`In one of tje funniest biographies I have ever read, Lewis assembles all the excellently entertaining anecdotes about this deeply loved, much mocked, sometimes reviled figure whose departure has robbed the litarary world of its social smartness and any worthwhile eccentricity . . . An excellent, wildly funny and informative biography. `Auberon Waugh, Literary Review. Precociously brilliant in his youth, Cyril Connolly was haunted for the rest of his life by a sense of failure and a romatic yearning to recover a lost Eden. His two great books, The Unquiet Grave and Enemies of Promise, are classics of English prose, combining wit, romanticism and merciless self-knowledge. As witty in person as he as in his prose, he was notoriously slothful and greedy; he was married three times, abd his dealings with women were bedevilled by a lifelong tendency to be in love with two or more people at once.
In his vast biography of the literary critic, Lewis, former deputy editor of London Magazine, writes with the perfectionism of a skilled cultural historian and the bloodlust of a tabloid gossip columnist. Connolly's life is bound to intrigue and entertain. Although the emphasis here on his years spent dwelling in the rarefied world of English boys' boarding schools and the "powerful networks they fostered" may seem a bit strange, that time was in fact deeply formative for him. Eton not only shaped Connolly's intellectual character but also provided a touchstone for much of his later work, including The Unquiet Grave and Enemies of Promise. His classmates included George Orwell and Cecil Beaton. The idyll of academia without the responsibility of adulthood truly captured Connolly's imagination: he eventually referred to Eton as "a vanished Eden of grace and security." Within its ancient walls he developed a love and longing for literature that colored his emotional landscape for years. Yet even though Connolly lived his life more or less to the full, the vision of his own potential - "his unfulfilled youthful promise" - was a dark angel that he could not escape. In Lewis's words, Connolly "combined an incurable, ever-youthful romanticism . . . with an unwavering, almost masochistic realism about his weaknesses and failings." Ironically, perhaps, his sense of his own inadequacies didn't stop him from completing two highly regarded books, from mentoring other writers, or from carrying on like a round-faced satyr (he married three times). To his credit, Lewis never lets Connolly's own vociferous complaints about his life weigh down the text. Instead, the author balances a wealth of detail from the man himself with anecdotes gleaned from Connolly's surviving family and former lovers. The critic emerges from Lewis's quietly compassionate portrait as an intriguing and contradictory personality: difficult, bright, self-serving, and ultimately self-punishing. (Kirkus Reviews)