4 NOVEMBER 1972, Page 15

Insignificance and irrelevance

From Dr F. R. Leavis Sir: The practice of calling attention to my insignificance by dragging in my name gratuitously is one with which readers of reviews are familiar: there are two instances in your issue for October 28. One of them, that in a review by Richard Luckett of a book by Lawrence Lerner, damages only the reviewer and (possibly) the author. I have inserted the ' possibly' to allow for the loose unspecificity of the insinuated charge: "the Leavisite confusion between the health of a literature and the health of a society ". It is at any rate possible that the author himself, even if he shares your reviewer's reliance on the applause of an antiLeavisite solidarity, sees that to pooh-pooh crudely the belief in an essential relation between the health of a literature and the health of a society is to commit oneself to incoherence and dilettantism and deny that literature really matters.

If I let the other instance pass I might be taken to have given tacit endorsement to viciously false implications. In reviewing H. A. Mason's To Homer Through Pope Christopher Gill writes: " At such moments we hear only too clearly the sound of the lectures from which the book was adapted; and, behind Mason's orotund tones, we hear another flat but penetrating voice, that of F. R. Leavis ". Your reviewer hears what he hears, but I assure him that, while I know actually nothing about Mr Mason's lectures, I do know, from such numbers as I have seen of the Cambridge Quarterly, of which I have noticed that he is editor-in-chief, that the suggestion of affinities in critical position, intention and bent between his criticism, or that of which he approves, and mine, is quite ludicrously wide of the mark. It has been reliably and repeatedly reported to me that the university teachers behind whose instruction Mr Mason's voice is to be heard deplore and dismiss, along with my criticism in general, all that I have written about Pope.

I have not written on Pope's Homer.

F. R. Leavis 12 Bulstrode Gardens, Cambridge