|Born||Ivor John Carnegie Brown
25 April 1891
|Died||22 April 1974
|Education||Balliol College, Oxford|
|Occupation||Journalist, editor, and author|
|Spouse(s)||Irene Gladys Hentschel|
Born in Penang, Malaya, Brown was the younger of two sons of Dr. William Carnegie Brown, a specialist in tropical diseases, and his wife Jean Carnegie. At an early age he was sent to Britain, where he attended Suffolk Hall preparatory school and Cheltenham College. After additional private instruction, he was accepted into Balliol College, Oxford, graduating with double degrees in Classics and Literae Humaniores.
Excelling on the civil service examination, Brown spent two days as a civil servant in the Home Office in 1913 before realising he was unsuited for the job and quit in order to become a freelance writer. At this time he was involved in left-wing politics, and was a conscientious objector during World War I. Though he started authoring books at this time, his ability to write quickly and over a wide range of topics soon marked him out for a career in journalism. After writing for The New Age, he received a position in the London office of The Manchester Guardian in 1919.
Though his contributions ranged over a number of subjects, Brown developed a particular interest in the theatre. He became a drama critic for the Saturday Review in 1923 and was named the Shute lecturer in the art of the theatre at Liverpool University three years later. In 1929, Brown joined The Observer as their drama critic. In the decade that followed, he emerged as the most influential and insightful drama critic in the British press, a status acknowledged in 1939 with his appointment as professor of drama in the Royal Society of Literature and his selection as director of drama for the Council for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts the following year.
Attacks on modernist poetry
Brown made quite a show of his unwillingness to follow fashionable literary and cultural nostrums. Some of his best writings are beautifully crafted and - whatever one thinks of Brown - often hilarious polemics on modern poetry, music and manners. This can be seen (sometimes with a startling effect on today's reader) in such works as I Commit to the Flames, in which, for example, he is particularly scathing about Eliot and Pound:
Mr T. S. Eliot offers the public the balderdash of his Waste-Land (pretentious bungling with the English language) and immediately becomes a pundit, bestriding the Atlantic with his cultural messages....our immunity from such poetry continually weakens; it has now been discovered that half-baked intellectuals will worship baby-talk and even persuade other people to pay for it....Gibberish levels all minds....Hence the popularity of modern verse....the source of the trouble is a general flight from reason....belief in the omnipotence of the sub-conscious for faith in self-determination of the will by reason guided.
....the Prophet Ezra at large among the alphabet, his Ps and Qs in a fine frenzy rolling....Mr. Pound 'uses quotations and translations and reminiscence and single words which are often meant to convey a large burden outside themselves' [here quoting Grigson]. This is one of T. S. Eliot's antics, as readers of The Waste-land have somewhat painfully discovered....Why, too, should he [the reader] grub about The Waste-land in order to root up the dubious truffles of Mr. Eliot's scholarship?
Writings on Shakespeare
Brown had a particular interest in Shakespeare, publishing several books about his life and career, and one on the poet's love life. He also wrote a play about Shakespeare's lost love Anne Whateley in 1937, published in 1947, and broadcast on the BBC in 1953, starring Irene Worth as Anne and John Gregson as Shakespeare.
Editorship of The Observer
In February 1942, J. L. Garvin, was forced out after 34 years as editor of The Observer because of a political dispute with the paper's owner, Waldorf Astor. After a succession of temporary editors, Brown was named as Garvin's successor in August. The paper at the time was undergoing considerable changes spearheaded by Waldorf's son, David Astor, with the introduction of new writers, many of them talented émigrés from the Continent, and an ideological shift from an independent conservative stance to a far more liberal one. Brown's appointment was widely viewed as short-term, with Astor waiting in the wings to succeed him and already performing as many of the duties as editor as his war service permitted. Though uncomfortable with many of the new writers (possibly because of his growing political conservatism) Brown left the political side of The Observer to Astor and the paper's assistant editor, Donald Tyerman, and concentrated on the paper's coverage of cultural matters. Brown served as editor until David Astor officially succeeded him in 1948, after which he continued as The Observer's drama critic until he was replaced by Kenneth Tynan in 1954.
Brown spent his final years concentrating on writing books. He would eventually publish over 75 books covering a wide range of topics and genres, but he was best known for his works on literature and the English language. He was chairman of the British Drama League from 1954 to 1962 and a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and he was named a CBE in 1957. He died in London in 1974.
- English Political Theory (1920)
- I Commit to the Flames (1934)
- Master Sanguine (1934)
- The Heart of England (1935)
- Mind Your Language (1939)
- A Word in your Ear (1942)
- Dickens in His Time
- Shakespeare in His Time
- How Shakespeare Spent the Day
- The Way of My World (1954)
- London (1960)
- Chosen Words
- Shaw in His Time
- The Women in Shakespeare's Life.
- W. Somerset Maugham. International Profiles series(1970)
- A Charm of Names (1972)
||Constructs such as ibid., loc. cit. and idem are discouraged by Wikipedia's style guide for footnotes, as they are easily broken. Please improve this article by replacing them with named references (quick guide), or an abbreviated title. (April 2010)|
- Philip Howard, "Brown, Ivor John Carnegie", in The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, H.C.G. Matthew and Brian Harrison, eds. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), vol. 8, p. 54.
- Thespis, Plays, Films, Television, English, Summer 1953; 9: 179 - 18
- Richard Cockett, David Astor and The Observer (London: Andre Deutsch, 1991), 102-104, 171.
James Louis Garvin
|Editor of The Observer
1942 - 1948