SELECTED LETTERS OF WILLIAM EMPSON

WILLIAM EMPSON
Edited by JOHN HAFFENDEN
800pp 16 PLATES 2009 LIST PRICE: £34.49 (P) B740

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Description
This collection of letters by William Empson (1906-84), one of the foremost writers and literary critics of the twentieth century, ranges across the entirety of his career. Parts of the correspondence record the development of ideas that were to come to fruition in seminal texts including Seven Types of Ambiguity, The Structure of Complex Words and Milton's God. The topics of other letters range from Shakespeare's Dark Lady to Marvell's marriage and Byron's bisexuality. Empson relished correspondence that was combative, if not downright aggressive. As a result, some letters record serial disputations with other critics, including Frank Kermode, Helen Gardner and Philip Hobsbaum. Other notable correspondents include Al Alvarez, George Orwell, Kathleen Raine, Laura Riding, A L Rowse and Stephen Spender. The selection provides a context for the evaluation of Empson's total literary output and constitutes a new volume of critical writings by Empson.