The Library of D.G. Bridson

Quaritch is pleased to offer a selection of books from the library of the broadcaster D.G. Bridson (1910–1980).

 

The Manchester-born poet, journalist and radio producer Douglas Geoffrey Bridson was responsible for over 800 broadcasts in his career at the BBC, 1933–1969, which culminated in his appointment as Programme Editor for Arts, Sciences, and Documentaries in the mid-1960s, when he was known as ‘the cultural boss of the BBC’.  Although he was a poet of no small ability himself (his March of the 45 was the first verse drama written for radio, in 1936), it was his tireless and democratic promotion of modern British and American literature on the airwaves that led to correspondence and then friendship with nearly all the major literary figures of his day, but most notably with Wyndham Lewis, T.S. Eliot, Hugh MacDiarmuid, Ezra Pound, and Langston Hughes, many of whose works he brought to a wider audience through his radio productions.  He published three of his own collections of poetry, a memoir of his years at the BBC, Prospero and Ariel (1971), and a study of the politics of Wyndham Lewis, The Filibuster (1972); his archive of papers and correspondence is now at the Lilly Library.

 

Bridson was ‘a book collector of the first rank, a connoisseur of pictures’ – on his walls were portraits of Wyndham Lewis by Augustus John, and by Lewis of his wife ‘Froanna’ (Gladys
Anne Hoskins) and of Ezra Pound – ‘and, of course, he was a genial (and generous) enthusiast of the best in food and drink.  He was a poet too, quite apart from his versifying for radio, and a critic in his early years for that remarkable vehicle of the unorthodox, The New English Weekly’ (obituary by C.J. Fox).  As a bibliophile Bridson was fastidious, keeping the many signed and presentation copies he acquired in excellent condition, augmented only with his small booklabel (commissioned in 1970) or his bookplate (designed by Sangorski and Sutcliffe in 1973, its three-legged device gesturing to Manx heritage), and on some occasions marking his ownership with the use of three dots under the successive letters D G and B in a colophon. He was, on occasion, a customer of Bernard Quaritch Ltd, and it was in our premises in 1962 that he re-met his estranged son Gavin Bridson, the future librarian and bibliographer, who was then working with us as a
specialist in natural history.  It is with great pleasure that we renew the Quaritch connection today.

 

The newly published catalogue Wyndham Lewis & Ezra Pound is the first of several to be devoted to Bridson’s ‘phenomenal library’ (Fox), concentrating on two of the most controversial and complicated figures with whom Bridson came to be associated, Lewis and Pound.  Bridson had known both men, themselves friends of a sort, in the 1930s, and had even corresponded with
Pound at that time, but they never met in person until the 1950s, at the height of Bridson’s BBC career.  Bridson was instrumental in bringing the work of both writers to the airwaves, and from these interactions developed perhaps unlikely friendships.  Here we find, as a result, a near complete run of works by Lewis, including 7 presentation copies; 5 works inscribed by Pound, along with some autograph notes, and others given to Bridson by Pound’s secretary, daughter and grandson; and a number of broadcast typescripts, including one annotated draft by T.S. Eliot. It is a testament to Bridson’s integrity that even as a committed left-winger (he was much closer to Langton Hughes politically than any of the ‘men of 1914’) he did not shy from the engagement – and later even took upon himself the task of attempting to redeem Lewis from the darker aspects of his reputation.

 

A selection of Modern American Literature from the Library of D.G. Bridson has been published, focusing on e.e. cummings, Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, Henry Miller, and William Carlos Williams.