Saturday, 12 June 2010

Louis MacNeice and English at Walworth

We’ve learned that Arthur Harvey, who was a remarkable head of English at Walworth School from 1949 to 1955 and a published poet, was a good friend of the poet Louis MacNeice. Indeed, at least one former Walworth pupil remembers going with Harvey to MacNeice’s house.

I’ve been reading MacNeice’s Autumn Journal (1939) in which he writes (stanza iii) lines that I think would have exactly represented the educational convictions that brought men like Arthur Harvey to schools like Walworth:

...It is so hard to imagine

A world where the many would have their chance without

A fall in the standard of intellectual living

And nothing left that the highbrow cared about.

Which fears must be suppressed. There is no reason for thinking

That, if you give a chance to people to think or live,

The arts of thought or life will suffer and become rougher

And not return more than you could ever give.

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