Leavis’s ‘life enhancing’ piano shop

Leavis pianos pic 001Found in the May Week 1914 issue of the Cambridge student magazine Mandragora is this full page advert for the Regent Street piano shop run by Frank Leavis’s father Harry. Pianos figured very large in the lives of the Leavis family. Harry’s brother ran a piano shop in Mill Road and their father was a piano tuner in another part of the city. According to his biographer, Dr Leavis admired his father, apparently a cultured man, very much. It is not known whether Leavis, or his simian-faced wife, Queenie, played the piano.

Leavis was in his first year studying history at Emmanuel College when the advert appeared. When war broke out a few months later he signed up, but after a year was permitted to resume his studies at Cambridge—this time in the newly formed English department. Apart from short spells teaching at York, Wales and Bristol, Leavis spent his whole academic life in Cambridge, setting up home in Bulstrode Gardens–then an enclave of ‘thirties villas off the Madingley Road on the edge of the city, but now next door to both the Cavendish Laboratory and the Institute of Astronomy. How Leavis would have loathed this juxtaposition.

Interestingly, his dad’s piano shop lay almost opposite Downing College, where Leavis was to spend much of his time brain-washing vulnerable students. It is now a ‘Pizza Hut ‘fast food restaurant. He would have hated that too.

[Sent in by a loyal jotwatcher – opinions are his, although the tide seems to have turned against the Leavises this century. Take it or Leavis..]

4 thoughts on “Leavis’s ‘life enhancing’ piano shop

  1. Roger

    “the tide seems to have turned against the Leavis’s this century.”
    The Leavises – more reasonably – would have hated that, too.

    He joined the Friends’ Ambulance Unit as a conscientious objector after his first year at university and returned to university to study English in 1919.

  2. Angus

    I don’t suppose they were too thrilled by Tom Sharpe’s satirical novel ‘The Great Pursuit’ (1977), either; F.R.’s works included ‘The Great Tradition’ and ‘The Common Pursuit’, and Dr Sydney Louth bears many resemblances to Queenie. FR and QD died in 1978 and 1981 respectively.

    1. Roger

      “The Leavises – more reasonably – would have hated that, too. ”
      I meant they would have hated being called “the Leavis’s”.

      There’s the story of C.S. Lewis’s meeting with Leavis. Someone asked Lewis what he thought of Leavis.
      “Seems perfectly normal to me. Why does everyone call him Queenie?”


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