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'I seem to have been very clever when young. I never thought of myself as clever. I wrote reams of poetry in my sixth form days, as a lot of people do. There's nothing of it left ... I threw all of it away. But I think I've done that all through my life -- when I've done things, I've thrown them way.

'In those distant days, seventy years ago, when I won a scholarship to Cambridge, both parents and teacher said "oh no, don't read music, my boy. Have it as a lovely hobby!" Better to read English -- which I was also qualified to do. That was no hardship at all, because I was a very literary little boy ... and you see, from this library, I'm now a rather literary old man! Ultimately I'm very glad that I did, because I've become a literary composer which gives me a bit of a line of my own!

'Everyone said "of course you must go to Downing College where the great F R Leavis is" (who I'd never heard of). But I did go, and I didn't think he was great, and I still don't. I think his wife was wonderful! Queenie. A much more acute mind than his, and also a sense of humour.

'Leavis was terribly good to me after I read English. He had me to live with him for free while I did music. And then of course I got to know Queenie well. And again the same thing -- we laughed. You could never laugh very much with F R Leavis!'

I was curious too about Mellers' early days of writing as one of the founder members of Leavis's Scrutiny, and in particular the criticism he once received at the hands of Boris Ford and Stephen Reiss for the 'excessively enthusiastic tone' of everything he wrote.

'I knew Boris ever so well. He's now dead. Younger than I. But you shouldn't dwell on this subject -- it was a very minor episode. It seems a waste of time to pull things down. All my long life I've tried to write about things that interest me, for one reason or another.

'But what a funny thing. That people didn't like me because I liked things! I think it's very comical.'

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Copyright © 26 April 2004 Keith Bramich, Worcestershire UK


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