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Puzzling

In response to:

A Sort of Pilgrim from the June 12, 1975 issue

To the Editors:

Noel Annan’s piece on Cyril Connolly [NYR, June 12] is too inaccurate to be let pass. In particular the early, personal paragraphs are insubstantial and objectionable. The objection is at one level a matter of taste, but the joke about Mr. Connolly “dying like Wilde beyond his means” evokes a picture which is neither pleasant nor accurate. Nor do I know to whom it appeared that the best items of Mr. Connolly’s library had been squandered. That is not at all true, and the misinformation of Lord Annan on the subject carries a suggestion of malicious gossip on which a writer ought not to rely. Lord Annan should observe, even when writing about private acquaintances, the professional accuracy we ordinarily demand of journalists. Not to observe it is a vice at least “as reprehensible as his own Celtic inertia.”…

Peter Levi

Oxford, England

Noel Annan replies:

I am sorry to have offended Cyril Connolly’s friends for, as I said, he was a man greatly and rightly loved. If Fr. Levi tells me I was misinformed, I accept that as a fact and apologize. But I do find the moral questions raised by his life puzzling.

Might I add that in the first part of my review I set out in part the hostile assessment which was current in his lifetime, and in the second half gave my reasons for disagreeing with that assessment?

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