…but not mentioned in the book:

In 1971, ten years after first reading Seven Types, I met Empson in London. He’d recently retired from his chair at the University of Sheffield and was living with his wife, Hetta, at Studio House, Hampstead Hill Gardens – in a set-up described by Robert Lowell as a ‘household [that] had a weird, sordid nobility that made other Englishmen seem like a veneer’. Empson’s idea of making lunch was to place an assortment of unpunctured cans of Chinese vegetables on the gas cooker, where they tended to explode. Ancient rashers of fried bacon served as bookmarks in his disintegrating copy of Marvell’s Collected Poems. He stirred his tea with the sole remaining earpiece of his glasses. After an alarming lunch, he and I would set off in my car to raid the Wallace Collection, the Sir John Soane Museum, or some unsuspecting country house in Buckinghamshire or Hertfordshire, where he had found out that a family portrait of an ancestor, distantly connected with Marvell, hung on the walls. Doorstepping a secluded mansion, deep in its landscaped park, at the end of a long and gated drive, Empson displayed an imperious persistence, refused to take no for an answer, and forced his way inside past nonplussed butlers and feebly protesting dowagers. I delighted in the disquiet that he gave such people. During the time I knew him, his silver moustache varied in cut from Fu Manchu to Colonel Blimp; he was, always, legendarily scruffy, but his commanding, high-pitched voice announced his lapsed membership of the landowning classes, and the dowager and butler were clearly uncertain as to whether they were confronting Lord Emsworth in his cups, or an unusually determined Kleeneze brush salesman.

The scene went something like this:

Empson: “I can’t quite make out this stanza of ‘Appleton House.’ It’s wonderfully opaque.”

Friend: “Ah, yes, the ideology of these lines shows a fascinating shift in English diction, as Marvell struggles to register the myriad of social changes that had occurred with the return of Charles within the tradition and conventions of the country-house poem.”

Empson: “No, just a smudge of grease. Maybe it’s best not to put that type in the book.”

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