James MacGibbon

James MacGibbon left his Edinburgh school to work in publishing and continued to do so with two breaks (a brief frolic in advertising and the war years) until he retired in 1984.

Diary: Fashionable Radicals

James MacGibbon, 22 January 1987

Looking back over more than fifty years of publishing, I count myself lucky to have begun by working for Constant Huntington, chairman of Putnam, a Bostonian of soldierly appearance, blessed with an air of extraordinary propriety, but a man of paradox. He was a self-confessed snob who enjoyed moving in what he called ‘the great world’, by which he meant the narrow orbit of country houses and fashionable quasi-literary circles where he believed the best writers were to be met. I never quite found my way there, but when I met Harold Nicolson he seemed the epitome of what Constant wanted for me. At the same time, Constant was a publisher whose policy was truly radical and whose achievements were never fully recognised by his contemporaries. He delighted in flouting convention – an inclination that I am sure was fostered by his wife, the anonymous author of Madame Solario.’


Socialist Claptrap

6 March 1997

P.R. Bonnett (Letters, 20 March) does not give any examples of Tobias Jones’s ‘socialist claptrap’ in his letter but I infer that he is a Conservative and disapproves of political articles being published in a literary journal. But it is these occasional articles that would make it impossible for me to give up the LRB. Conrad Russell’s brilliant piece in the same issue is a...

The Buttocks Problem

5 September 1996

Paul Foot’s Diary recalls my own experience of flogging at Fettes where Chenevix-Trench’s penchant for the cane led to his second, final, sacking. But beating was a long-established practice at that snobby Edinburgh school, and I was disappointed to hear Tony Blair, another Old Fettesian, declare in the course of a BBC radio interview, that he had been at a flogging seminary and it ‘had...

On the Edge

10 November 1994

I was pulled up sharply by Mary Hawthorne’s use of the fashionable buzzword ‘parameter’ in her review of The Informers by Bret Easton Ellis, when she wrote that he was ‘pushing to the limit the current parameters of literary transgression’ (LRB, 10 November). In the current edition of Sir Ernest Gowers’s Plain Words we are warned that it is ‘a mathematical...

Fifty Years On

23 June 1994

Richard Wollheim’s account of his war experiences (LRB, 23 June) is moving and masterly. His initial pacifism, his subsequent cool courage and the closing comment on whether ‘the haphazard killing’ was worthwhile without an eventual ‘change of heart’ says all that needs to be said about the futility of war. There is much else in the article about how war dulls human reaction...

Broad-Minded Kleinians

10 February 1994

The trouble for the layman when reading about psychoanalysis is that so much of the theorising is obfuscating, however clear it may be to the professional. I was puzzled by Adam Phillips’s review of books by Christopher Bollas and Malcolm Bowie (LRB, 10 February). What does he mean when he writes: ‘For the patient in psychoanalysis the most disabling insights are the ones he cannot forget?’...

Small Fish

9 September 1993

In Frank Kermode’s review of Lord Goodman’s memoirs (LRB, 9 September) there is no mention of this unusual solicitor’s work on behalf of his unimportant clients – inevitably, as Lord Goodman, in his book, is concerned with bigger affairs. I had two experiences with him. The first was when he was acting on behalf of a wealthy client against me. His letters were so friendly that...

Henry lets her have it

12 September 1991

Henry Reed’s many friends and admirers must all be obliged to Jon Stallworthy for his concise biography of Henry (LRB, 12 September) and for ‘L’Envoi’ (LRB, 12 September). He mentions the poet’s ‘staggering memory’. Here is an example. Henry, knowing he needed some kind of psychiatric help, had read and admired the works of Melanie Klein (‘Eine Kleine...

Last Cigarette

27 July 1989

John Bayley’s review of Livia Veneziani’s Memoir of Italo Svevo (LRB, 27 July) was a reminder of how slow the British public can be in recognising foreign literature. Svevo’s masterpiece’, The Confessions of Zeno, although it had immediate success in Italy and, only a little later, in France, had to wait much longer in this country. The English translation, published by Putnam...


25 June 1987

SIR: V.G. Kiernan’s contribution on treason (LRB, 25 June) states succinctly something that has long needed saying. When the spy-book boom was reaching its height A.J.P. Taylor wrote that it seemed to him these left-wing spies had not much of importance to tell. It is the traitors of the Right – Lord Halifax, the then Foreign Secretary, hobnobbing with Goering in the late Thirties, Ribbentrop’s...

Six-Letter Word

6 March 1986

SIR: In his review of Kiss of the Spider Woman Nicholas Spice (LRB, 6 March) makes an interesting point about the little boy’s difficulty in breaking ‘the taboo on tenderness’ when it came to uttering the word ‘breast’. This recalled a review by Brigid Brophy of Melanie Klein’s Our Adult World, many years ago in the New Statesman (7 March 1963). She opened her piece...


7 June 1984

SIR: In her generous review of Jean MacGibbon’s memoir, I meant to marry him, Gabriele Annan (LRB, 7 June) quotes Philip Toynbee’s lewd send-up of the Horlicks slogan, ‘Masturbation, not night starvation,’ and adds (delightfully) that the Communist Party version was ‘Masturbation, not mass starvation.’ There never was such an official CP slogan. Only middle-class...

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences