John Lucas – A Melianthropy Man

in Critical Survey
Peter WiddowsonUniversity of Gloucestershire

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Since the word ‘melianthropy’ does not exist, I have invented it as my small tribute to John: it means the capacity for making people’s lives better and fuller. Ayear ago, having sent out innumerable letters of invitation to contribute to the present ‘special issue’ of Critical Survey in honour of John Lucas, his many friends responded with such speed and enthusiasm, and with such wonderful things to say about him-whowas- to-be-honoured, that I thought of scrapping the original idea of publishing essays, poems and reminiscences and simply printing the letters themselves instead. All solicited were ‘honoured’ or ‘flattered’ to be asked, but many added more: ‘a close friend and someone who has offered so much to so many of us, both in literature and in life’; ‘as well as being a fine poet and deep-searching author, John is one of the most generous-spirited men I’ve ever known, and it is not surprising that he has such a very wide circle of friends drawn from his many interests and his work’; ‘John is not only a very close friend but the most generous man I am ever likely to meet. I could never begin to repay his goodness to me’; ‘John deserves only the very best’; ‘John is among those whose friendship I most value and whose work I most highly regard. A very remarkable man – how does he do it? – and loyal and heartening friend’; yet another refers to ‘his and Pauline’s warm hospitality and infectious enthusiasms’. And so on and so forth – but all are clearly meant. For me, as guest-editor of this issue – itself an honour and a pleasure – the true index of the depth of affection and regard John inspires has been the fact that 98% of all the contributions were on my desk by the copy-date – an unheard-of thing!

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