Although I now write novels, and only occasional poems, I still think of myself as a narrative poet. My novels are not verse, they are not poetic in the flowery sense. But I claim a poetic perception, a poet’s way of looking at the world, a synoptic vision.
Looking back at this work I wrote on Masefield, I feel a large amount of my writing on him can be applied generally; it is in many ways a statement of my position as a literary critic and I hope some readers will recognize it as such. Certainly I have changed over the intervening years, but my basic tenets remain surprisingly (even to me) constant.
I wrote to Masefield on 28th November, 1950, suggesting the book. He was the Poet Laureate, still in the public mind the ‘sailor-poet’, but at that time not very widely read. I felt he was overlooked for the wrong reasons. Masefield replied immediately in his characteristically courteous manner:
I am much honoured, that you should wish to write about my work, and much touched that you should have read so much of it and continue its friend.
Would it be too much to ask, that you should first meet and talk with me?
I arranged to visit John Masefield at his house, Burcote Brook, Abingdon in Berkshire on 6 December 1950. He sent a car to meet me at Oxford Station. It was a freezing day. The snow was deep. Here is the account of my meeting with Masefield that I wrote in my Memorandum Book:
Dec. 8 1950 In bed with cold which was caught at Abingdon, and I can’t help thinking that if Masefield were not so intemperately ‘Temperant’ I would not be snuffling and choking thus – i.e. if he had offered me a drink on frozen Wednesday last. But I have not the heart to blame him for in all else he is a generous and delightful host.
He has a large house, much larger than I expected, with a lodge and drive. Somehow, I didn’t expect to find the atmosphere of comfort and success. A lovely-looking old man. Rosy cheeks, white skin, pure-white hair and moustache and blue, blue eyes. A charming voice which carefully enunciates all vowels and speaks boldly. First I was shown into his study which looks out on a long