26 FEBRUARY 2005, Page 18

Miller’s genius

From Sheridan Morley

Sir: ‘Attention must be paid’ to Arthur Miller (Mark Steyn, ‘Death of a salesman’, 19 February) quite simply because he was the greatest dramatist of our lifetime. Briefly to answer Steyn, it was hardly Miller’s fault that his biographer failed to locate Norwich accurately; and having survived the McCarthy witch-hunt, it seems a little unfair to condemn Miller simply because he declined to join the far Right, where sadly Steyn now seems to belong. The fact that Castro and Gorbachev recognised Miller’s genius doesn’t necessarily mean that he recognised theirs. Nor was he even remotely unpatriotic — he just didn’t always care for the way his beloved country was being run.

If Mark really fancies a musical of The Crucible, as he seems to imply, let him write one. And if Arthur’s ‘sin’ was to demand a decent royalty out of Dustin Hoffman, do we assume that Steyn now writes for free?

Sheridan Morley London EC2

From Dennis Outwin

Sir: Mark Steyn accuses Arthur Miller of being anti-American. Well, perhaps he was for a time. At the height of the McCarthy hysteria in the 1950s he was nearly imprisoned for refusing to name names. This would have been a crime in Stalin’s Russia but not in any Western nation. Miller could not have been very anti-American or he would have gone into exile along with other McCarthy victims. It is true that he attacked some aspects of American society, but that is not the same thing.

In fact, Miller seems to have been a very decent fellow, but even if he was not, that would not detract from his achievement. T.S. Eliot was anti-Semitic, W.H. Auden fled to America, Dylan Thomas was a drunk, Bernard Shaw openly admired both Hitler and Stalin. But those of us who lived in the 20th century had our intellectual lives enriched by these great men.

So with Arthur Miller. With the possible exception of J.B. Priestley, Miller is the only mid-20th-century playwright whose work does not sound dated.

It will be time for American neocons to jeer at Arthur Miller when they can produce from their ranks a playwright half as good.

Dennis Outwin Gorleston, Norfolk