The actual book being discussed is entitled ‘More Literary Drinkers’, but as we at Jot 101 haven’t read Pete Bunten’s ‘Literary Drinkers’, we will start with this sequel.
Bunten assembles the usual suspects in alphabetical order rather than in their degrees of bibulousness, which in some cases is not why they are in his book. They are: the Brontes, Roy Campbell (left), J.P.Donleavy, Ian Fleming, John Fothergill, Oliver Goldsmith, W.W.Jacobs, Jerome K Jerome, D.H.Lawrence, C.S.Lewis and J.R.R.Tolkein,Norman McCaig, Julian Maclaren Ross, Thomas Nashe, Eugene O’Neill, Dorothy Parker, Joseph Roth, Shakespeare, R.S.Surtees, Graham Swift , and Evelyn Waugh.
The book is well written, as it should be, considering that Bunten, who is ( or was ) a schoolteacher, is a graduate in English from Cambridge. And there are some amusing pen portraits. One of the best concerns the belligerent South African poet Roy Campbell, who comes across as a near-alcoholic, quite capable of downing 4 ½ litres of wine a day. Bunten is right to see him as a victim of his own determination to project himself as macho through reckless physical activity and alcohol. His fiancee’s father warned her against marrying a ‘dipsomaniac‘, but she ignored his advice and paid the price. The discovery of her affair with Vita Sackville West sent Campbell off on a lengthy bender, which seems to us the sign of an emotionally weak person, rather than a manly one. And is it manly, one asks, to physically attack an unarmed Stephen Spender and Geoffrey Grigson, who Bunten calls ‘ timid ‘,with a knobkerrie ? To evade such a drunken assault, as Grigson did, after having learnt that Spender had already been hit by Campbell, is hardly the action of a timid person. Later, Anthony West commented on the encounter with the gruff ‘ You should have kicked him in the balls ‘.In his brilliant Recollections (1984) Grigson recalls being a witness to another example of Campbell’s boorish behaviour.