The item is signed but not dated, but as it refers to Barker’s departure for Japan in 1939 to take up an appointment as Professor English we must infer that it dates from this time. Fraser looks back at Barker’s short but promising literary career, which then consisted of three volumes of verse, the first of which had been published by David Archer ( the David referred to ) at the Parton Press, and a number of contributions to little magazines, including New Verse, which was founded and edited by the gifted poet and highly influential critic Geoffrey Grigson.
For some reason known only to himself Eliot saw enough in Barker to encourage his efforts and it was Eliot who got the semi-educated Barker ( he didn’t even have a degree) his teaching post in Japan. This, however, was bad timing for Barker, as his burgeoning academic career was curtailed due to the outbreak of the Second World War and he was forced to return to England.
The whole tone of the squib strongly suggests that there was no love lost between Fraser, a good minor poet and a sound critic, and the wayward, uneven and often drunken and opinionated Barker, who if one is to believe all the stories about him, seems to have been a sort of Poundland Dylan Thomas, both as a writer and as a professional scrounger. However, on the subject of alcoholic writers, it is valuable to apply Thomas’s own definition of an alcoholic as ‘someone you dislike who drinks as much as you ‘. Continue reading