Tag Archives: Literary Disputes

Bookseller versus George Barker

George Barker letter from bookseller 001The bohemian poet George Barker could be quite vehement in his anger, especially when drunk, as he often was. In a letter written in June 1956 that we found in our archive here at Jot HQ he wrote angrily to the Cheltenham bookseller Alan Hancox complaining that some slim volumes of his poetry had been sold from his catalogue ‘ without his approval ‘. According to the unnamed ‘impecunious poet’ who had sold the books to Hancox, Barker had given them to him as an act of kindness to ‘ raise funds’ and had had  no objection to  their sale. This, it would seem, had been a fabrication and Hancox was then obliged to apologise for selling the books.

Knowing the egocentricity of Barker, the gift was probably made as a way of impressing the impecunious poet, who may have been unfamiliar with his work. If this is true, one can perhaps understand his hurt feelings. Throughout the ages older writers  have sought to impress or influence their younger brethren by gifting them copies of their work. By so doing the donor hoped that in time this act of kindness would oblige this rising young talent him to repay the gesture by defending the reputation of the older writer. Sometimes it worked; sometimes it didn’t. In the case of Geoffrey Grigson and Wyndham Lewis, the mentorship (and possible gifts of books) lavished on the younger poet and journalist by Lewis in the ‘thirties reaped rich rewards for the artist and satirist twenty years later, when he had become totally out of fashion while Grigson was regarded as one of the most powerful influences in English letters. Although we don’t know who this impecunious poet was or when the gift of books was made, it is possible that at a time when Barker recognised that his reputation was beginning to nose-dive, he saw the poet as someone who could help him. Alternatively, the impecunious poet may have been one of Barker’s contemporaries , the alleged poet Paul Potts. Continue reading