Richard Hoggart is Dead

by Harry on April 11, 2014

Richard Hoggart is dead, at 95. BBC obit here; Guardian obit here. His first book, The Uses of Literacy is still in print after 58 years. I was struck by this para from the Guardian obit:


Late in life he wondered if his readiness to serve on committees was a byproduct of a childhood that had left him “unusually glad to find myself wanted”. Yet he was sceptical about the idea that these compulsions had stopped him from producing another Uses of Literacy. “Did you really expect that I would?” he asked an interviewer. “I didn’t. That’s the sort of book that – if you’re lucky – you can write once in a lifetime.”

{ 7 comments }

1

mollymooly 04.11.14 at 9:16 pm

RIP.

Is “still in print” still a thing?

2

David Margolies 04.11.14 at 9:45 pm

A few years ago, I went to a lecture by Stefan Collini about Hoggart. He talked about the section of Uses of Literacy where Hoggart gives examples of writing he dislikes. Collini said that Hoggart himself wrote all the (bad) examples as his publisher’s lawyers would not allow actual examples to be criticized. English libel laws and all that.

3

Anderson 04.12.14 at 12:46 am

“Sacked by Thatcher.” At least he outlived the evil old troll.

4

Alison Connors 04.12.14 at 1:01 am

The point David Margolies makes here is utterly absurd. Does he really think that the British libel laws have prevented literary critics from making highly uncomplimentary remarks about work they dislike? If he does, he ought to read more history.

Funnily enough, one writer whose work has often been subjected to scathing (and entirely justified) criticism is David Margolies. I think it was the late John Saville who described one of Margolies’s characteristically piffling essays as “not very good”. He spoke for a great many of us.

5

LFC 04.14.14 at 3:56 am

Haven’t read the obits yet, but a long time ago I had occasion to dip into The Uses of Literacy and even on the basis of a brief encounter it’s easy to see why the book’s still in print.

6

Erik Stenius 04.14.14 at 4:00 am

The anecdote related by David Margolies as having been told by Stefan Collini is true, and it is a matter of historical record. The Uses of Literacy was very nearly shelved completely by its original hardback publisher, Chatto & Windus, because of their lawyer’s fear of libel suits. Numerous other changes had to be made to it as well, starting with the title; Hoggart’s intended title had been The Abuse of Literacy.

Using Hoggart’s own archive at the University of Sheffield, Sue Owen has thoroughly documented the whole episode in her 2005 paper in the Cambridge Quarterly, “The Abuse of Literacy and the Feeling Heart: The Trials of Richard Hoggart”“.

7

David Margolies 04.16.14 at 6:29 pm

Alison Connors @4

The point may be absurd but Stefan Collini really did say that and really did ascribe it to libel laws (the lecture was at the University of California at Berkeley, but I cannot recall the year).

I am fascinated by the fact that John Saville “described one of Margolies’s characteristically piffling essays as “not very good” given that I have never published an essay (not counting school papers and our local native plant newsletter.) Perhaps Ms. Connors can provide a link?

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