Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist


There's a speech in Alan Bennett's The Habit of Art- reported in his diaries (I haven't seen or read the play) where Humphrey Carpenter tells the elderly Britten and Auden that the public have had enough of their music and poetry and are waiting for them to die so that their respective oeuvres can be squared up and tidied away.

How heartless, how true.

The lives of artists can be very straggly. They produce juvenilia, then masterpieces- followed by a long period of decline. They outstay their welcome, keep on adding substandard appendices to the collected works, rendering the legacy untidy, compromising their former greatness, making final appearance after final appearance. Auden's a goodish case in point. His best years came to an end round about the mid-century- and the later verse- though never less than interesting- is no longer the work of a great poet (if Auden was ever a great poet which I sometimes doubt).

Bennett is very good at speaking out loud the thoughts most of us have and then shamefacedly censor. This has been a bumper year for celebrity deaths. Can we honestly say that some of those deaths haven't come as a bit of a relief?
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