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HUGH WALPOLE by Hupert Hart Davis



Pub Date: Aug. 19th, 1952
Publisher: Macmillan

An accurately executed and admirably fair biography by his personal friend, of the novelist who died in 1941 and cut a popular swathe in the two decades following 1910 with etc. Based on Walpole's copious daily diaries and his more elaborate journal, as well as on an immense correspondence, the author has neither needed nor wanted to inject much interpretive analysis. The day to day occupations of the friendly, responsive, humble and yet ambitious, sunny but occasionally moody, but always gregarious Walpole speak for themselves. The portrait of Walpole nonetheless remains somewhat baffling. Unmarried, he had innumerable close women friends- but he seems to have preferred men. Unbelievably prolific, his works, in the words of Rebecca West, were ""facile and without artistic impulse"". Yet he was immensely popular and intimate with most of the leading literary artistic figures of his day. His friendship with Henry James, whose pet and protege he became, forms one of the liveliest passages in the volume, and James accorded him a rare affection which never clouded his critical rebukes when faced with the younger man's works. There are letters too from Joseph Conrad, Arnold Bennett, Katherine Mansfield, Virginia Woolf, and ""Elizabeth"", and in fact it is as a panorama of the literary scene from 1910 to 1940 that this book holds its greatest interest. For it is doubtful whether Walpole, who was so much a product of his time and whose books have not outlived their time, holds significance for a modern audience.