Channel: Poetry | The Guardian
Mark channel Not-Safe-For-Work? cancel confirm NSFW Votes: (0 votes)
Are you the publisher? Claim or contact us about this channel.

A CH Sisson Reader review – the last English modernist

A collection of suberb essays and poetry edited by Charlie Louth and Patrick McGuinness

Coming across memorable opening lines after a gap of many years can be like running into an old friend, and so I liked rereading the first words of Sisson’s essay “The Politics of Wyndham Lewis”: “Wyndham Lewis was born on board his father’s yacht. Perhaps it was thought safer for such an explosion to take place offshore.” That’s Sisson’s criticism at its perkiest, perhaps, but it’s still typical of his wit and confidence.

It also hints at the influences that formed him, and CH Sisson (or Charles Hubert – he sheltered behind those initials even more than TS Eliot did behind his), who died at the age of 89 in 2003, could be said to have been the last English modernist. But it is what you might call a high modernism: one that looks as if it is of the Right, but actually hasn’t approved of much since the 17th century. It takes religion and monarchy seriously, but so seriously that it looks as if it is meeting republicanism from around the other side. Here he is in “A Note on the Monarchy”: “Bagehot attributed importance to the monarchy, but it was an importance of an inferior kind. The Queen was ‘dignified’, in his phraseology: that meant she was not much good. She was for fools to goggle at. As there were a lot of fools, that counted for something.” He approves of Bagehot, and as all that most people know today of the Victorian economist’s view of the monarchy is his phrase about not letting the daylight in on magic, Sisson’s paraphrase is a useful corrective.

Continue reading...

Latest Images

Trending Articles