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For my first books I used the name of P.J.Keating and expected to go on doing so. I was persuaded to change my mind by being caught up in what at the time was felt to be a significant event in the publishing world.
In 1969 I began what was to be an extensive spell of book-reviewing, for the Times Literary Supplement initially and then, more spasmodically, for the Financial Times as well. This lasted throughout the Seventies and into the early Nineties when I gave up all book-reviewing to concentrate on other kinds of writing. The earliest reviews I wrote for the TLS had followed the long, and fiercely held tradition, of being printed anonymously. I didn’t personally much care for the practice, but that was how they had always done things.
In 1974 there was a change of editors at the TLS when Arthur Crook, who had held the post for some years and was a strong supporter of anonymity, retired. He was replaced by John Gross. There had long been a feeling in the literary world that anonymous reviewing was anachronistic and John Gross quickly decided that it should be abandoned. He explained why on 7 June 1974 in an editorial headed ‘Naming names’.
The new editor contacted regular reviewers and asked whether they were willing to be identified publicly in this way. I said I was happy to go along with the change and almost immediately a review of mine that I think must already have been on hand to be printed anonymously was named as being by P.J.Keating. That particular number was a mix of signed and unsigned reviews, and this is how the TLS stayed for the rest of 1974.
Whatever the historical importance of the naming of names, it affected me in an unanticipated personal manner. Whereas I had regarded the use of P. J. Keating as right for the covers of books, it suddenly felt less appropriate and too formal for a newspaper review. It was something I can’t remember even considering before, but I now asked that in future the TLS would use my first name rather than my initials. Subsequently my reviews were printed as being by Peter Keating.
It soon became apparent, though, that possessing two writing names created complications. Confused identity was the main one, but there were also bibliographical difficulties. In a bid to salvage some consistency I adopted the new name for books as well as reviews. Not that that solved the problem, for in the current age of instant, worldwide, internet communication, the same kinds of complication have arisen in different ways and, perhaps, more frequently than before. So, in the following list I have given, not too awkwardly I hope, the name under which each particular item was originally published.
, a novel by Arthur Morrison, first published in 1896. A new edition published by MacGibbon & Kee in 1969 edited by P J Keating, with an introduction called ‘Arthur Morrison: A Biographical Study’.
Morrison had always been regarded as a middle-class writer who in the 1890s had written a number of novels and short stories about working-class life based on his personal experience as a journalist in the East End of London. The most prominent of these tales became renowned for the uncompromising violence of the life portrayed.
This is also true of his novel A Child of the Jago which is actually set in an East End criminal ghetto. In my introduction to the new edition of the novel, I presented evidence I had uncovered during my research as a postgraduate student that Morrison himself had actually been born of working-class parents in the East End, and that he had spent much of his life manufacturing a middle-class image to cover up the fact.
I was not actually the first person to identify Morrison as coming from a working-class background. Credit for this must go to Vincent Brome who in a pamphlet Four Realist Novelists (1965) published in the ‘Writers and their Work’ series, noted that Morrison’s birth certificate showed he had been born in the East End. Brome simply pointed to this as a curious fact. In doing so he provided the clue that I picked up to see whether it could be taken any further forward. And ‘clue’ is an appropriate word for my largely conjectural study of Morrison which I described then as ‘a piece of literary detective work’.
The edition was well received in the national press, with a particularly sympathetic piece by Paul Bailey in the Observer and a long anonymous review in the TLS. The tone everywhere was one of surprise to learn that Morrison who had only died in 1945, and over the years had retained a relatively small number of admirers, should have been so successful at concealing the true nature of his East End background. In 1947 one of those admirers, V.S.Pritchett, had even written a critical introduction to a new edition of another of Morrison’s novels The Hole in the Wall, drawing attention to it as a minor neglected classic, without, as he told me many years later, knowing anything whatsoever about Morrison’s life.
My biographical study of Morrison changed that situation, but although over the years I was often approached by new researchers seeking more information, I was unable to help. I had nothing to add to what I had already discovered, and published. And that is how the situation has remained until very recently when, completely unknown to me, more detailed information about Morrison’s family background has been culled from local records.
This new information usefully expands, and confirms, my original conjectures. Even so, there is still remarkably little known, in any wider sense, about Morrison the man or the writer. There are now available in print several editions of A Child of the Jago and other novels by Morrison. The current state of play can be followed by contacting The Arthur Morrison Society at www.arthurmorrisonsociety.vpweb.co.uk
, Edited by P. J. Keating, Penguin English Library 1970.
Matthew Arnold was a writer whose work, especially the prose, I was particularly keen to edit. As a poet, his reputation rests on a relatively small number of poems, at times movingly lyrical but always tested and to some extent undermined by Arnold’s restless intellect or, as he himself might have said, by the unmanageable restlessness of the modern age. In contrast, his prose displays a confidence – all too much of it, his critics claim – that allows him full freedom to explore and analysis the debilitating nature of modernity.
He is both a literary and a social critic, the bulk of his prose being divided between these two fields. His literary criticism is the better known of the two, and understandably so, for his influence on twentieth century criticism has been formidable. His inspirational example can be felt behind the whole practical criticism movement which would have hardly take the direction it did without him, and much the same can also be said of his influence on key individual figures in modern literary criticism such as T. S. Eliot, F. R. Leavis, and Lionel Trilling.
His social criticism has received far less attention, and is generally less admired. Unjustly so, I believe. Writing at a time of far-reaching political change in Britain, he truly is the prophet of patterns of behaviour in mass society that few other people of his time foresaw so clearly. What blunts the edge of his criticism, and provokes a good deal of anger in his own critics, is an occasional tone of affected superiority, not only in his social, but in his literary criticism as well, that some people feel nullifies what he has to say. It can be claimed in his defence that this tone is often satirical in intent, but even so it can still irritate readers in unintended ways. If the reader can overcome this sense of being got at, then Arnold’s criticism is invariably telling, often profound.
In an unsigned TLS review, Matthew Arnold: Selected Prose was described as ‘an excellent selection’ and welcomed especially for two unusual features. These were the emphasis placed on Arnold’s neglected book of satirical sketches Friendship’s Garland and the inclusion of some of Arnold’s letters which at that time were not available in a modern edition.
Matthew Arnold: Selected Prose. Reissued by Penguin in 2015 under a new title, Culture and Anarchy and Other Selected Prose.
P.J. Keating, Routledge & Kegan Paul 1971, paperback edition 1979, American edition by Barnes and Noble.
‘Surprisingly,’ Routledge announced on the book’s first publication in 1971, ‘this is the first study of its kind ever published.’ The surprise, Routledge went on to explain, came from it being ‘the first book to examine the presentation of the urban and industrial working classes in Victorian fiction … the different types of working men and women who appear in fiction … the environments they are shown to inhabit, and the use of phonetics to indicate the sound of working-class voices.’
There were broader aims as well. I was seeking to explain in historical and literary terms why the relatively neglected late Victorian period was so important in this sudden upsurge of interest in the writing of fiction centred on working-class life. A few of the novelists were familiar figures, but most had been long forgotten. I wanted to draw attention to these authors and most of all to the special problems they encountered in their attempts to portray in fiction what G.K.Chesterton, at about this same time, famously called ‘the secret people’.
My approach was empirical, and notably unusual for a book on this kind of social and historical topic in being written from a non-Marxist viewpoint.
That it took this line made no difference whatsoever to it being widely and well reviewed. In fact, it was something that was barely mentioned, even recognized perhaps, by most reviewers. One particularly influential Marxist writer, though, was quick to identitify the main issues at stake.
Reviewing the book in the Guardian, Raymond Williams offered a critical, neatly balanced assessment. While acknowledging the rightness of treating the 1880s and 1890s as ‘a critical period in working-class history and literature’ he also claimed that the main critical direction of the book was ‘wrong’ in that it relied too strongly on historical ‘description’ and gave insufficient attention to class analysis. Setting this lapse aside, he announced that the book was ‘the result of wonderfully wide reading and becomes at once indispensable.’ He then went on to specify ‘a few of the directions which many will follow, in Dr Keating’s debt.’
The ambiguities noted by Williams were taken up by subsequent left-wing writers, though with considerably less understanding. They have usually ignored the book, characteristically refusing even to acknowledge the existence of views on working-class life that do not conform strictly with their own, while picking up on the original material the book contained and using it for their own purposes much as Williams had suggested they would be obliged to do.
The book also received prominent attention of a very different kind from another distinguished writer. At about the same time as the book’s publication, the National Book League decided to hold a large promotional ‘Book Bang’ in London’s Bedford Square. As their contribution to the event, the New Statesman funded a stand devoted to the art of book reviewing as epitomised by their celebrated reviewer V.S.Pritchett. He chose to feature The Working Classes in Victorian Fiction.
Given that the audience for this review was going to be even larger than that which Pritchett’s weekly column in the New Statesman regularly attracted, it was fortunate he liked the book, and especially gratifying to me that, unlike many other reviewers, he picked up on, and approved the importance I had attached to Rudyard Kipling. Describing this as ‘the most striking’ of my judgments, he admitted: ‘It ought to have occurred to us before, for we did really know (even before we read Tressell) that a working-class culture is a work or trades culture, and who more of a tradesman than the soldier who serves his time?’
The Working Classes in Victorian Fiction. Reprinted by Routledge in 2016 in a library edition.
, edited by P J Keating, Routledge & Kegan Paul 1971, paperback edition 1979, American edition by Barnes and Noble.
This anthology was published as a companion piece to The Working Classes in Victorian Fiction and the two books were generally reviewed together. Its main purpose was to make available samples of the work of some of the little-known writers featured in the main study.
The only figures already regarded as established were Rudyard Kipling and George Gissing, and even for them the short stories selected came from the less familiar sides of their work. My edition of Arthur Morrison’s A Child of the Jago with its introduction giving details of Morrison’s life had recently been published and that had led to there being some current interest in his work. But the other writers – among them Edwin Pugh, Henry Nevinson, and Clarence Rook – were barely remembered at all.
A few reviewers complained snootily that these stories were hardly great literature, something I had always been perfectly willing to point out for myself, but it was generally recognized that the interest of the stories lay in what for the time was their experimental subject matter. In his Guardian review Raymond Williams picked out Pugh and Nevinson as of particular interest to him, and subsequently he went on to discuss their work in one of his own books.
The Working Classes in Victorian Fiction and Working-class Stories of the 1890s were both featured on the BBC radio programme ‘Now Read On’ chaired by Paul Johnson. There was a good deal of enthusiasm for the stories, especially from Antonia Byatt, a member of the panel who was then just starting her own career as a novelist: ‘I knew hardly any of them. I had read one or two of Arthur Morrison’s excellent Tales of Mean Streets, but most of them were entirely new to me. I enjoyed almost all of them a great deal.’
Working-class Stories of the 1890s. Reprinted by Routledge in 2016 in a library edition.
, edited by Peter Keating, published in 1976 as a Fontana Paperback Original, together with a hardback edition from Manchester University Press. An American edition was published by Rowman and Littlefield.
For most people the image of a middle-class author dressing down in order to experience at first-hand ‘how the other half lives’, the other half being of course the poor and working class, was long associated with the George Orwell of Down and Out in Paris and London (1933). It was not often realized that in carrying out this kind of class exploration, Orwell was participating in a well-established tradition. He himself, though, was fully aware of the fact, being an admirer especially of Jack London’s very similar exploits thirty years earlier.
One of the main purposes of the anthology was to place Orwell in context and at the same time to demonstrate the extensive nature and significance of a distinct literature of social exploration. It begins, in its recognizably modern form, in 1866, when James Greenwood, much as Orwell was to do many years later, disguised himself as a down-and-out to spend ‘a night in a workhouse’. It closes with the very different explorations of early twentieth-century sociologists like Charles Booth, C.F.G.Masterman, and Mrs Pember Reeves. Other figures include Jack London, Stephen Reynolds and Mary Higgs. The introduction was particularly concerned to analyse the heightened rhetorical language (of abysses and jungles, imperial contrasts, slavery and alien races) that was characteristic of these social explorers before it became replaced by the more distanced terminology of sociologists.
The book was widely and well reviewed, with the fresh context it provided for Orwell being generally recognized. Notable among the reviews was that in the Spectator where Alan Brien, looking in some detail at the unfamilar nature of so much of the material, described the anthology as ‘brilliant and compelling’. It was also selected by The Times as its ‘Monday Book’, a prestigious reviewing slot at the time, where Paul Barker described the social explorers as providing an important historical link between Marx and Engels on the one hand and Orwell on the other.
One aspect of Barker’s review that I particularly appreciated was his identification of Stephen Reynolds as someone very different from the other writers in the anthology. Reynolds, as Barker noted, was overwhelmingly positive about the way of life he experienced, someone who focused not on his subjects’ outcast condition, but rather on what he saw as the commendable, even superior qualities of working-class life.
Into Unknown England is currently out-of-print.
, by Peter Keating, Secker and Warburg 1989, paperback edition by Fontana 1991, ‘Faber Finds’ POD 2008.
It would be an exaggeration to say that The Haunted Study is the book I felt I had to write from my very first interest in interdisciplinary studies, but not much of one. For me there was always about it something not only personal, but compulsive. It took many years to plan and write. Necessarily so. There was no alternative. The main aim of the book was to establish as full a context as possible for late nineteenth and early twentieth century novelists, and to demonstrate how this affected not only the subject matter of their work, but also their fundamental attitudes, their literary and social values, and ultimately the very form of their work.
During this period there emerged the types of fiction we have come to think of as characteristically modern, and The Haunted Study aimed to define both the process and the end result. These purposes were epitomized by the working title I used, pretty well from the beginning. It was ‘The Emergence of Modernism’.
The method of research employed was, as on my earlier books, empirical. It involved reading extensively in the literature of the period – political, social and economic as well as fiction – and allowing the main themes to define themselves. The kind of book-reviewing I was lucky enough to have open to me in these years I treated whenever possible as an opportunity to broaden my knowledge of late Victorian and Edwardian Britain. Writing the reviews also helped me to test out ideas, style, terms, even phrases, many of which would eventually find places in The Haunted Study. The various anthologies I edited at this time, and the contributions to books edited by others, were often related to The Haunted Study in similarly indirect ways.
A major difficulty in writing the book – apart, of course, from stylistic considerations – was how to incorporporate and control this accumulated mass of material. My solution was to divide the text into seven chapters. Each chapter was centred on a main theme, organised chronologically and covered the whole of the period, and allowed for literature and history to be continuously interrelated. In the preface I expressed the hope that while the full argument being advanced was cumulative, the book itself could ‘be read as either a continuous narrative or as a series of interrelated narratives.’
The Haunted Study received one of the six Scottish Arts Council Spring Book Awards in 1990. These are awarded annually ‘in recognition of high standards of writing by authors who are Scottish by birth or are resident in Scotland.’ It was also generously reviewed in the national press, and sympathetically as well, with reviewers being in the main quick to recognize the unusual nature of the book and main principles underlying my research.
Julian Symons in the Sunday Times drew attention to the interdisciplinary approach: ‘This book is a remarkable achievement, standing quite alone among recent studies in linking a period of literature with its sources in social change.’ John Spurling in the The Author noted approvingly how the mass of material the book contained was carried by a strong interwoven narrative: ‘Keating’s book is long and dense with information, but never tedious. The stories it has to tell are history in the best sense – history that flows into and gives life to the present.’
Michael Wood in the New Statesman was one of several reviewers to identify an ease in handling the material that could only have come from many years of immersion in the period: ‘You feel he has lived among this material for a long time, knows the literary country well enough to feel relaxed in it, and is clear about what he wants to show us.’
John Sutherland in the Listener indentified one of the most important of my own unnanounced aims, noting how the book looked back admiringly to the comprehensiveness of early literary historians like George Saintsbury and set itelf against present-day academic narrowness: ‘The range of reference and the inwardness he has with his far-flung material are unusual – not to say offensive – in an age of scholarly microscopy and single- author specialism.’ Sutherland concluded: ‘It offers an excellent introduction to Victorian-Edwardian fiction, probably the best ever written.’
The Haunted Study is currently available from Faber. See: http://www.faber.co.uk/faberfinds/
, by Peter Keating, Secker and Warburg 1994.
Although one of the main purposes of the book was to justify my conviction that Kipling is a very fine poet and far from the cheap versifier who is so often portrayed, Kipling the Poet was constructed primarily as a biography rather than a critical study. As I explained in the Preface: ‘It is not only a study of Kipling as a poet, but also a life of Kipling as revealed in the poetry.’
I regarded the biographical approach as important because, if properly understood, the poetry provides as reliable an understanding of Kipling’s attitudes, values, and even at times his actions, as more traditional documentary evidence. This case I defended by identifying a consistent pattern underlying the publication of Kipling’s five main volumes of poetry, and by examining such crucial, though sometimes neglected, topics as the force and true nature of his political beliefs; his historical and children’s poems; his relationship with the Oxford historian C.R,L. Fletcher; the complex interplay in his work between prose and poetry; the First World War poems, and his later personal mission to make public the great danger posed to peace by Adolf Hitler and the rise of Nazi Germany.
Kipling the Poet was probably more widely reviewed than any other of my books, so much so that the Sunday Telegraph in its ‘Review of Reviews’ described it as having had a ‘rapturous reception’, noting that it ‘even went down well in the politically ultra-correct Independent where Geoffrey Hodgson exulted that Kipling’s enemies are now in full flight.’
Unfortunately, that was something of an exaggeration. It’s true that the reviews were generally welcoming, with the exception of a couple of reviewers who insisted on missing the point by treating Kipling the Poet as the critical study they would have preferred it to be. But as always, the main difficulties arose over the fraught nature of Kipling’s reputation.
Reviewers were willing enough to acknowledge the case I had made, but unwilling to move much beyond their already entrenched preconceived notions. This meant, disappointingly, that few of them were willing to look afresh at the neglected poems to which I had drawn attention. Nor did they confront the depth and true nature of Kipling’s political views, let alone the profound influence these had on his work, something I was particularly concerned to stress. The result was that in the main it was largely the same old Kipling who was being widely reviewed, albeit, as the Daily Telegraph had observed, more favourably than in the past.
I was learning, as many before me have done, of the apparently intractable prejudice against Kipling, the unwillingness, whatever the evidence offered, to make any attempt to see him and his work as they are. In my case, this critical recalcitrance wasn’t helped by the book containing one of those exceptionally silly errors, made sooner or later by most writers, which in some unexplainable way succeed in escaping everyone’s attention before publication.
While discussing the Jungle Books I said, in passing that Mowgli of course was white. Several reviewers simply noted the mistake without making anything of it. Still, this being Kipling, there were readers on hand quick to tell me it proved I did not really believe the positive case for Kipling I was setting out in the book. Several friendlier correspondents suggested that I probably had in mind Kim rather than Mowgli, and I think this was probably the case. Kim, who, whatever his outward appearance, was, as Kipling tells us so emphatically at the very start of the novel, ‘white – a poor white of the very poorest.’
Kipling the Poet is currently out-of-print.
edited by Peter Keating, Penguin Classics, 1993.
The greatest difficulty I had in writing Kipling the Poet – greater by far than the unthinking anti-Kipling prejudice and ignorance of his work, both of which are to be expected - was trying to disentangle the bibliographical mess that over the years has done so much to obscure the true achievement of his poetry, or ‘verse’ as he himself always called it. I needed to confront the problem because without a reliable chronology, the biographical case for Kipling the Poet couldn’t be made at all.
There were two main reasons for the bibliographical confusion. First, Kipling was an immensely popular poet from a very young age and this meant that his poems were published, with and without his approval, in a huge variety of newspapers and periodicals, literally all over the world. Secondly, apart from his five individual volumes of poetry, Kipling was inexplicably careless about editing the large unwieldy volumes of his ‘inclusive’ or ‘definitive’ verse that were published at irregular intervals from 1918. These editions were unchronological – even, it feels at times, wilfully anti-chronological – and ordered in apparently random fashion. Most of the poetry, familiar and unfamiliar, is there all right, but difficult to find or place in any sensible context.
T.S.Eliot’s decision in 1941 to announce his admiration for Kipling by publishing
A Choice of Kipling’s Verse was a personal and, for a man in his literary position, a courageous act. The edition was also extremely influential, and continues to be so, even though, and perhaps once again due to the peculiar nature of Kipling’s reputation, many of the poems that Eliot selected for special praise still receive little attention from critics.
In spite of Eliot’s sturdy defence of Kipling’s poetry in his introduction, he made no attempt to find his way through the bibliographical chaos that Kipling had bequeathed to future scholars. He was far from alone in this. The textual, and chronological confusions were accepted not only by Eliot, but by all subsequent editors as well.
My Rudyard Kipling Selected Poems, was the first edition to break decisively with Eliot’s editorial example. Kipling’s own ‘definitive’ and ‘inclusive’ editions had encouraged the view, explored in a typically probing manner by Eliot that Kipling’s poetry was a kind of spectacular lucky-dip, with very different types of poem being written randomly here and there throughout his life. As Eliot described the situation, neither the term ‘development’ nor the term ‘experimentation’ seemed to be applicable to Kipling’s poetry.
By setting the poems in chronological order I was able to demonstrate that there is in fact very notable change and development in the poetry over the span of Kipling’s life. These changes involved not only subject-matter, but tone and poetic technique as well. It therefore became possible to place in focus certain areas of Kipling’s poetry which belong to very specific periods of his life and which could have been written at no other time. For example, the historical poems for children, the remarkable First World War poems, and the personal and public poems of the 1920s and early 1930s. In the brief preface I took the opportunity to offer a concise outline of the special bibliographical and editorial problems that have so adversely affected appreciation of Kipling’s achievement as a poet.
Rudyard Kipling:Selected Poems is available from Penguin.
Closely connected in my mind with Rudyard Kipling: Selected Poems and therefore included here, are the detailed commentaries I have written on the twenty-two history poems Kipling contributed to A School History of England (1911) which he wrote in collaboration with the historian C.R.L. Fletcher.
They were a small personal contribution to the massive New Readers’ Guide to the Works of Rudyard Kipling which the Kipling Society began publishing online in 2002 and which is still in progress. The New Readers’ Guide (or NRG as it is now commonly known) is a revision of R.E. Harbord’s monumental Readers’ Guide to the Works of Rudyard Kipling which was published originally in eight volumes at irregular intervals between 1955 and 1972. That was a daunting enough undertaking, but the present revision is even more ambitious.
The whole of the NRG, including my School History commentaries, can be found at http://www.kipling.org.uk/
All attributed to Peter Keating unless otherwise indicated.
George Gissing: New Grub Street, P.J.Keating, Edward Arnold 1968.
‘Fact and Fiction in the East End’, P.J.Keating, in The Victorian City: Images and Realities, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 2 vols., 1973, edited by H.J.Dyos and Michael Wolff.
‘Robert Browning: A Reader’s Guide and Select Bibliography’, in Robert Browning, Writers and their Background, Bell 1974, edited by Isobel Armstrong.
‘Arnold’s Social and Political Thought,’ in Matthew Arnold, Writers and their Background, Bell 1975, edited by Kenneth Allott.
Elizabeth Gaskell, Cranford and Cousin Phillis, edited with introduction and notes, Penguin English Library 1976.
‘A Miners’ Library,’ Times Literary Supplement, 6 January 1978.
‘Rudyard Kipling and English Working-Class life,’ in English Literature and the Working Class, University of Seville 1980, edited by Francisco García Tortosa and Ramón López Ortega.
The Victorian Prophets: A Reader from Carlyle to Wells, edited with an introduction, Fontana 1981.
Nineteenth Century Short Stories, edited with an introduction, Longman English Series, 1981.
‘Backward or Forward: Carlyle’s Past and Present,’in Thomas Carlyle 1981, Frankfurt am Main, Peter Lang, 1983, edited by Horst W. Drescher.
‘The Metropolis in Literature,’ in Metropolis 1890-1940, Mansell 1984, edited by Anthony Sutcliffe.
‘Conrad’s Doll’s House,’ in Papers on Language and Literature Presented to Alver Ellegård and Erik Frykman, University of Gothenburg, 1985, edited by Sven Bäckman and Goran Kjellmer.
‘Words and Pictures: Changing Images of the Poor in Victorian Britain’ in Hard Times: Social Realism in Victorian Art, Lund Humphries and Manchester City Art Galleries 1987, edited by Julian Treuhertz.
‘Novels in Nutshells: British Novelists and the Cinematograph’ in Essays in Honour of Asa Briggs, Harvester 1990, edited by Derek Fraser.
Marie Corelli, The Sorrows of Satan, an edition with introduction and notes, Oxford Popular Fiction, OUP 1996.