Treglown, Jeremy 1946–
Treglown, Jeremy 1946–
(Jeremy Dickinson Treglown)
PERSONAL: Born May 24, 1946, in Anglesey, Wales; son of Geoffrey Leonard (a clergyman) and Beryl (a librarian; maiden name, Pool) Treglown; married Rona Bower, December 30, 1970 (divorced December, 1982); married Holly Eley Urquhart, September 28, 1984; children: (first marriage) Samuel, Grace, Fleur. Education: St. Peter's College, Saltley, Birmingham, L.R.A. M., 1966, certificate of education, 1967; St. Peter's College, Oxford, B.A. (first class honors), 1970, M.A., 1972, B.Litt., 1973; University College, London, Ph.D., 1980.
ADDRESSES: Home—England. Office—Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies, Humanities Bldg., 5th Fl., University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, England. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Lincoln College, Oxford University, Oxford, England, lecturer in English literature, 1973–76; University College, University of London, London, England, lecturer in English literature, 1976–79; Times Literary Supplement, London, assistant editor, 1980–81, editor, 1981–90; University of Warwick, Coventry, England, professor, 1993–. Actor; has appeared in the Italian motion picture Alba Pagana (released in United States as May Morning), 1971, and in stage plays, including Maquettes, 1971–72, and Lying Figures, 1972.
MEMBER: Royal Society of Literature (fellow).
Romancing: The Life and Work of Henry Green (biography), Random House (New York, NY), 2001.
V.S. Pritchett: A Working Life (biography), Random House (New York, NY), 2004.
Contributor to scholarly journals, magazines, and newspapers, including Plays and Players, New Statesman, New Yorker, Los Angeles Times Book Review, Guardian, Times, Sunday Times, and Observer.
(And author of introduction) The Letters of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1980.
Spirit of Wit: Reconsiderations of Rochester (biography), Shoe String, 1983.
(And author of introduction) Robert Louis Stevenson, The Lantern-Bearers and Other Essays, Farrar, Straus and Giroux (New York, NY), 1988.
(And author of introduction) V.S. Pritchett, Essential Stories, Modern Library (New York, NY), 2005.
Also editor, with Deborah McVea, of The TLS Centenary Archive, an online archive of Times Literary Supplement issues dated 1902–1974; general editor of "Plays in Performance" series, Barnes & Noble, 1981–83; editor of Harvill Press edition of the works of Henry Green.
SIDELIGHTS: An academic and former editor of the Times Literary Supplement, one of Britain's foremost literary periodicals, Jeremy Treglown exerted considerable influence in the publishing world during the 1980s and 1990s. He has also written well-received biographies of children's writer Roald Dahl, novelist Henry Green, and writer V.S. Pritchett. As the eighth editor of the Times Literary Supplement, from 1981 to 1990 Treglown oversaw the publication's continued success as a serious and highly regarded literary journal. As he told a Publishers Weekly interviewer: "We cover the books a serious newspaper would cover, plus academic titles and foreign titles—what I like to think of as the best of international thought." Treglown expanded the paper's scope by broadening the coverage of publishing and the book trade, in addition to maintaining the traditional excellence of the newspaper.
Although considered young by publishing standards when he was chosen as editor of the Times Literary Supplement, Treglown nonetheless came to the job with a diverse background on which to draw. He began his career teaching English literature, first at Oxford University and then at the University of London. As an instructor he gave special attention to the drama and theater of the seventeenth century, a focus reflecting his experience and interests as a drama student and actor during his college years. Out of his interest in the seventeenth century grew two publications on a poet of that period, John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester. The first of these, The Letters of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, is an annotated collection of the poet's correspondence, most of which is to and from Rochester's wife, his mistress Elizabeth Barry, and his close friend, Henry Savile. The second, Spirit of Wit: Reconsiderations of Rochester, is a gathering of critical essays on Rochester by nine scholars, including the editor himself.
Rochester was a nobleman in the court of King Charles II of England who became notorious during his lifetime for his violent temperament, profligate drinking, and promiscuity, as well as for his explicitly sexual poetry. But, as Observer contributor Philip Toynbee remarked in his review of The Letters of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, Rochester's "poetry was often obscene, which means that he has been no favourite with the anthologists and has remained largely unknown even to the educated public." Treglown's books reveal more fully Rochester's place in what Toynbee termed the "mythology of English Literature." Treglown asserts, for instance, in The Letters of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester: "The emotional complexity of some of [Rochester's] lyrics is reminiscent of Shakespeare's sonnets, or of [John] Donne, though in their ironic simplicity of surface they are closer to his near-contemporary, [Andrew] Marvell. And if he is the last important Metaphysical poet, his satires give him a good claim as one of the first Augustans." Deeming Treglown "an admirable interpreter," Christopher Hill wrote in the London Review of Books that this analysis of Rochester "could hardly be better put."
As a reaffirmation of Rochester's abusive, selfish character, Treglown's volume prompted Hill to conclude that "after this edition of the letters it will be hard indeed for sentimentalists to paint an attractive picture of Rochester." Hill expressed disappointment at what Treglown's book shows of the poet's personality, noting that the "letters suggest that behind the court rake there was the court rake." Nonetheless, the critic asserted, the volume's lack of "the hoped-for insight into the human being behind [Rochester's] masks … is in no sense the fault of Mr. Treglown, whose editing is impeccable and whose Introduction is a short masterpiece." Toynbee also appraised The Letters of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester as "a scholarly and brilliantly edited collection of letters," concluding that Treglown's book shows that Rochester was "not only a very fine poet and a master of vivid and beautifully balanced prose. He was also the kind of person who disturbs the mind with all our oldest and deepest perplexities about human nature."
Spirit of Wit is a collection of essays that resulted from a tercentenary conference on Rochester that Treglown organized at Oxford University in 1981. The nine scholars who contributed essays to Spirit of Wit are Treglown, Barbara Everett, John Wilders, Pat Rogers, David Trotter, Peter Porter, Basil Greenslade, Raman Selden, and Sarah Wintle. The contributors discuss the influence of materialist philosopher Thomas Hobbes on Rochester, the poet's libertinism, and his relations with fellow poets. As Warren Chernaik explained in the Times Higher Education Supplement, "the nine authors included in the volume all seek to define Rochester's peculiar voice as a poet, see him both as representative and as entirely individual." The resulting essays, concluded Chernaik, "can be said to inaugurate Rochester criticism in England. They provide a thorough, original, and stimulating reconsideration or revaluation" of Rochester and are "the first essays to take Rochester's stature as a significant poet for granted."
Treglown edited the Times Literary Supplement's "Commentary" section on the arts from 1980 until 1982, and from 1981 until 1983 he served as general editor of "Plays in Performance," a series of theatrical masterpieces published with performance annotations. The notes describe various ways that significant roles and scenes have been treated by actors and directors in the history of the plays' production. The first volume in the series—Richard III—was edited by Julie Hankey and includes a seventy-page introductory essay on the stage history of Shakespeare's Richard III, and a preface by Treglown explaining the series' focus on the production as well as the text of plays. Financial Times critic Michael Coveney praised Hankey for "a marvellously exhaustive, and very readable, job" on "the first in a most promising and lively new series of classic texts under the general editorship of Jeremy Treglown." According to a writer in The Year's Work in English Studies, "Plays in Performance" is off to a "cracking start" with Richard III. "Shakespeare specialists will need to read these books, if they are all as good as this," continued the contributor, and "several copies of this book should be available in every school and college library where Shakespeare is taught." Among the titles projected for the "Plays in Performance" series are Shakespeare's King Lear, Othello, and Antony and Cleopatra, The Alchemist by Ben Jonson, and John Webster's The Duchess of Malfi.
Treglown turned to the twentieth century for the subjects of the two biographies for which he is sometimes best known. Roald Dahl: A Biography received considerable attention. Its subject, the author of such children's classics as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Witches, James and the Giant Peach, and Matilda, was known as both a brilliant chronicler of children's dreams and an often unpleasant, bigoted, and cruel individual. Critics expressed admiration for the empathy and skill with which Treglown approached Dahl's complex life in this unauthorized but nevertheless thoroughly researched biography. The author "convincingly separates the man from the myth in a scrupulously researched portrait," commented a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Wendy Lesser, writing in the New Republic, praised Treglown's "tonal delicacy" and noted that one of the book's major strengths is the fact that the author was free to create his own portrait of Dahl. "Dahl … was, as both a writer and a man, so complicatedly irritating, so complexly appealing, that his biographer requires the full range of emotions from which to select an appropriate response. Jeremy Treglown has made the selection with consummate, admirable grace."
Similar praised was expressed by Michiko Kakutani, who hailed Roald Dahl as a "marvelously supple and illuminating book" in her New York Times review. Commending Treglown's ability to deal frankly with Dahl's more offensive qualities while approaching his fiction with "sympathy and intelligence," Kakutani concluded that "Treglown has written an astute and judicious biography, and in doing so, has created a highly compelling portrait of an author whose life was nearly as colorful and unpredictable as his fiction." In a New York Times Book Review, Ann Hulbert remarked on the "great deftness" with which Treglown handled his subject. The book, she observed, "is the perfect antidote to Dahl's own triumph at image making … that dwells, as it must, on Roald Dahl's less entrancing maturity."
Even more enthusiastic praise greeted the publication of Romancing: The Life and Work of Henry Green. Again, Treglown chose a rather enigmatic subject. Though relatively well-known in Britain during the years between 1939 and 1952, Green (1905–1973) sank into alcoholism and was unable to write during the last decade of his life. The subject matter and innovative style of his novels struck many of his contemporaries as experimental and even radical. As a writer for the Economist put it, Green was "a sort of beatnik in the making." He has been all but forgotten in recent years except among specialists in modernism. Critics welcomed Treglown's biography, therefore, as a long-overdue work that would bring renewed attention to a writer too long neglected.
"Not the least of the virtues of Romancing," observed Charles McGrath in the New York Times Book Review, "is that it ought to bring new readers to this original and engaging author, who wrote about social class—or rather, the social classes, all of them—with a mordancy and affection that have seldom been surpassed, and who managed as well to give this old subject a new, modernist spin. Treglown's book also tells a fascinating, heartbreaking story of its own—about, among other things, the precarious relation between literary talent and the person it happens to occupy." Though Green was born rich and lived among wealthy associates, he was always interested in people who did not have money. His novel Living concerns the lives of factory workers in Birmingham. That novel, which drew comparisons to Balzac and Russian literature when it first appeared, was based at least in part on Green's own two-year job in a factory, which he undertook, Treglown says, as a gesture toward proletarian solidarity. Green later wrote Loving, which is about a group of servants in a country house and is often cited as one of his best novels.
In Romancing Treglown, who has edited the Harvill Press editions of Green's novels, comments on both his subject's life and his works. Indeed, according to McGrath, Romancing "is a model of what literary biography ought to be." Praising it for its succinctness and its breadth of research, McGrath noted that "most impressive of all is the way Treglown … goes about the always problematic business of relating the work to the life and vice versa. He describes the novels in considerable detail, both to appreciate them for their own sake and to show that while not strictly autobiographical, they nevertheless suggest some important clues about the man who wrote them." New York Times reviewer Janet Maslin also expressed admiration for the book and hailed Treglown as "an impressively literate, sympathetic and intelligent biographer." Mick Imlah, in an enthusiastic review for the Times Literary Supplement, praised the author's "generous and acute discussions of each of the major works."
Within a year of each other, Treglown published V.S. Pritchett: A Working Life and Essential Stories, the latter a collection of Pritchett's writings. Victor Sawdon Pritchett (1900–1997) was the prolific writer of literary criticism, stories, novels, essays, memoirs, biographies, and travel articles. He was regularly read in the New Yorker, as well as in other publications in both Britain and the United States. Treglown traces Pritchett's working-class origins, which are the basis for many of his writings, his unhappy first marriage, and his second, to a woman he passionately loved. Although his strongest genre was short fiction, his unpretentious stories were not embraced by the literati that favored the novels of such writers as H.G. Wells and G.K. Chesterton. Pritchett, who was a close friend of George Orwell, spent years in Paris, Ireland, and Spain as a young journalist, and he had a great understanding of Spain and the Spanish Civil War, which was reflected in his writing. He also mentored Continental writers and helped bring their works to Anglophone audiences. At the time of his death, Pritchett was considered to be the last great man of English letters and "the greatest writer-critic since Virginia Woolf."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Brake, Laurel, editor, The Year's Work in English Studies, Volume 62, Humanities Press, 1981.
Atlantic, January-February, 2005, Benjamin Schwarz, review of V.S. Pritchett: A Working Life, p. 157.
Australian Book Review, July, 1994, review of Roald Dahl: A Biography, p. 66.
Booklist, February 15, 1994, Ilene Cooper, review of Roald Dahl, p. 1053; February 1, 2005, Brad Hooper, review of V.S. Pritchett, p. 930.
Books for Keeps, September, 1994, review of Roald Dahl, p. 22.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, March, 1994, review of Roald Dahl, p. 242.
Economist, November 4, 2000, review of Romancing: The Life and Work of Henry Green, p. 96.
Financial Times, May 14, 1981, Michael Coveney, review of Richard III.
Guardian, April 17, 1994, review of Roald Dahl, p. 28; October 14, 2000, W.L. Webb, review of Romancing.
Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 1994, review of Roald Dahl, p. 132.
Library Journal, May 1, 1988, Donald Ray, review of The Lantern-Bearers and Other Essays, p. 81; March 15, 1994, Diane Gardner Premo, review of Roald Dahl, p. 73.
Locus, May, 1994, review of Roald Dahl, p. 51.
London Review of Books, November 20, 1980, Christopher Hill, review of The Letters of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester; April 28, 1994, review of Roald Dahl, p. 20.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, April 17, 1994, review of Roald Dahl, p. 3.
New Criterion, May, 2005, Algis Valiunas, review of V.S. Pritchett, p. 83.
New Leader, November-December, 2004, Albert Bermel, review of V.S. Pritchett, p. 42.
New Republic, May 16, 1994, Wendy Lesser, review of Roald Dahl, p. 46; February 7, 2005, Frank Kermode, review of V.S. Pritchett, p. 26.
New Statesman & Society, March 18, 1994, Nicholas Tucker, review of Roald Dahl, p. 53.
New York Review of Books, June 9, 1994, Claire Tomalin, review of Roald Dahl, p. 37.
New York Times, April 26, 1994, Michiko Kakutani, review of Roald Dahl; March 22, 2001, Janet Maslin, review of Romancing.
New York Times Book Review, May 1, 1994, Ann Hulbert, review of Roald Dahl, p. 1; March 25, 2001, Charles McGrath, review of Romancing.
Observer, September 28, 1980, Philip Toynbee, review of The Letters of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester; March 20, 1994, review of Roald Dahl, p. 19.
Publishers Weekly, July 16, 1982, interview with Jeremy Treglown; February 21, 1994, review of Roald Dahl, p. 283; January 10, 2005, review of V.S. Pritchett, p. 53.
Spectator, March 19, 1994, review of Roald Dahl, p. 31; October 2, 2004, Philip Hensher, review of V.S. Pritchett, p. 41.
Times Higher Education Supplement, December 3, 1982, Warren Chernaik, review of Spirit of Wit: Reconsiderations of Rochester; March 25, 1994, review of Roald Dahl, p. 9; April l4, 1995, review of Roald Dahl, p. 27.
Times Literary Supplement, March 25, 1994, review of Roald Dahl, p. 13; January 22, 1999, review of Grub Street and the Ivory Tower, p. 36; October 13, 2000, Mick Imlah, review of Romancing.
Washington Post Book World, April 10, 1994, review of Roald Dahl, p. 1; June 18, 1995, review of Roald Dahl, p. 12.
University of Warwick Web site, http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/ (January 28, 2006), biographical information on Jeremy Treglown.