FACES OF PHILIP: A Memoir of Philip Toynbee by Jessica Mitford

FACES OF PHILIP: A Memoir of Philip Toynbee

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Intimate glimpses of a likable character. Toynbee (1916-81) was the son of Arnold Toynbee and the grandson of Gilbert Murray. He is presently remembered as a literary journalist (book reviews in the Observer), autobiographer (Friends Apart), and minor novelist. Some critics have seen his later verse novels, beginning with Pantaloon (1961), as important and innovative; but they were popular failures, and the final 1,600 pages of the series have languished in manuscript since 1968. Toynbee was a creature of contrasts: raised in more than bourgeois comfort (spending part of every summer at Castle Howard, the stunning palace featured in TV's Brideshead Revisited), he became a committed communist (though he drifted out of the Party in the late '30s). A merry bacchanalian, he suffered from lifelong fits of depression. Close to ugly, with his acne-pitted face and broken teeth, he was enormously attractive to (and attracted by) women. A boisterous atheist, he underwent an idiosyncratic conversion in his last years. Toynbee was, among other things, a brilliant mimic, an enthralling but sometimes terrifying figure to his children, a passionate believer in causes who was almost totally untouched by cant. Mitford makes no bones about her close friendship with Toynbee, which colors the whole book--though she admits his broad eccentric streak, as in his disastrous attempt at turning his house into a commune. She fills--at times she clutters--the text with Toynbee's letters to herself and others. She gathers memories of ""Philip"" from his two wives, his five children, and his many friends, and even footnotes these interviews with addenda and objections from her sources. The result has some rough edges and not-so-funny in-jokes; otherwise a vivid, affecting sketch.

Pub Date: Sept. 12th, 1984
Publisher: Knopf