Kennedy and Boyd

Dear Grieve: Letters to Hugh MacDiarmid (C.M.Grieve)
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By Manson, John (Editor). With an Introduction by Alan Riach.
ISBN 1849210780
Paperback  660 pages
Published 30 November 2011
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John Manson's collection of letters to MacDiarmid, or to Christopher Grieve, or to Hugh or Chris or Christie or Hughie, is a major work. It is the fruit of a lifetime of dedicated scholarly research, meticulous, self-effacing study in libraries, most deeply in the National Library of Scotland and Edinburgh University Library, and follows his initial co-editorship with David Craig of the first Penguin paperback edition of MacDiarmid's Selected Poems (1970), and his later co-editorship of The Revolutionary Art of the Future: Rediscovered Poems, with Dorian Grieve and Alan Riach (2003). He is a fine poet and translator himself, and his small-press publications are to be sought out and read closely. However, this is a monumental achievement: a collection so rich in diversity, covering historical epochs, strata of human character, social engagement, political motivation and accomplishment, that it will take some time before its impact and value really sinks in and embeds itself in modern literary and political culture - especially in Scotland! - from the Introduction by Alan Riach, Professor of Scottish Literature, University of Glasgow.

In reply to a question from Douglas Young in a review published in Lines Review 25, Winter 1967-1968, about F.G. Scott’s role in the arrangement of A Drunk Man looks at the Thistle, Hugh MacDiarmid showed that he anticipated that letters from his correspondents would be published at a later date. In giving his account of Scott’s role in the next issue of Lines Review, Summer 1968, MacDiarmid wrote: ‘When I was writing the Drunk Man I had poured out a great mass of verse. Scott came to Montrose and in an all-night session he helped me to discard a great deal that was inferior, repetitive or not essential. (...) Scott, (Edwin) Muir, my first wife and others who were in touch with me when A Drunk Man was being written are all dead now, but I think it is likely that correspondence from them when my letters are finally published will fully bear out what I say.’ No letters relating to the writing of A Drunk Man appear to have survived the ‘almighty big bonfire’ which he made in his garden in Montrose before he left for London in September 1929. However, many thousands of (mostly later) letters from a wide range of correspondents are preserved; mainly in the C.M. Grieve Correspondence in Edinburgh University Library (Special Collections) and in the National Library of Scotland, and these bear on his literary, political and private life. Letters have been selected to express the views of the correspondents and not because the editor identifies with these views.

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