John Ruskin

1819 (London) – 1900 (Coniston)

Ruskin inspired and supported Hunt, Rossetti and Burne-Jones, though he turned on his former protégé Millais after his own wife found solace with him. Thackeray published his provocative essays. Carlyle was a great friend and influence, while he himself met and strongly influenced Morris. He followed his friend Carroll in ‘adopting’ the Liddell girls, and taught Wilde, who said he’d participated in his road-building schemes. Having set out promoting Turner’s work over artists of the past, he met and befriended him; deeply shocked by the erotic sketches he found after Turner’s death, he probably didn’t, as claimed, burn them.

Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve

1804 (Boulogne-sur-Mer, France) – 1869 (Paris)

Sainte-Beuve met Hugo following a review he wrote while still studying, and through him met Vigny, Lamartine and other members of the Cénacle literary circle. He later became his friend Vigny’s sternest critic, coining the term ‘ivory tower’ to illustrate his condemnation, and lost Hugo’s friendship through an affair of sorts with his wife. He was close to Châteaubriand, corresponded with Mérimée, socialised with Flaubert, did Gautier’s daughter a favour, and knew Turgenev from before the Russian settled in Paris. Meeting Baudelaire (ever keen on the influential critic’s favour) on a brothel stairway, they decided they’d rather go away and talk.

August Wilhelm Schlegel

August Wilhelm von Schlegel

1767 (Hannover, Germany) – 1845 (Bonn)

The German Romanticist group centered around Schlegel and his brother Friedrich. Tieck (a longstanding friend and collaborator) and Novalis were also prominent colleagues, likewise the influential Fichte; while the importance of the Schlegels’ wives Caroline and Dorothea was considerable. While Goethe was an occasional visitor and deeply interested in August’s work on Indian culture, the brothers alienated Schiller, whose influence they craved. Hegel was an academic colleague, Schelling and Schleiermacher correspondents after he moved to Berlin. Runge visited him there, and Mickiewicz in Bonn.

Johann Gottfried Herder

1744 (Mohrungen, E. Prussia, now Morąg, Poland) – 1803 (Weimar)

Kant, initially influential, let him attend his lectures free, but they broke off before long; meanwhile he became Hamann’s protégé. His ideas profoundly affected Goethe when they met in Strasbourg (Herder was there for an eye operation); Goethe later got him a lifetime position in Weimar, though they subsequently fell out. Jean Paul moved to Weimar to be close to Herder; Wieland was another associate there. Forster’s translation of a Sanskrit play strongly influenced Herder. He met Klopstock in Denmark and Diderot and d’Alembert in France. Lessing was a respected acquaintance, though they disagreed healthily.

Friedrich Schlegel

Friedrich von Schlegel

1772 (Hannover) – 1829 (Dresden)

Novalis had been a fellow law-student. The Schlegel brothers’ circle of lively-minded friends included (as well as their notable wives) such individuals as Novalis, Tieck, Schelling and Schleiermacher. The Schlegels, Novalis and Schleiermacher published an influential Romanticist journal. Schlegel met Runge in Dresden, and travelled with Brentano in Italy. Goethe invited him on his afternoon walks; Schiller (whose influence the brothers craved) had been alienated by the their criticisms. Fichte was a friend and admired correspondent, Hegel a bitter rival. Even Schlegel’s friends often found him incomprehensible.

Stephen Spender

1909 (London) – 1995 (London)

Eliot, who got him published, chided him for wanting to be a poet, rather than wanting to write poetry. Auden and Isherwood (close friends from university) strongly impressed him; MacNeice and Day Lewis also befriended him. He met Bowles in Berlin, and got a forged Spanish passport (‘Ramos Ramos’) from Malraux. In Russia he was astonished to find that Pasternak knew his work well, and met and supported Brodsky. He went to Wales with the teenage Freud, and to China with Hockney. Ginsberg, McCarthy, Hughes and Bacon were all friends, and Humphries his son-in-law. Thomas and Woolf both despaired of him.

Philippe Sollers

1936 (Bordeaux) –

Aragon, Breton and Ponge encouraged him early in his career; later, he visited Ponge at least weekly. Lacan, Althusser and Barthes were all friends (he said Lacan’s seminars were the best theatre he ever saw). Barthes, Ponge, Derrida and Kristeva were among contributers to the influential radical literary journal ‘Tel Quel’ that he founded; Kristeva, fresh from Bulgaria, came to question him, and never left (they married). He said that Barthes almost died in his arms. Mauriac had been a mentor, and got him discharged from military service after he feigned schizophrenia, supporting as he did the war for Algerian independence.

Viktor Shklovsky

Victor Borisovich Shklovsky;Viktor Shklovskii

1893 (St. Petersburg) – 1984 (Moscow)

Shklovsky described himself as fish turned ichthyologist. Dumped by Triolet, their continuing correspondence (not amatory) was notable. Tynyanov, Brik and Shklovsky founded a society for the study of poetic language. Mayakovsky and Eisenstein were lifelong friends — Shklovsky was involved in Mayakovsky’s ‘Lef’ group, and was a loyal if combative critic to Eisenstein. Khlebnikov collaborated with him; Eichenbaum shared a love of Dostoyevsky. Shklovsky landed in Meyerhold and Ehrenburg’s Berlin circle after walking across the frozen Baltic. Jakobson hid him from the secret police in his study, telling him if discovered to rustle and say he was a sheet of paper.

William Hazlitt

1778 (Maidstone, England) – 1830 (London)

The 20-year-old Hazlitt met and was strongly impressed by Coleridge, and visited him in the Lake District, incensing Wordsworth by his brazen pursuit of local women. Shelley, Byron and Southey were among the radical writers Hazlitt befriended in London, while Stendhal, a fellow-spirit, was met in Paris. Hazlitt rented Bentham’s house, suggesting to him that his own theories were over-rated (Bentham evicted him over unpaid rent). Charles Lamb, a particularly staunch friend, acknowledged that Hazlitt’s conversation was matchless despite his truculent quarrelsome humour, inflicted on everyone. Hazlitt called the matricide Mary Lamb the only truly sensible woman he’d known.

W. H. Auden

Wystan Hugh Auden

1907 (York, England) – 1973 (Vienna)

Isherwood (first met at at school, when Auden was eleven) was a long-time friend and collaborator, and his lover when they emigrated to the U.S. MacNeice and Eliot helped him get work published; Spender, Day-Lewis, Ashbery and Schuyler were among other poet friends. Britten, Bowles, McCullers, Mann (and Gipsy Rose Lee) were all co-tenants with Auden of a house in Brooklyn, and Arendt (who took his photo) part of a wider circle of friends. He wrote or co-wrote libretti for Stravinsky, Britten and Henze, and corresponded at length with Tolkien.