(01/03/2015) The Progress of a Biographer by Hugh Kingsmill. London. 1949. Methuen & Company Ltd. 194 pages.  hardcover.




   Nowadays it is generally assumed that a writer must be either a Communist or a Catholic. Hugh Kingsmill is neither, nor does he belong to any other body, secular or religious. The idea which underlies this book is that there are absolute truths, which the individual can in some degree apprehend and live by, but which churches and institutions can only obscure and pervert. Most of the sketches in this book were written between the end of the war and the spring of 1948. The subjects range from P. G. Wodehouse to Karl Marx, W. B. Yeats to Thackeray, and from Rainer Maria Rilke to Lloyd George. Believing that to understand a man’s work, one must form a coherent impression of the man, the author has tried to suggest the leading characteristics and governing impulses of his subjects. His intention has been to clarify rather than to criticize, though doubtless the effect may sometimes be one of criticism falling short of clarification.


  Hugh Kingsmill Lunn (21 November 1889 – 15 May 1949), who dropped his last name for professional purposes, was a versatile British writer and journalist. Writers Arnold Lunn and Brian Lunn were his brothers. Hugh Kingsmill Lunn was born in London and educated at Harrow School and the University of Oxford. After graduating he worked for a brief period for Frank Harris, who edited the publication Hearth and Home in 1911/2, alongside Enid Bagnold; Kingsmill later wrote a debunking biography of Harris, after the spell had worn off. He began fighting in the British Army in World War I in 1916, and was captured in France the next year. After the war, he began to write, initially both science fiction and crime fiction. In the 1930s he was a contributor to the English Review; later he wrote a good deal of non-fiction for this periodical's successor, the English Review Magazine. His large output includes criticism, essays and biographies, parodies and humour, as well as novels, and edited a number of anthologies. He is remembered for saying 'friends are God's apology for relations', with a notable flavour of Ambrose Bierce. The dictum was subsequently used by Richard Ingrams for the title of his memoir of Kingsmill's friendships with Hesketh Pearson and Malcolm Muggeridge, two intimate friends whom he influenced greatly.Muggeridge drew a darker attitude from Kingsmill's sardonic wit. Dawnist was Kingsmill's word for those infected with unrealistic or utopian idealism — the enemy as far as he was concerned. Kingmill’s works include: The Will To Love (1919) novel, The Dawn's Delay (1924) stories, Blondel (1927), Matthew Arnold (1928) biography, After Puritanism, 1850-1900 (1929), An Anthology Of Invective And Abuse (1929), The Return of William Shakespeare (1929) novel, Behind Both Lines (1930) autobiographical, More Invective (1930) anthology, The Worst of Love (1931) anthology, After Puritanism (1931), Frank Harris (1932) biography, The Table Of Truth (1933), Samuel Johnson (1933) biography, The Sentimental Journey (1934) biography of Charles Dickens, The Casanova Fable: A Satirical Revaluation (1934) with William Gerhardi, What They Said At The Time (1935) anthology, Parents and Children (1936) anthology; Brave Old World (1936) humour, with Malcolm Muggeridge, A Pre-View Of Next Year's News (1937) humour, with Malcolm Muggeridge, Skye High: The Record Of A Tour Through Scotland In The Wake Of The Samuel Johnson And James Boswell.(1937) travel, with Hesketh Pearson, Made On Earth (1937) anthology on marriage, The English Genius: a survey of the English achievement and character (1938) editor, essays by W. R. Inge, Hilaire Belloc, Hesketh Pearson, William Gerhardi, E .S. P. Haynes, Douglas Woodruff, Charles Petrie, J. F. C. Fuller, Alfred Noyes, Rose Macaulay, Brian Lunn, Rebecca West, K. Hare, T. W. Earp, D. H. Lawrence (1938) biography, Next Year's News (1938) humour, with Malcolm Muggeridge, Courage (1939) anthology, Johnson Without Boswell: A Contemporary Portrait of Samuel Johnson (1940) editor, The Fall (1940), This Blessed Plot (1942) travel, with Hesketh Pearson, The Poisoned Crown (1944) essays on genealogies, Talking Of Dick Whittington (1947) travel, with Hesketh Pearson), The Progress Of A Biographer (1949), The High Hill of the Muses (1955) anthology, The Best of Hugh Kingsmill: Selections from his Writings (1970) edited by Michael Holroyd, Bernard Shaw, His Life and Personality.



Check zenosbooks.com for either a used or a new copy of this book, or you can add it to your wishlist.






Zeno's Picks


The Neglected Books Page

20 September 2019

www.NeglectedBooks.com: Where forgotten books are remembered
  • Gaëtan, or The Stock-Taking, by Edith de Born (1950)

    “Gaëtan consists of a 100-page discussion between the wife and the mistress of a Frenchman who has been killed in a car accident,” wrote Julian Symons in his terse review of Edith de Born’s first novel. It’s an accurate description, but also a spoiler, for through much of the book, we only know we are... Read more

    The post ...

  • Chapters 1 and 2 from In Our Metropolis, by Phyllis Livingstone (1940)

    Back in March, I posted a short item about two forgotten novels I’d come across in an advertisement in the Times Literary Supplement. Neither received much attention and both quickly disappeared from sight. I was interested in knowing more about both books, so when I had the chance to visit the British Library for a... Read more


  • Businessmen as Lovers, by Rosemary Tonks (1969)

    Businessmen as Lovers was Rosemary Tonks’ fourth novel and, to be honest, the first in which she seems to relax and not be relentlessly straining to be clever. It’s her only novel not set in London: the whole story takes place on a train through France and an island off Italy, and perhaps the setting... Read more

    The post ...

  • Actors and Directors: Two Anecdotes from Letters from an Actor, by William Redfield (1967)

    Ralph Richardson and Basil Dean Some thirty years ago, Richardson was rehearsing a play directed by Basil Dean. The latter was the last of the old-time directors on the British side of the Atlantic. By “old-time,” I mean abusive, cruel, sarcastic, and contemptuous of actors. His American equivalent, albeit far younger, would be Jed Harris.... ...

  • Letters from an Actor, by William Redfield (1967)

    In 1964, Sir John Gielgud convinced Richard Burton to star in a Broadway production of Hamlet. Still smoking hot from his big-screen romance with Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra, Burton was looking to solidify his street cred as a serious actor after a few Hollywood duds. Gielgud’s motivation is a little less clear, as gradually becomes... Read more


  • The Long Sunday, by Peter Fletcher (1958)

    Church, prayer, going to Sunday services and weekday evening meetings remains the center of life for some families and communities. One hundred years ago, they were the frameworks of the rituals and values of many English people, particularly those of the class of shopkeepers and lesser professions. Each denomination and sect identified itself through its... Read

  • The Fire Escape, by Susan Kale (1960)

    The paperback editions of The Fire Escape trumpet its message: “The tragic, unvarnished story of a prostitute.” Which is a bit like plastering the banner line, “The Story of a Cockroach” across the cover of The Metamorphosis: yes, well, I guess you could say it is, but that’s actually missing the point in a pretty... Read more

    The post ...

  • Blitz Writing: Night Shift and It Was Different at the Time, by Inez Holden (2019)

    As a rule, I don’t cover in print books on this site: the fact that a book is in print is proof that it may be underappreciated, but it’s certainly not forgotten. However, I have to make an exception in the case of the Handheld Press’s recent release of two of Inez Holden’s three books... Read more


  • Journey Through a Lighted Room, by Margaret Parton (1973)

    I knew I was going to like Margaret Parton’s memoir, Journey Through a Lighted Room, on page two, when she writes of reflecting upon a Quaker meeting while “wandering aimlessly about the garden with a vodka and tonic in hand.” This is the story of a woman who wasn’t ashamed by the fact that she... Read more

    The post ...

  • The Mere Living, by B. Bergson Spiro (Betty Miller) (1933)

    Had The Mere Living not been largely forgotten by now, it would undoubtedly be saddled with an shakeable and unfavorable comparison to Virginia Wolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. For both are circadian novels (taking place within the space of a single day) set in London and both really heavily on the use of a stream of consciousness... Read more

    The post ...

Copyright © 2019 Zenosbooks. All Rights Reserved.
Joomla! is Free Software released under the GNU General Public License.