Cecil Day-Lewis

C. Day Lewis;C Day Lewis

1904 (Ballintubbert, Ireland) – 1972 (Hadley Wood, England)

Auden, initially strongly influential, was met at Oxford: Day-Lewis joined the circle around him, later modelling a fictional detective on him. Spender became another friend from the time (though it is a popular misconception that with MacNeice they formed a tight-knit group; the four were never in the same room all at the same time). Shortly before his fatal accident, Lawrence wrote praising his poetry. Day-Lewis’s friend Kavanagh told him he should have made more of his socialist convictions, Lehmann had a long affair with him, and his friend Amis gave him house-room in the months he was dying.

Cecil Day-Lewis knew…

Andrei Bely

Boris Nikolaevich Bugaev

1880 (Moscow) – 1934 (Moscow)

Bely was Boris Bugaev’s pen-name. Tsvetaeva, then an emergent writer, met him in the circle around the critic Voloshin. Ehrenburg, Mayakovsky, Mandelstam and Pasternak were others he hob-nobbed with; Pasternak said he hadn’t stretched his talent as much as he should have, but also acknowledged his influence. Bryusov co-edited a magazine with him, Bakst painted him. He had a close but stormy friendship with Blok, his fellow-follower of the esoteric philosopher Solovyov, having an affair with Blok’s wife, and duelling with him. Bely became a disciple of Steiner’s, working on his anthroposophical temple in Switzerland, before falling out with him.

Alexandre Dumas, père

Alexandre Dumas

1802 (Villers-Cotterêts, France) – 1870 (Puys)

Châteaubriand was a witness at Dumas’ wedding. He frequented Nodier’s salon de l’Arsenal, along with Hugo, Vigny, Stendhal, Gautier, Lamartine, and Berlioz. Heine, Nadar, Chopin, Nerval, Delacroix and Sand were also among his Paris friends. Andersen, when he visited Paris, diligently sought him out. Hugo, who had a mixture of affection and irritation for Dumas, contributed to the journal he founded, and Dumas dedicated a play to him. Hugo, in political exile in Brussels, visited Dumas, in exile from his debts.

Boris Pasternak

Boris Leonidovich Pasternak

1890 (Moscow) – 1960 (Peredelkino, Russia)

Rilke, Rachmaninoff, Tolstoy, Blok and Bely were all visitors to his parents’ home. He became a great admirer of Rilke’s poetry, but was inspired by his neighbour Scriabin to study music. Tsvetayeva and he wrote to each other for 20 years before meeting (their triangular correspondence with Rilke is notable). His relationship with Mandelstam was complicated (despite what he said to Stalin, he had attended a reading satirising him). Spender and Pasternak were mutual admirers, Ehrenburg and Babel sat Pasternak down in a Paris café to rewrite his grumpy speech, and Akhmatova rejected his several offers of marriage.

Walter Scott

Sir Walter Scott

1771 (Edinburgh) – 1832 (Abbotsford, Scotland)

Scott and Burns met just once, when Scott was sixteen. The Wordsworths visited Scott at Lasswade, outside Edinburgh. Mendelssohn, Turner, Irving, and Landseer visited him later at Abbotsford. Edgeworth corresponded, visited, and became a valued reader of his novels. Byron met him at their publisher’s in London, corresponded, and thought his work better than Coleridge’s and Wordsworth’s. Scott showed Lewis his translation of a gothic story by Goethe, enjoyed fireside conversations with Davy, was a close friend of Somerville, and when Crabbe visited, accidentally broke the glass that George IV had just toasted him with.

Victor Hugo

1802 (Besançon, France) – 1885 (Paris)

Heine, Delacroix and Hugo frequented the same literary/artistic salons. Berlioz became a friend after reading ‘Notre-Dame de Paris’ and writing to him. Hugo contributed to Dumas’ journal; Dumas dedicated a play to him. He encouraged Gautier (introduced by Nerval) to write. Sainte-Beuve, a friend, cuckolded him. Andersen, never close, visited him across thirty years; with Balzac too the relationship was of mutual respect, Hugo visiting Balzac on his deathbed. His badly cooked macaroni led Mérimée to invite him home and show him how it should really be done. Nadar, a friend for many years, visited him as he lay dying.

Tobias Smollett

1721 (Dalquhurn, Scotland) – 1771 (Livorno, Italy)

Hume knew Smollett, describing him as a coconut, rough outside but full of kindness within. It’s unclear whether Smollett actually met Handel, who wrote music for his unproduced play Alceste; though Handel describing him as a “damn fool” for arguing with the management (Rich or Garrick) of the Theatre Royal is well-noted. When Smollett visited Edinburgh, Smith visited him. The Hunters and Goldsmith were friends, and Johnson, Sterne and Garrick used to lunch with him in Chelsea, Johnson getting him to intercede with the navy when his black servant Barber ran away to sea. Sterne immortalised Smollett as ‘the learned Smelfungus’.

Samuel Beckett

1906 (Dublin) – 1989 (Paris)

Beckett assisted Joyce (a strong influence) on ‘Finnegan’s Wake’ but distanced himself following Joyce’s daughter’s infatuation; Joyce also introduced him to Pound. He met Duchamp and Giacometti at the same time, and encountered Stravinsky on a voyage to Amsterdam. His publisher Calder played chess and billiards with him in Paris bars. Bion was Beckett’s psychoanalyst, de Beauvoir at one point his landlady. He bought a painting on credit from his friend Yeats, hid at Sarraute’s during a resistance roundup, and bailed Behan out of prison. He corresponded admiringly with O’Casey, despite never meeting, but his letter to Eisenstein never arrived

Pierre Louÿs

Pierre Louis

1870 (Ghent, Belgium) – 1925 (Paris)

Gide was a close friend of Louÿs from schooldays in Paris, though they eventually quarrelled. Louÿs met Leconte de Lisle at nineteen and Mallarmé at twenty, attending Mallarmé’s salon and later writing a sonnet for his 50th birthday. He visited London with Wilde when Wilde was putting on his play Salomé there, though again they later quarelled. Debussy was another good friend. The magazine Louÿs founded published early work by friends like Valéry and Gide, as well as by himself and established poets like Mallarmé. Valéry had first met Louÿs on military service in Montpellier, and spoke at his graveside.

Pierre Louÿs knew…

Paul Nizan

1905 (Tours, France) – 1940 (Audruicq)

Nizan is today remembered best for his politically-engaged fiction. Sartre and he met at school, later becoming constant companions. Aron became a friend when studying at the École Nationale Supérieure. Guterman was a colleague in the ‘Philosophes’ group of marxist intellectuals, founded by Lefebvre, for one of whose works Nizan wrote a foreword. Aragon and Rolland were friends as well as colleagues, and Malraux particularly close. Sartre was responsible for rescuing Nizan’s reputation a decade after he’d been accused of treachery by his communist allies (including Lefebvre). It was Nizan’s suggestion that led Lévi-Strauss to São Paulo, where he taught philosophy.