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Nicholson’s network before the internet age

by
16 May 2014

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From Mr David Boyd

Sir, - I refer to your recent content relating to the Cumbrian poet Norman Nicholson (Features, 28 March; Letters, 4 April).

It is all to the good that there has been some revived biographical and critical interest during this the centenary year of Nicholson's birth, but I have to express some regret, too, that much of this commentary overlooks the remarkable level of nationwide literary networking to which he avidly contributed.

Indeed, had computers and the internet and email existed in Nicholson's day, not only would much of his written communication have been rendered legible, but email traffic in and out of 14 St George's Terrace would have been immense.

A big chunk of this constant buzz of communication would have been with George Every (initially at Kelham, and he and his habitation no stranger to the pages of the Church Times), whose shadowy but profound influence on the entire literary life of those times is a story yet adequately to be told.

For example, Nicholson himself, despite his frail health and geographical isolation, was one of the driving forces during the early 1950s behind the work of St Anne's House in Soho, along with Every, T. S. Eliot, Dorothy L. Sayers, and many many more of the networked literati of the age.

Sadly for later researchers, both Nicholson and Every during the 1980s executed a mutual destruction pact to obliterate their vast mutual correspondence archive. Even at a conservative estimate of merely two letters exchanged between them per week, over about 40 years this would have amounted, had it still existed, to about 2000 letters held by each of them. The loss of all this material, I am sure, has contributed significantly to the fact that the part played by both Nicholson and Every in this regard has remained in obscurity.

DAVID BOYD
Richmond House, Brigg Road
Cumbria CA20 1NS

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