OBITUARY : Walter Allen

For the 11 years I worked at the New Statesman, Walter Allen was a splendid ally - as reviewer, and also for a year my assistant literary editor, writes Janet Adam Smith. Christopher Hawtree [obituary, 2 March] rightly described him as a "man of letters": I would stress what a well- organised man of letters he was - in a way they are often supposed not to be.

He was a contributor who never let you down. When he was living in Devon he would come up to London every week for a day or two, during which he would deliver a review, collect the books for the next one, and - if it was one of his stints for the BBC Critics - fit in the exhibition, the film, the play that were on that week's programme. Yet all this while that he was coping with what for many would be a full-time round of reviews, lectures and broadcasts, he was working on his finest novel, All in a Lifetime, and on his masterly study The English Novel.

With no private means, the responsibility of supporting a family of four children might have daunted him: Walter's capacity for hard work, and his cheerfulness, saw him through the difficult days. The stroke which confined him to the house just when, with the family grown up, they seemed to be entering on easier times, was a cruel blow. Again Walter's determination, and Peggy's staunch support, enabled him to go on writing and produce his lively memoir, As I Walked Down Grub Street. A man of letters, indeed; but also a man of great courage.

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