To Mark Jacobs January 16 1978

January 16 1978


I have been doing some overnight thinking on this matter of a biography, on which I wrote to you yesterday briefly, so that the subject might be placed at once in confidential status between us. Besides what I indicated, there is to be considered the commentary I am preparing on the [T. S.] Matthews book – what sort of relation as to contents, and timings, would have to obtain between the two. Then there is the question, which I have very sketchily presented to you, of others – as, for instance, what Alan might wish, as to participation, on the basis of past speculation of mine communicated to him. Indeed, the material documentary, and of personal communication, that he holds, besides his own separately collected possession of bibliographical and personal data (on very much of which he has my comments, corrective, informative), would have worth for source material for a biography.

Much keeps rising for our thinking on between Jim [Mathias] and myself; I must try to pace this – the burden of presence to it all for judging from his position of care for my work, myself, the course of things in special relation to the Matthews matter is a large one (and the Matthews matter in particular is not, as I hope very few of my friends are feeling to be and am sure he is not feeling it to be all over with). I shall be raising question of what you propose with him, for his thinking on. He is keenly sensitive to the practical aspects of things along with being keenly sensitive to the personal values and ultimate realities at the inward center of them; and he has a most lively sensitivity of feeling to the personal actuality, myself. I believe that he knows, a good deal, the differing natures and personalities of my friends whom he has taken into friendship: let is leave the biography subject for the present to his and my deliberating on it for a time. You have my word already as to my viewing your proposal very seriously.

That is news of interest that you have sent as to the anonymous review of my Selected Poems and The Telling that appeared three to four years ago in the TLS was by Donald Davie. [sic] I had thought it was by I. A. Richards, for its wizened sprightliness, and its benighted vanity in one regarding himself as a poet also – the writer did not deign to write well of my poems, concentrated on attacking Michael's [Kirkham] writing on one, sympathetically, in his review of Selected Poems in the Cambridge Quarterly. Michael wrote an answer to that in a submitted letter, which the TLS did not publish. At the time, for sure, Michael did not know that the TLS reviewer was Davie! ---Yet in recent time Michael has indicated that he and Davie have become friends ; but he has not indicated acquaintance with the fact that it was Davie who wrote against my poem that Michael had chosen as one instance for demonstrating how good my poems are. --- Do not speak of what I have here written on this matter to anyone. I am looking towards what you will be further sending me as to how this review may have been modified in Davies’s reproduction of it in his book of essays.

As I have already indicated, as to your finding of that nastiness as to Jonathan Cape and Graves and myself: the temptation to vent ill-feeling upon myself bas been widespread, and, likewise, the yielding to it. There is that ‘about’ me, that which I ‘am’, that excites discomfort.-------- The why of this I regard as having to do with the same 'thing' that accounts for Matthews' daring to do what be has done in treating of myself, my life, my work. my relations with people.

I thank you for attempting to speak with some ease of openness on what I wrote for the three in England's knowing. I'll comment on what you have written in my next writing. . --- I have written hurriedly. I must prepare for going out to lunch with two friends – this planned by one of them for my birthday's honor.

Blessings – with special pleasure in your thought of me in the birthday connection.