7 OCTOBER 1972, Page 19



In the wake of the Longford Report, there has been a scattering of prosecutions, police actions and various other forms of censorship which add up, in the time-honoured phrase, to "more than a coincidence." The latest sufferer is Xaviera Hollander who is, bar one, the most famous ex-brothel keeper in the Western hemisphere. Her autobiography The Happy Hooker (nothing to do with Henry Cooper) has just been withdrawn by Sphere Books, at a stage at which the printed copies were already prepared for distribution.

Sphere Books is part of the Thomson Organisation, whose legal advisers felt that The Happy Hooker stood a good chance of being prosecuted by the DPP. Some of Lord Thomson's associates (not, apparently, Lord Thomson himself) decided that whether the case was won or lost, the resulting publicity would be harmful. This is British censorship at its most typical — an accumulation of vague antipathies. Sphere Books don't lose out because they have sold the rights in The Happy Hooker, for the same sum as they paid originally to Tandem Books. But the subscription figures, and sales generally, are bound to take a tumble, since the publicity build-up has been wasted and the timing completely disarrayed. Xaviera Hollander must wish she were back in a profession where timing is less a cause than an effect.

From all accounts, it is only a matter of days before Number Ten comes clean about the Poet Laureateship. The contest has narroWed, pretty well to a choice between Roy Fuller and Philip Larkin — who, as devoted readers of this column will remember, was backed by Bookbuyer when Ladbrokes were offering odds of ten to one. Roy Fuller is the establishment choice; Philip Larkin, as the poet of xenophobia and stalwart suburban values, is believed to be more in key with the sent-, meats of the Royal Family. Both poets, have privately declared that they would be, willing to accept the honour.

On a lower level, if farce can be said to have a lower level, is the suggestion put, forward by the Poets' Conference — Pete,

Morgan, Roger McGough, Tom Pickard,: Jeff Nuttall, old uncle Bob Coning and all — at their Poetry Society meeting in the summer. This group, which has wisely ex-, changed literary skills for the more concrete rewards of political activism, sent a, deputation to Number Ten to suggest that, the Laureateship be an appointment tenable for a maximum period of five years,: and held by an " apologist for poetry" who would "further the interests " of British poets by speaking for them on an official level; and who would, moreover, •be empowered to commission poetical effusions for the various ceremonial occasions that presented themselves. If there has to be the appointment of an ' official ' poet, this seems to Bookbuyer to be .a quite sensible way of extracting a practical cOmpromise from a manifest absurdity....