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Hugh Kingsmill

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Category: Literature
Reference No: 1586
Status: Available
Price: £40.00
  Hugh Kingsmill  Hugh Kingsmill  Hugh Kingsmill

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Fine British writer and journalist, now unjustly forgotten.

After graduating from Oxford, Kingsmill worked for a brief period for Frank Harris, who edited the publication Hearth and Home in 1911-1912, alongside Enid Bagnold. He wrote an excellent debunking biography of Harris in 1932 - Michael Holroyd describes the image of Harris that emerges as an alarming combination of Robert Maxwell and Jeffrey Archer.

Kingsmill began to write after the Great War, producing novels (The Will to Love 1919, Blondel 1927, The Return of William Shakespeare 1929, The Poisoned Crown 1944, some excellent biographies (Matthew Arnold 1929, Samuel Johnson 1933, The Sentimental Journey, a biography of Charles Dickens, 1934, D.H.Lawrence 1938), short stories (The Dawn’s Delay 1924), travel books, anthologies and literary essays.

He produced a definitive parody of A. E. Housman's A Shropshire Lad that Housman himself admired, saying "It's the best I have seen, and indeed, the only good one." 


What still alive at twenty-two,
A clean, upstanding chap like you?
Sure, if your throat 'tis hard to slit,
Slit your girl's, and swing for it.

Like enough, you won't be glad,
When they come to hang you, lad:
But bacon's not the only thing
That's cured by hanging from a string.

So, when the spilt ink of the night
Spreads o'er the blotting-pad of light,
Lads whose job is still to do
Shall whet their knives, and think of you


Although Kingsmill is now largely forgotten, with many of his best books out of print, his wit is still to be found in books of quotations, especially this little gem:


Friends are God's apology for relations”.
This listing consists of two fine letters, handwritten in black ink, both to "My dear Daisy" on Author's Club, 2 Whitehall Court S.W.1 letterheaded paper. The content is excellent:
The first letter (July 9th 1929) reads (in full):
My dear Daisy
 I must try you with "Blondel" when I am in funds again. I feel I can't give in without a struggle. My "Shakespeare" is too much along the lines of "The Dawn's Delay" to stand much chance of not being violently ejected from the premises, so I won't expose the little fellow, but I will send "Blondel" along to the attack as soon as I can. Anyway, you are a great character, even if you don't like my poor sprouts. When I am in funds again, I should so much like a dinner, or country excursion with you, if you would like to come.
That will, I hope, be next year. I am so sorry you have been ill and had all this worry.
By the way "W.G." is not our old friend Frankie. he may have a mannerism or two of Frankie's,  but otherwise he is a very different type, and, on the whole, a much better type.
Your brother has actually gone to Thorson, which pleased me very much, as I think it showed a really adventurous spirit to act on my recommendation..
He promised to let me know what he thought of it, but has not yet sent a bulletin.
Ever yours
The second letter (July 14th, 1929) reads (in full):
My dear Daisy
Thanks for your more humanitarian letter. I should love a good talk as soon as things are straight again, if they ever are. This hot weather is very depressing, and makes the battle of life nothing short of a damned nuisance. However, I think everything will be alright by next year. I left the business two years ago, as my marriage turned out badly, and my father failed to agree with me in my wish to marry again, as indeed did everyone else concerned. I therefore departed and shortly afterwards got into more trouble of a complex order, and am at present living at equal distances from everyone, and trying to reconstruct my fortunes unhampered by your wretched though fascinating sex. For the last 18 months I have lived like a monk and worked like a horse, though on, in spite of your criticisms, a higher level!
I still await news from your audacious brother.
I do hope he has survived.
There is a single correspondence fold on each letter and some small areas of light staining to the right edge of each, but overall condition must be rated very good.
Two interesting letters with excellent content!