27 APRIL 1956, Page 7

M R. J. B. PRIESTLEY seems to be making heavy weather

of his lecture tour of Canada. When the chief librarian of Toronto said at a luncheon there that Mr. Priestley would autograph conies of his books. Mr. Priestley not only declined the honour but launched out into a general denunciation of the librarian's other remarks, and of the Canada Book Week itself—to mark which occasion the luncheon was held. The journey to Van- couver should have given Mr. Priestley time to brood on his tactlessness; but when he got there he was unrepentant, and announced, indeed, that,he had nothing but contempt for those who sponsored the Toronto luncheon. It has always seemed to me that Yorkshire bluffness becomes tedious when extended to the point of bad manners, and Mr. Priestley's exhibitions in Canada have strengthened me in this view. I am inclined to agree with the sponsor of the luncheon who gave it as his opinion that Mr. Priestley is 'just a spoiled and bad-mannered man.' But I also agree with him that 'for all that, he's an excellent author.' When I look at his All About Ourselves (published by Heinemann at a guinea), his latest collection of essays, I marvel that a man so graceful in print can be so tactless in speech. But it is no great surprise, when all is said : I have always thought that authors, with a few exceptions, should be read and not heard. Unfortunately, modern publicity and modern taxation tend to lead literary men to capitalise obiter dicta which would otherwise be reserved for a bored circle of acquaintances at the club.

* * *