THE ACKERLEY LETTERS by Neville--Ed. Braybrooke


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Handsomely presented and overpoweringly footnoted, this will provide happy hunting for students of the post-Bloomsbury era (or eras) and admirers of Ackerley's improbable minor masterpieces My Dog Tulip (American edition 1965) and My Father and Myself (1969). Ackerley's published works are odd chapters of an arcane erotic autobiography which this selected correspondence brings slightly nearer completeness. From the '30's to the '60's Ackerley had fingers in a great many cultural pies: he was literary editor of the BBC's influential Listener magazine, sought likely-looking vehicles for Robert Donat and his Westminster Theatre, and from his middle twenties maintained an intimate friendship with E. M. Forster (""Morgan"")--a relationship ended only by Ackerley's death in 1967. There are business and personal letters to notables from Stephen Spender and Sonia Brownell Orwell to John Maynard Keynes (with whom Ackerley had a small misunderstanding about the fee for a proposed contribution to a Listener series on Art and the State). But the main interest of Braybrooke's selection is the light it throws on a personality which often resembles one of Angus Wilson's more bizarre creations: an insistently promiscuous homosexual and member of rarefied homosexual literary circles, whose erotic life was transformed at the age of 51 by the acquisition of Queenie, the Alsatian bitch immortalized as ""Tulip."" Waspish, generous, campy in the pre-Sontag sense, driven by a passion for accuracy in thought and language, ever ready for a casual pickup--a man of completely irresistible contradictions. The three-hundred-odd letters printed here (about a third of the total Braybrooke managed to compile) are heavily weighted toward the Queenie-and-after years; one could have wished for more selections from the '30's. One could also wish that the tons of material presented in the footnotes had been worked into a more manageable form in the Introduction. Still, a deserved tribute to an endlessly complex figure.

Pub Date: June 2nd, 1975
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich