A Rainbow Bridge

"What is there to say about someone who did nothing all his life but sit on his bottom and write reviews?" Thus the subject of this biography, who saw himself as a modern Sainte-Beuve, once excoriated Sainte-Beuve in a private letter. To his biographer, Cyril Connolly's lament is so self-revealing, so emblematic of the life he chronicles that he uses it as the epigraph to this exhaustive, at times almost maddeningly detailed, critical biography. P'or Jeremy Lewis as for Connolly, the artist is above all his own artistic sensibility, even if sterility, obesity, and torpidity (to say nothing of humbuggery and plain old buggery) should be the objective final result of his endeavors. "Were it that I would have such a champion!" is every literary poseur's chops-licking thought from here to Timbuktu.

Certainly the fantastically decorative bridge between the artist's consciousness and his life's tangible achievement has the closing decades of the last century for its main support. The ornate wrought iron span, shaped like the grille of a monastic locutory whose fanciful prototypes one can find in the selfless solipsism of Dostoevsky and Huysmans and Wilde, is clearly outlined against the mother-of-pearl, slightly chipped Watteau of English sky between the World Wars, and in retrospect it may well be argued that the sometimes invisible, though always measurable, stress of nostalgia inherent in the rationally...

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