Whether it be regretting the absence of Alfred Duggan's historical novels in our bookshops, contemplating if Dylan Thomas was a dyslexic, or touching memories of a lifelong friendship with Simon Gray - 'A couple of weeks ago I wrote here about Malcolm Lowry, of whom one of his friends said, "Even a sight of the old bastard cheers me up for days." A note from Simon had the same effect on me...' - Massie's gentle yet erudite opinions soothe and elucidate at the same time. The 'Man of Letters' is now often scorned as an elitist, bigoted, reactionary old whatsit and our public life deemed well rid. But his demise has allowed the intolerance of literary theory and dogma of political correctness to fuse with the insincerity of fashionable celebrity. These modest pieces remind us of what we are missing; namely, the value that there is, in elegant critique, knowledgeable opinion and an extraordinarily wide-ranging taste.
Allan Massie is a Scottish writer who has published nearly thirty books, including a sequence of novels set in ancient Rome. His non-fiction works range from a study of Byron's travels to a celebration of Scottish rugby. He has been a political columnist for the Scotsman, the Sunday Times and the Daily Telegraph and writes the literary column, Life & Letters, for the Spectator.