SIR, —While I sympathise deeply with the suspicious attitudes of Mr.
Waugh, Mr. Came- Ross, Mr. Thwaite, and Mr. Brownjohn towards ' groupism ' in either creative writing or literary criticism, I also think that any practising literary critic cannot help becoming aware, from time to time, of the emergence of a new common tone in a lot of writing. It think Mr. Amis's novel and Mr. Wain's have really a good deal in common with each other, and that perhaps neither of them has much in common with Miss Murdoch's. All three novels have this in common, formally, that they explore experience through a single centre of observation. Our stance is inside the hero, and other characters in the novels
exist as functions of the hero's reactions to them. The important thing in common between Mr. Amis's novel and Mr. Wain's is that they both take as their centre of observation an irascible temperament. Moralists have long taught us that anger, like lust, blinds and stupefies. Novelists, how- ever, have long contested this in the case of the concupiscent appetite, but it is a genuine novelty to attempt to give the irascible appetite an intellectual respectability. Many writers of an older generation are genuinely morally shocked by Mr. Amis's and Mr. Wain's novels because these seem, at least by implication, to justify and even praise a sustained mood of savage exasperation and intolerant bitterness which people of my generation might associate, for instance, with Hitlerism. Yet the irascible appetite has, according to mediaeval philosophers, its proper object, which is difficulty; and I sup- pose one might build up a kind of moral justification of Jim Dixon and Charles Lumley by saying that their anger is directed fundamentally against the difficulty of leading a good life in modern society. The emergence, even among a compara- tively small representative range of intelligent people, of a new moral attitude is an impor- tant thing. And that is why, perhaps, these three novels have received proportionately more attention than more obviously experi- mental pieces by, for instance, writers like Mr. Philip Toynbee or Mr. Chapman Mortimer. Something of the same sort is true about the Fantasy Press-Reading University ' school '—though ' school; as Mr. Thwaite is right to observe, it can only very loosely be called—of poets. Only perhaps two or three of these poets are in any real sense ' disciples' of Mr. Empson's. though I hope most of them have the sense to admire the splendid technical virtuosity and ranging wit of that, until quite recently, in this country, remarkably neglected poet. They have a wide range of styles and attitudes. But to the outsider they do seem to have this in common, a cagy and cautious attitude, an ironical defensiveness, directed both towards the possible reader and their own inner feelings. The kind of epithets one would not use on the whole about any of them are, for instance, ' spontaneous," direct,' ' lyrical' Their attitude about where the poet stands in relation to himself and others is a remarkably wary one, and I think this wariness may sometimes produce a brittle, constricted kind o( writing, though I do not see that, as Mr. Carne-Ross appears to sug- gest, it is necessarily ' life-eAcluding! In fact the tone, the new psychological attitude in a group of young poets, does deserve attention, like the new moral sk ttitude in a group of young novelists. In other words, I think your leader-writer is 'genuinely on to something; though something that will begin to be much less obviously there as a trend ' or ' movement' as the most promising repre- sentatives of it gradually mature their individual talents:—Yours faithfully, 75 Beaufort Mansions, S.W.3
0. S. FRASER