As in Infants of the Spring (1977), Powell's first volume of memoirs, the tone here is that of a kindly but impersonal...


MESSENGERS OF THE DAY: Memoirs of Anthony Powell (Vol. II)

As in Infants of the Spring (1977), Powell's first volume of memoirs, the tone here is that of a kindly but impersonal observer--as young Anthony now moves on from Oxford to a publishing job in literary, social London of the late Twenties and early Thirties. And, also as in the first book, the only affecting vignette is a flash-forward to an old comrade's demise: in Infants, it was George Orwell on his deathbed; here it is Evelyn Waugh, a few months before death, poking around a country house in search of a bottle of whiskey. Waugh, in fact, is the dominant figure in Powell's London landscape; though Powell wound up generally in the camp of the first Mrs. Waugh during the Waugh divoree--a major event of the period--he seeks to balance the familiar sneering Waugh persona with a picture of ""an extremely uncomplicated man"" who ""was perfectly capable of spending an afternoon and evening without making a scene."" There are also snippets of opinion on writers of the time, some social observations (marriage, parties), and recollections of--among many others--Rosa Lewis at the Cavendish (ordering an uppity pianist to play ""Old Man River""), Augustus John in a twit over his hearing aid, composer Constant Lambert, and all three Sitwells, whom lowell defends against charges of dilettantism. And Anthony himself? Well, somewhere amid the rambling sketches, he publishes three novels, falls tragically in love (or so one gathers from a vague line or two in a chapter titled ""Science and Miscellaneous""), and dances with Tallulah Bankhead: ""The story, I'm afraid, ends there. It was not the start of a great romance. We never met again. . . ."" That about captures the undramatic, pastel quality of these gracefully written, mildly informative (especially for fans of Powell's novels), and uninvolving memoirs.

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 1978


Page Count: -

Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1978