MacDiarmid’s The Company I’ve Kept reviewed in Labour Monthly, Volume 48, Number 12, December, 1966.
The Company I’ve Kept
Hutchinson, 288., 35s
Hugh MacDiarmid makes it clear at once that his latest work in prose is a record oof other people not a revelation of personal intimacies. The ‘confessions’ of Hugh MacDiarmid might be as interesting as those of Rousseau but nobody can understand better than myself his choice in the way of autobiography. ‘Here I am concerned with a host of other people, and only with myself in so far as my personality – or rather my significance as a poet and politician – is reflected in my relations with them.’
Inevitably in reading The Company I’ve Kept I have been comparing all the time his impressions of the various people of whom he writes with my own. I was glad to read his admirable evocation of that remarkable Parsee composer Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji, bringing back as it does for me memories of the early days of my review The Gramophone. I was even more glad to read his tribute to Francis George Scott whose integrity I admired equally as a man and as a composer. I was glad to meet again Major Douglas of Social Credit whom I met first through Hugh MacDiarmid. naturally I disagreed with MacDiarmid’s praise of some of the company he has kept. I thought Ezra Pound a charlatan and have never been able to forgive him for the wrong he did to Propertius, my favourite Roman poet. I could argue with MacDiarmid about his failure to grasp what Christian faith has meant to humanity, and often his apparent ignorance of its history. I could rap his knuckles for calling Sir William MacTaggart a ‘social climber’ and thus displaying an almost alarming ignorance. On the other hand, I much envied his condemnation of all novelists except Lewis Crassic Gibbon because it reminded me of the carnivorous habits of the Georgian poets when they used to devour novelists almost every month in the London Mercury, in the days of Sir John Squire and the Squirarchy.
However, whatever differences of opinion about other people Hugh MacDiarmid and I may have, I can look back to reading A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle forty years ago and recognising a born poet whose friendship has been a privilege and whose career has been a marvel.
Sir Compton Mackenzie