Jean Hartley (c.1968)
Jean Hartley’s wonderful Philip Larkin, The Marvell Press and Me (reissued in Finds) tells a tale of one woman’s love of literature – bound up with intellectual curiosity, cultural entrepreneurialism and perseverance against the odds – that is altogether worthy of an engrossing drama. And now the book has had its due, for the esteemed Hull Truck Theatre Company have just mounted a stage adaptation of Jean’s memoir, entitled Wrong Beginnings and penned by David Pattison. The Yorkshire Post‘s Stephen McClarence last week offered an excellent, funny and illuminating interview with Joan about her life, her book, and its continued currency which testifies not only to the enduring greatness of Larkin but also to the fine manner in which she narrated her own inspiring story. I quote:
“It was 1955 and Jean and her then-husband George, both in their early twenties, had already published some of Larkin’s work in Listen, a shoestring poetry magazine they ran from their home, a two-up, two-down between a chip shop and a beer-off in Hessle, near Hull. All previous contact had been by post, but now there was talk of publishing a book of Larkin’s poems, so he came to see them. “He probably thought we were going to be middle-class, well-established grown-ups and then he arrived and found a little hovel, ill-furnished, poverty-stricken, certainly not a provincial version of Faber and Faber,” she recalls. “But he could see that here were two very idealistic young people who felt as passionately about poetry as he did”… It was a successful meeting, resulting in The Less Deceived, the collection in which Larkin found his poetic voice and which made his reputation.”
For the current TLS Andrew McCulloch has written a fine piece entitled ”Not Love perhaps . . .’ – The poetry of A. S. J. Tessimond.’ (Not accessible online, alas, but then the TLS cover price is always worth paying.) Returning Tessimond to print has proved a striking success for Finds, and it’s a pleasure to see a revived title of this sort inspiring comment and analysis in the present-day literary press.
The excellent dovegreyreader, who seems under her own stead to do the reading of a hundred women, has posted a lovely, considered and personal appreciation of Adrian Bell’s Corduroy, a Finds reissue that has truly resonated with many other readers. ‘DGR’ says she is reading the Finds edition but has also posted up a delightful jacket of an earlier edition, which I reproduce here. I’d also like to borrow just a snippet of her appreciation as follows:
“[J]ust occasionally along comes a book that transcends the ordinary and fits the reading moment as if born to it and Corduroy did exactly that. Somehow the gentle pace and rhythm of Adrian Bell’s language fits the rhythm of the rural life he is portraying and I slipped into that comforting melody willingly and with ease. I was reminded of Edward Thomas, who I am also reading at the moment, as Adrian Bell recounted his first attempts at ploughing with horses,
‘When I glanced up I was surprised to see the horses treading so slowly. This too I thought, must appear a sleepy occupation to the passing poet. One hears talk of the monotony of ploughing but I found it a keen exercise of hand and eye…’
If you live in the country this book will be comfortingly familiar, and if your are in a town and fancy an escape to the country from your armchair you could head for no better reading. Adrian Bell will quietly transport you to the place where, though his reference is to the cloth but equally applicable to the book, ‘Corduroy takes on an easy grace in wear.’”