Tristram Hillier made a distinctive and distinguished contribution to twentieth-century British art, moving from abstraction and surrealism to representational painting with elements of quasi-surrealism. His first visit to Portugal, in 1947, was of great importance. It arose out of a crisis in his private life: his Irish Protestant wife, Leda, had objected strongly to his recent return to the Roman Catholic Church and even threatened divorce proceedings. From a professional point of view, the visit was highly successful. The essay clarifies the context, dating, and itinerary of the visit, with full use made of the Hillier files in the Tate Gallery Archive and letters in the possession of the artist’s family. It gives special attention to scenes in the city of Viseu, presenting and discussing his paintings of Cathedral Square and the Church of the Misericordia and his very fine drawing, made en plein air, on which the Cathedral Square painting is based. The drawing, in private ownership since 1948, has not been published before. It and the painting executed months later in the artist’s studio in Somerset make a fascinating study in comparison and contrast.
Dinaw Mengestu’s The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears (2007) and Teju Cole’s Open City (2011)
This chapter broadens the book’s focus by examining recent American fictions of African migration by Dinaw Mengestu and Teju Cole, and extends the study’s intellectual scope by connecting male friendship to cognate discourses of cosmopolitanism and globalisation. The chapter begins by taking up the themes of race relations, gentrification, and local community explored in Chapter 3, analysing Mengestu’s spare 2007 narrative The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears. The chapter demonstrates how Mengestu’s fiction eschews the conventions of the so-called literary migrant novel, revising the genre’s tropes of cultural loss and historical trauma, while recasting familiar motifs of social mobility and cross-cultural exchange. Turning to Teju Cole’s Open City (2011), the chapter draws on the work of Hannah Arendt to chart Cole’s vexed portrayal of cosmopolitanism, in which attempts at association and solidarity, whether forged locally or globally, seem always to falter when faced with the problem of cultural difference. For both Mengestu and Cole, the friendships at the centre of their narratives become a key site for exploring the problems of identity and belonging confronting their immigrant narrators, and thus offer a crucial reworking of the politics of male friendship explored in earlier chapters.
Michael Chabon’s Telegraph Avenue (2012) and Jonathan Lethem’s The Fortress of Solitude (2003)
This chapter begins by continuing with a close reading of Auster’s Smoke, exploring the film’s portrayal of local community and interracial male friendship. It then turns to two sprawling neighbourhood novels, Michael Chabon’s Telegraph Avenue (2012) and Jonathan Lethem’s The Fortress of Solitude (2003). With a theoretical framework informed by queer theory, continental philosophy, and Marxist historicism, the chapter analyses how Chabon’s and Lethem’s narratives of interracial male friendship are freighted with the legacies of 1960s and 1970s political radicalism, and argues that both novels explore the availability of utopian thinking in a ‘post-utopian’ and ‘postracial’ contemporary moment.
Researched and written in collaboration with Helen Walasek, former curator of the Punch archive, the essay concerns the remarkably frank account which Clive Bell gave the select and influential Bloomsbury Memoir Club of his first lover, Annie Raven-Hill, the wife of the illustrator and cartoonist Leonard Raven-Hill. The full text of the memoir, read at a meeting on 2 February 1921, is published for the first time, with full annotation and discussion. The affair began in 1899, when she was thirty-five and he was not quite eighteen and about to go up to Cambridge. It continued, with interruptions, until 1914. The relationship was one of lust rather than love, although there was clearly some affection on both sides. The text of the memoir is preceded by an introduction of four sections. The first describes the foundation, character, and history of the Memoir Club. The second is about the presentation and reception of Clive’s memoir. The third, a selective chronology, illuminates his life and work and provides a context for his affair with Annie. The fourth, about Annie, is the first attempt to compare Clive’s account with the facts of her life and to present a fuller and fairer picture of her.
Essay 2 presents and discusses ten previously unpublished nude photographs of Vanessa Bell, Clive Bell, and Roger Fry taken during a seaside holiday at Studland in Dorset. The photographs were taken out of doors on a single occasion in early morning. The Bells had several holidays in Studland, in 1909 and the following years, but there was only one occasion when Roger was there as well, and that was in September 1911. This was a time when he and Vanessa, unknown to Clive, were vigorously pursuing their love affair, and it is this circumstance that makes this nude-posing threesome particularly remarkable. It is most likely to have been organised by Vanessa. Although the Bells were in Studland for almost the whole of September, the event can be securely dated to the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th for several reasons, including the presence of the only known spectator, the economist Gerald Shove.
The Conclusion returns to the book’s central preoccupations of citizenship, equality, and community by way of an extended close reading of Benjamin Markovits’s 2015 novel, You Don’t Have to Live Like This.
The essay is a detailed study of the visit Virginia Woolf made to Greece with Leonard Woolf, Roger Fry, and Roger’s sister Margery Fry in April–May 1932 – the one happy time in an otherwise unhappy year for Virginia. The study, the first by a classical scholar, is based on close examination of the primary sources, published and unpublished. These are: Virginia’s diaries and letters; Roger’s letters; Leonard’s pocket-diary; and Virginia and Leonard’s photographs. After explanation of the background to the holiday and discussion of the relations between members of the party, especially Virginia and Roger, the exact itinerary and timetable are set out. Many of the scenes in the photographs are correctly identified for the first time, including one in which the Woolfs and Frys are seen standing in front of a ruined temple in Athens. The temple, said by leading Bloomsbury writers to be on the Acropolis, is shown to be no such thing. Comparison of the published versions of Virginia’s diary and letters with the manuscripts of them reveals some significant errors, including one that seriously misrepresents her assessment of Roger’s character – no trivial matter, given her admiration for him and their close friendship.
This chapter draws on the anthropology of the gift to examine forms of reciprocity between male friends in Paul Auster’s fiction and screenplays. Beginning with a discussion of Auster’s published correspondence with J. M. Coetzee, the chapter argues that Auster critiques liberal individualism by imagining networks of solidarity and alliance born of generosity. Focusing on three novels that Auster tells Coetzee are ‘stories about male friendship’, the first half of the chapter takes up the metaphor of correspondence to follow the ambiguous forms of textual exchange patterning these fictions. The second half explores the role of money as an alternative ‘currency of friendship’ in Auster’s work to further delineate his concern with relationships of indebtedness and obligation across his oeuvre. Closing with a reading of the 1995 film Smoke, the chapter reveals how Auster’s various portrayals of male friendship demonstrate an interest in questions of community and citizenship that has gone unrecognised in critical accounts of his work.
The article presents and discusses thirteen previously unpublished letters from the British novelist and poet Rose Macaulay to the Irish poet and novelist Katharine Tynan, who in 1913 initiated a correspondence and friendship when she wrote to congratulate Rose on winning with The Lee Shore in a prestigious and valuable Novel Competition which she too had entered. Katharine continued to express admiration for Rose’s writing, especially her novels, not only in her letters to Rose (not preserved), but also in memoirs and articles. Rose in turn praised Katharine’s work, especially her poetry, emphasising particularly the comfort it gave her and others in wartime. She herself had lost several friends, including Rupert Brooke, and was anxious about her brother, who was serving in the army. Katharine’s two sons were in the army too. Rose took an interest in Katharine’s daughter, Pamela Hinkson, who was showing early promise as a writer. In 1925 Katharine sent Rose a novel, The Victors, by Peter Deane. When Rose replied, she did not realise that Peter Deane was a pseudonym used by Pamela, let alone that the sad story was closely based on the postwar experiences of Katharine’s elder son.
The book contains eleven essays, with an introduction and index. Six of the essays focus chiefly on four pivotal members of the influential “Bloomsbury Group” – the artists Roger Fry and Vanessa Bell, the art critic Clive Bell, and the writer Virginia Woolf. Significant new light is shed on them, partly through the presentation of previously unpublished pictures, photographs, and texts, partly through the fresh examination of relevant manuscripts and images. At the same time the life and work of Fry’s wife, the artist Helen Coombe, and her feminist friend the suffragette-supporting inspector of prisons Mary Louisa Gordon, who were never “Bloomsberries”, receive close attention. The five non-Bloomsbury essays too are based on primary source-materials, including previously unpublished texts and images. The first presents thirteen letters from the British writer Rose Macaulay to the Irish poet and novelist Katharine Tynan. It is followed by two essays about the prodigious teenage talents and achievements of Dorothy L. Sayers, destined for fame as a detective novelist and religious writer. The penultimate piece is about the exotic origin and eventful life of Richard Williams Reynolds, who taught J. R. R. Tolkien at school; and the last illuminates the artist Tristram Hillier and especially the personally and professionally important first visit he made to Portugal in 1947. The collection combines homogeneity and variety, and this combination contributes to a rich and balanced picture of the cultural scene in the first half of the twentieth century.