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The Metropolitan Critic — Foreword

The essays in this book were all written over the last five years, mostly in the normal course of reviewing. At several points within I make the large claim that literary journalism is the substance of criticism, not the shadow. With due allowance for polemical emphasis, that principle still seems to me to be true enough: anyway, it's too late now to start all over again in cloistered solitude.

There would have been less to select from, and the selection itself would have been less coherent, if it were not for the generosity and seriousness of the London literary editors. My thanks are due to the late Nicholas Tomalin, who gave me my start on the New Statesman and his friendship for the years he had left to live; to Karl Miller and Derwent May of the Listener; to Paul Barker and Richard Boston of New Society; to Terence Kilmartin and Miriam Gross of the Observer; and to Arthur Crook of the Times Literary Suppkment. Special thanks go to Stephen Spender, who commissioned the article on D. H. Lawrence for his anthology D. H. Lawrence: Novelist, Poet, Prophet.

Very little in this book would ever have seen the light without the encouragement, supervision and inspiration provided by Ian Hamilton, for all this period literary editor of the Times Literary Supplment, editor of The Review and trailblazer for his generation. For his companionship and example, mere gratitude will not serve: everything I write is a way of making recompense.

Errors of fact and ill-judged phrases which have rankled since the day they were set down have at last been corrected, but otherwise — apart from a certain winnowing of recurring themes — these essays remain as they were first published. Some of them I wouldn't dream of writing that way now, but it seemed right then. Hence the appended dates. Issues arise in their own time and we can't hope to deal with them in order — only in earnest.

— 1974.