyone who responds to the spirit rather than the letter of MacKillop’s formulation must recognize the justice of it. Dr Gomme sums up the matter well when he observes that ‘John Newton was extraordinarily tactless – and blind – if he thought that (the) article…would not have upset Leavis’. [25] Who, with all the evidence in view, could seriously doubt that the Leavis’s were right to protest, or fail to understand their anger. Consider the effect of the movement on those who came under its influence. Listen to Dr Mills retailing with approval ‘Mason’s private remark that what brought home to him Leavis’s limitations was the latter struggling year after year to complete a cornerstone of his work and finally “giving birth to that mouse called Tragedy and the Medium”’. Look at the respective attitudes of Professor Ward and Dr Rosslyn towards Leavis.

Leavis stood back and allowed the Trustees to have a free hand until they let him down so badly that he was forced to denounce them. The crowning irony of the affair is that when taxed with their shabby dealings, they rounded on him with accusations of unfairness and betrayal. After the chips were down. Shapira, the designated successor of Mason as the Trust’s lecturer according to Dr Newton, who appears to have been an arch-manipulator in the affair, had the audacity to write to Leavis, comparing him to Conrad’s bad captain in The Shadow Line, and complaining of his ‘denial of responsibility for (their) “craft” and (his) lack of a spirit of captaincy’. [27] Dr Newton seems to think that the letter shows ‘heroism’; and Dr Gooder calls it ‘a masterpiece’, observing, with questionable judgment and taste, that ‘it in some sense cost (Shapira) his life’. But how pathetic and absurd to act in opposition to the interests you are meant to be looking after, and then assail the injured party with loud cried of ‘You’re to blame. You should have stopped us. It’s your fault.’ when you have been finally caught out!

The attempt to turn the tables on Leavis with endless attention to who said what and when not only hides the real locus of the affair; but also avoids any direct confrontation with the question of its wider significance, relying on the cloud of allegations to obscure his critical achievement. In view of this, Mr Mencher’s insistence on its unimportance in the larger context of Leavis’s life and work is timely. Leavis has his assured place in history as one of the greatest English critics whose teaching has permanently shaped the study of literature; and his work is as potently alive today as at any other time. By contrast, the literary endeavours of the splinter group led by Mason and the ‘core-members’ of the Trust have yielded a barren harvest. How could it be otherwise, seeing that whatever of value they possessed came from their Leavisian past? They were and remain a renegade movement, whose early promise was squandered in self-destructive efforts to trample on the magnificent literary heritage that was their by rights. It is saddening to think of so much waste.

1. Vol. 25, No. 4 (1996).

2. Ibid. p. 303.

3. Mr Harrison’s piece has an excellent brief account of the affair (see pp. 333-334).

4. Dr Gooder, Professor Ward and Dr Rosslyn are described as current editors of The Cambridge Quarterly. Dr Newton’s name is not listed with theirs, but he is referred to as ‘a Founder Editor’ in the biographical note.

5. Ibid. P. 325.

6. Ibid. pp. 411-415.

7. Ibid. Pp. 395-399.

8. ‘forming a freemasonry far more extensive…than that of the Lodges…in which the members…recognize one another immediately…by signs’. Marcel Proust A la Recherche du Temps Perdu tr. C.K Scott-Moncrieff (Chatto & Windus 1968) Vol. 7 Pt 1 p. 23.

9. The Cambridge Quarterly Ibid. pp. 335-348.

10.  As well as being ‘in certain ways, at times…insane, and generating forms of insanity around him in others’, he was apparently also ‘able, at other times, to be able to hold on to a central sanity in a deeply disturbed world’. But despite these intervals of ‘central sanity’. It seems that ‘the whole incident, and indeed the whole history of (his) relationship with Downing College, is one of madness on all sides’.

11. Ibid. P. 367.

12. Ibid. pp. 378-389.

13. Ibid. pp. 319-316.

14. Ibid. pp. 361-364.

15. Ibid. p. 323.

16. I. MacKillop F.R. Leavis: A Life in Criticism (1995) p. 353.

17. i.e. that the lectureship was a full time permanency. Mr G. Gibbs, who had access to Roy Littlewood’s papers after his death, reports that they contain a letter from Leavis stating that ‘he only ever expected the Lectureship to be a series of annual events, had no expectation of a full-time appointment, and certainly not of the appointment of Mason’. Leavis, Dr MacKillop and ‘The Cambridge Quarterly’ ed. Mencher (Brynmill 1998) p. 28.

18. The Cambridge Quarterly ibid. p. 402

19. Since this was written Mr Gibbs has stated that he has a copy of the missing letter. The correspondence in Mr Gibbs’s possession shows that although Leavis had welcomed the idea of Mason returning to Cambridge as Director of Studies at Corpus Christi during his battle to save Downing English, he had not approved of his full-time appointment as F.R. Leavis Lecturer. Leavis, Dr MacKillop and ‘The Cambridge Quarterly’ ibid. p. 27.

20. MacKillop ibid. p. 379.

21. The Cambridge Quarterly ibid. p. 379.

22. MacKillop ibid. p. 360.

23. Ibid.

24. Ibid. p. 356.

25. The Cambridge Quarterly ibid p. 316.

26. Ibid. p. 373.

27 MacKillop ibid. p. 362.