15. 13 March 1988 [NM] (More on detraction)

previously unpublished; © the estate of eric sams and beatrice cazac (Mrs. Mathew’s letters)

Dear Eric,

   A PS to my letter last week: (I'm not trying to make you like my book, only appreciate its vital necessity):

   You wondered in your letter why I don't tell you (but I do, in the 1000 pp you haven't seen) what I've 'now got right, instead of what everyone else used to get wrong'. The point is it's not what they used to get wrong (which would be of academic interest only, and I'm not academic) it's what they go on getting wrong because of the deep impression in people today of those earlier, uneradicated mistakes.

   Bacon's most minutely vicious and unfair detractor in the late nineteenth century is followed step by step by one detractor in the late 20th, and pronounced 'not unfair' by a similar follower, both from Academe (one America, another Oxford) and this is what is being taught to English and American students today.

   Now if it is ever possible to stem this tide, I have to field every ball. It's no use leaving unrefuted charges to these meticulous critics, one of whom has promised us a new and at last reliable biography of Bacon.

   I would like my book to serve as a sort of text for all would-be detractors before they launch another series of calumnies. At least read that first... An illusion? Perhaps.

  The house filled with the haunting strains of Villalobos on the guitar, inherited by a young friend, from Segovia.

   I've come across a most inspiring study of what poetry really is, Seamus Heaney (whom I don't know) on Sylvia Plath (whom I've read little of), TLS 5 Feb. I don't usually read studies by poets on poets but this is quite unique in its penetration.

   All good wishes as ever