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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pace and space
This is the best literary biography that I have come across. The research is painstaking and the notes to the text and catalogues of Denton Welch's writing and art, while not exhaustive, are as extensive as one could wish. Methuen-Campbell writes in a correct but easily read style and weights his material well, with no particular excesses in relation to the more...
Published on 24 Jan 2012 by RAR

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars If one is to believe Denton's account...
Denton Welch was born in Shanghai in 1915, the youngest of four sons of Arthur Welch, a rich English rubber merchant, and Rosalind Bassett, his American wife. After attending a prep school at Uckfield in Sussex he was sent to Repton, where he was constantly bullied; at sixteen, he ran away.

In 1933, he enrolled at Goldsmith's College School of Art, with the...
Published on 6 Feb 2012 by Metropolitan Critic


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars If one is to believe Denton's account..., 6 Feb 2012
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This review is from: Denton Welch: Writer and Artist (Paperback)
Denton Welch was born in Shanghai in 1915, the youngest of four sons of Arthur Welch, a rich English rubber merchant, and Rosalind Bassett, his American wife. After attending a prep school at Uckfield in Sussex he was sent to Repton, where he was constantly bullied; at sixteen, he ran away.

In 1933, he enrolled at Goldsmith's College School of Art, with the intention of becoming a painter, but his education was abruptly terminated when, at the age of twenty he was knocked off his bicycle by a motorist. The collision fractured his spine and forced him to use a catheter for much of the rest of his life.

After reading J.R. Ackerley's Hindoo Holiday, Welch decided to write an autobiographical novel dealing with Repton and his years in China. Maiden Voyage appeared in 1943. Two years later, his second novel, In Youth is Pleasure, was published. The theme was a summer holiday taken at the age of fifteen.

His third novel, A Voice Through a Cloud, deals with the accident that wrecked his life. Perhaps understandably, it was the most difficult to write, and though Welch spent four years on the text, it was unfinished when he died at the age of thirty three. The book for which he is best known, the Journals, also appeared after his death, as did around sixty short stories.

Every writer to some extent has their own way of seeing the world, but there have been few with such a distinctive and individual viewpoint as Welch. Like Franz Kafka, Katherine Mansfield or Ivy Compton Burnett he has a unique flavour; there is no one else remotely like him. Most striking is his extraordinary power of describing objects and experiences: food, bodies, clothes, antiques, buildings, conversation, weather. In his hands the everyday details of life are somehow transformed.

His enthusiasms would be considered by many precious or effeminate: he spent several months rennovating a doll's house. With admirable courage, he refused, either in life or art, to conceal or downplay this characteristic.

The problem posed by Welch for the biographer is that his writings are apparently autobiographical; every period in the life was made use of in the work. However, it is difficult to know to what extent the work is simple autobiography (with the names changed) and to what extent fiction; rarely is it possible to check using independent sources.

Although Metheun Campbell is a scholarly and diligent biographer, he does not really solve this problem. A great deal of his book consists of paraphrase and quotation from Welch's published works. Sometimes the biographer simply paraphrases without comment, implicitly accepting Welch's version; elsewhere he paraphrases but with caveats such as 'If one accepts the sequence of events recorded in Maiden Voyage as being accurate..' or 'If one is to believe the escapades that comprise the rest of Denton's account...'; only occasionally is he able to confirm or disprove the accuracy of Welch's version.

This said, his biography is a definite advance on the previous attempt (by Michael De La Noy) which simply assumed that Welch's work is factual. The illustrations are excellent.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pace and space, 24 Jan 2012
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This review is from: Denton Welch: Writer and Artist (Paperback)
This is the best literary biography that I have come across. The research is painstaking and the notes to the text and catalogues of Denton Welch's writing and art, while not exhaustive, are as extensive as one could wish. Methuen-Campbell writes in a correct but easily read style and weights his material well, with no particular excesses in relation to the more controversial aspects of the subject's life; in other words, the text is free from sensationalism. The book's greatest strength is that unlike many biographies, where one suffers from a kind of reader indigestion by way of the enormous number of events that seem to occur in a comparatively short elapsed time, the narrative is skilfully paced allowing one to reflect on and absorb the significance of events. The referencing also adds to the book's appeal. For example, it is not difficult by way of extant architectural information, which the author flags up, to find contemporary pictures (1930s) of the then avant garde dwelling 'The Hopfield' at St Mary's Platt, which was Denton's home during part of his life. One minor criticism would be the lack of reminders during the narrative as to which year one is in, the author having adopted the convention, after each year's turning, of day and month only chronology. A minor carp for a book which I missed upon publication and have only just acquired and read (January 2012).
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Denton Welch: Writer and Artist
Denton Welch: Writer and Artist by James Methuen-Campbell (Paperback - 12 Dec 2003)
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