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Manual Cyril Connolly: A Life

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To ask other readers questions about Cyril Connolly , please sign up. Lists with This Book. Sep 15, Paul rated it really liked it Shelves: Cyril Connolly is a little known character now, but he was one of the bright young things, went to Eton and Oxford. This review will encompass a gay James Bond spoof and the nature of reviewing. Connolly spent much of his life writing reviews for national newspapers in the s for his own magazine Horiz Cyril Connolly is a little known character now, but he was one of the bright young things, went to Eton and Oxford.

Connolly spent much of his life writing reviews for national newspapers in the s for his own magazine Horizon. He wrote two excellent and well thought of memoirs, some collections of reviews and a rather good novel The Rock Pool. Connolly was a typical middle class product of the English public school system. He was brilliant when he applied himself, but seldom did.

In his youth his partners were almost entirely male; most remained lifelong friends. Women came along in his 20s and he married three times. His first wife was an alcoholic; his second wife was Barbara Skelton infamously caricatured by Anthony Powell in his Dance to the Music of Time series as Pamela Flitton. It was only with his third wife that Connolly seemed to settle, becoming a father for the first time in his late 50s.

Connolly reviewed books for most of his working life; the best and worst of jobs. He was paid to read bliss , but did not create as much as he felt he should have. His reviews were often very sharp and he would not tolerate the mediocre. He adored Proust, Gide, Joyce. Here is a sample of what he said about books and writers he found less appealing.

There is much more, most of it razor sharp and to the point. I do wonder what Connolly would have made of the modern scene and particularly of GR; silence was not one of his strong points. I think I also mentioned a gay James Bond spoof.


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The plot is simple. A KGB colonel has come to London; he has a penchant for men in drag. M orders Bond to get into drag and allow himself to be picked up. Bond does this with some reluctance and picks up the colonel.

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M has always had a secret longing for Bond and this was the only way he could think of to get him into bed. Connolly was a bon viveur, book collector and always lived beyond his means. He could be excellent company, as all his friends attested, he could also be moody and difficult. This is a competent, sympathetic and very funny biography of an increasingly forgotten literary phenomenon. View all 8 comments. Jul 18, Winterwade rated it really liked it.

The same faintly bogus air steals over the opening pages of Enemies of Promise , his justly celebrated catalogue of the snares and pitfalls awaiting young literary talent. I always try to write in the afternoon for I have just enough Irish blood to be afraid of the Irish temperament. Much of the hankering for expertise, inevitably, came from upbringing. Eton paralysed his mind from the day that he saw a pair of jeunes premiers on a bridge languidly appraising the solitary rower who moved beneath: Asked to try his hand at art criticism in the early s in a review of Henry Lamb's paintings, he knows exactly what the situation requires of him: Always the most autobiographical of critics - subject after subject turns out to be an excuse for the projection of his own personality - Connolly coveted a great deal in life: A satirical friend once sent a parcel addressed to him at his club containing a dead duck and a card reading "with love from Lady Mary".

Despite his undoubted successes - Enemies, the year stint in the s spent editing Horizon - much of his later life became bogged down in idleness and wasted time. The early novel, The Rock Pool , had no successors.

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Barbara Skelton, to whom he was briefly married, left an unforgettable portrait of the middle-aged critic muttering "Poor Cyril, poor Cyril" to himself as he wallowed in the bath. Even Horizon's eventual closure was the result of its editor losing interest. Though it contains most of Connolly's better-known essays and squibs, and the whole of Enemies of Promise and The Unquiet Grave, quite a lot of the Selected Works has not worn very well.

He struggled to find employment, while his friends and family sought to pay off his extensive debts.

In summer he went for his annual stay at "Sligger" Urquhart's chalet in the French Alps, and in the autumn went to Spain and Portugal. He obtained a post tutoring a boy in Jamaica and set sail for the Caribbean in November He returned to England in April on a banana boat in the company of Alwyn Williams , headmaster of Winchester College. He enrolled as a special constable in the General Strike , [7] but it was over before he was actively involved.

He responded to an advertisement to work as a secretary for Montague Summers but was warned off by his friends. Pearsall Smith was to give Connolly an important introduction to literary life, and he influenced his ideas on the role of a writer with a distaste for journalism. MacCarthy was the literary editor of the New Statesman and was to be another major influence on Connolly's development. MacCarthy invited Connolly to write book reviews for the New Statesman.

Later that year, Connolly made a trip to Budapest and Eastern Europe and then spent the winter of in London.

Cyril Connolly

Connolly's first signed work in the New Statesman , a review of Lawrence Sterne , appeared in June In July he set off to Normandy with his mother and then for his last stay at the chalet in the Alps. In August , he was invited to become a regular reviewer and joined the staff of the New Statesman. He was working on various works that never saw the light of day: He approached Cecil Beaton to draw the cover design for the last and he received an advance for the work although it was eventually lost.

However, he started contributing pieces to various publications that appeared under his own name and various pseudonyms. At this time he developed a fascination with low life and prostitution and spent time in the poorer parts of London seeking them out while other contemporaries were seeking out tramps. At the same time, he had developed an infatuation with Alix Kilroy whom he had met on a train back from the continent and used to wait outside her office for a sight of her.

He then made a more positive romantic approach to Racy Fisher, one of a pair of nieces of Desmond MacCarthy's wife, Molly. However, their father Admiral Fisher wanted them to have nothing to do with a penniless writer and, in February , forbade further contact.

Cyril Connolly - Wikipedia

However, he was ill at ease and in April set off for Paris , where he met Pearsall Smith and Cecil Beaton and visited brothels posing as a journalist. He went on to Italy, where he stayed with Berenson and Mrs Keppel where he was taken with her daughter Violet Trefusis. Connolly returned to Paris in May, borrowing money off Pearsall Smith so he could live cheaply in the rue Delambre. In August Connolly set off on his travels again to Germany, this time with Bobbie Longden and Raymond Mortimer and the experience gave rise to the essay "Conversations in Berlin" which MacCarthy published in his new magazine Life and Letters.

Connolly travelled separately to Villefranche and spent five weeks in Barcelona with Longden before returning to London. Boothby lent him his London flat and he shared Gerald Brenan 's fascination with working-class prostitutes with experiences that appeared in his fragment for a novel The English Malady. He spent Christmas at Sledmere with the Sykes family. At the beginning of , Connolly went briefly to Paris and just before returning to London, he met Jean Bakewell and stayed an extra night to get to know her. After a while, he was drawn to Paris again and, through Jean and Mara, became acquainted with the bohemian Montparnasse set, including Alfred Perles and Gregor Michonze who was to become the basis for Rascasse in The Rock Pool.

Connolly and Bakewell went to Spain together where they met up with Peter Quennell. Unable to return to "Big Chilling", he was stuck in Berlin for a month before returning to London. Bakewell had returned to America in the summer and was planning to return to Paris in the autumn to start a course at the Sorbonne. She had agreed before her departure to marry Connolly and Connolly established himself in Paris in September. They spent most of the rest of the year in Paris, and started their collection of exotic pets, first ferrets and then lemurs.

Connolly spent Christmas again at Sledmere. In February , aged 26, Connolly and Bakewell set off for America. They married in New York on 5 April Jean Bakewell "was to prove one of the more liberating forces in his life There their close neighbours were Edith Wharton and Aldous Huxley. Although Connolly admired Huxley, the two men failed to establish a rapport, and the wives fell out.


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  8. Connolly's bohemian home with the disorder of the lemurs was shunned and with debts rising they were forced to scrounge off Jean's mother. In November, they found a flat near Belgrave Square , and Connolly made his first contribution to the New Statesman in two years. Connolly was also approached by John Betjeman of the Architectural Review to act as an art critic.


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