Peter Porter

The Metropolitan Voice

in Critical Survey
Author: John Lucas 1
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  • 1 Nottingham Trent University
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At the beginning of the 1960s, what might be called the Significance of Being a Gentleman was on three occasions drawn to my attention, all of them connected with the Department of English at Reading University. The first such occasion occurred on a warm afternoon in May 1961. There was to be a seminar on the novels of Walter Scott, led by an Oxford don who had agreed to read us a paper based on a forthcoming book of his. The don arrived, permitted himself an incurious stare at the twelve or so of us who were present, produced the typescript of his book, read from it for what seemed an eternity and then, as the shadows outside lengthened and his audience blinked awake, reluctantly agreed to answer questions. I made some mild objection to his ranking Kenilworth alongside The Charterhouse of Parma. Scott's novel was good, but it surely wasn't on a level with Stendhal's masterpiece? He raised a languid hand. 'The test of a gentleman', he said, 'is his ability to enjoy Scott.'

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