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Welch (1915-1948), the author of three autobiographical novels (Maiden Voyage, In Youth is Pleasure, A Voice Through a Cloud), was born in Shanghai, educated in England, and irrevocably damaged by a bicycle accident in 1935--after which he lived a quiet, illness-plagued life in the country, sometimes hiking or bicycling, but often confined to writing and drawing. These journals, originally published in expurgated form in 1952 (UK only), were written during the last six years (1942-48) before his death at age 33. Some of the entries, in a mildly Proustian manner, are launched by small present-day events into memories--of boarding-school, of Denton's mother (who died when he was eleven), of childhood in Shanghai with his taciturn father. (""In the great house the family drinks its tea and the servants quarrel and make love."") Literary correspondence is detailed--above all the exchanges with Edith Sitwell, who wrote a four-letter paean to fledgling writer Welch in 1942 and soon met him in person. (""Now I think is the time for you to do something violent and vulgar,"" she announced at tea.) There are a few sketches for the fiction to come, restless musings about the extent of his talent, broodings and outbursts about his physical condition: ""I bleed inside; and when it comes out of me, almost fascinating in its disgustingness, I feel full of snarling that I am spoilt. To have always to do every fragment of work with the gloves of sickness sheathing each finger, to have that added!"" And, before he is permanently joined by lover/companion Eric Oliver, Welch often spends his days walking by the river, striking up conversations with attractive, strong young men, and writing about his thwarted romantic yearnings. Unfortunately, however, the bulk of these journals is taken up in the minute details of Welch's uneventful daily life; as editor De-La-Noy notes, ""for some readers, Denton may go on at excessive length about visits to churches or repairing his dolls' house."" He does indeed. So, despite flashes of genuinely eloquent language and a half-engaging sensibility (precious, moist, yet strong and edgy too), this is essentially a cult-item--almost exclusively for those American readers who have discovered and fallen in love with Welch's fiction (recently reissued here in paperback).

Pub Date: Nov. 28th, 1984
Publisher: Dutton