This is the second and final volume of Hilary Spurling's biography of I. Compton-Burnett, and it comes to us ten years after the first. During this interval has Mrs Spurling been attending to other things? So abundant, so heavily pendulous upon the bough, are the fruits of research now offered to us (so very thick, we may say, has grown the ivy elegantly disposed on the present dust-jacket as on the last) that nothing of the kind need be supposed. Mrs Spurling must surely have been at work from the dawn of life, determined to know as much as God himself about Ivy's ancestors, parents, siblings, enemies, rivals, friends, acquaintances, servants, mentors and (above all) sources and channels of inspiration, and to hand us on everything we are prepared to take. I find myself prepared to take a great deal. Enthusiasm and pertinacity are by no means Mrs Spurling's sole endowments. Endlessly curious as she ought to be, she brings sound judgment and taste to bear upon almost everything she finds, and her conclusions are embodied in an admirable expository prose. The two volumes together make a notable contribution to modern literary biography.
LRB 19 July 1984 | PDF Download