ENID STARKIE: A Biography by Joanna Richardson


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A model of the biographer's art, heavily documented, painfully judicious in the portrayal of a friend and former teacher whose life decisions were motivated ""partly out of masochism, partly out of a love of dramatization, partly out of false sentiment, and the need for self-pity, and partly out of a weak egotism . . . ."" (This a criticism of the heroine of Enid Starkie's unpublished autobiographical novel.) For forty years an Oxford don, Enid cultivated flamboyance, intensity, eccentricity. With the determination of a classic overreacher, she impressed her literary tastes on the life of Oxford. Her contribution to 19th century French Studies is significant to contemporary understanding and appraisal of Baudelaire, Rimbaud, and Flaubert. Enid's ""meddling"" in Oxford politics secured early recognition for Cocteau and Gide, and insured the election of C. D. Lewis, W. H. Auden, and Edmund Blunden to the Oxford Chair of Poetry, which Enid ""discovered"" and revitalized as an issue of international interest. This is a personal rather than a critical biography, for we are to understand the construction and development of personality as Starkie's final achievement. There is a moral there somewhere. But we will be as delicate as Joanna Richardson in going no farther to make a judgment on Enid Starkie.

Pub Date: March 11th, 1974
Publisher: Macmillan