Hugh Kingsmill

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Hugh Kingsmill Lunn (21 November 1889 – 15 May 1949), who dropped his last name for professional purposes, was a versatile British writer and journalist. Writers Arnold Lunn and Brian Lunn were his brothers.


Hugh Kingsmill Lunn was born in London and educated at Harrow School and the University of Oxford. After graduating he worked for a brief period for Frank Harris, who edited the publication Hearth and Home in 1911/2, alongside Enid Bagnold; Kingsmill later wrote a debunking biography of Harris, after the spell had worn off. He began fighting in the British Army in World War I in 1916, and was captured in France the next year. He was held as a prisoner of war at Mainz Citadel with, among others, J. Milton Hayes and Alec Waugh.[1]

After the war, he began to write, initially both science fiction and crime fiction. In the 1930s he was a contributor to the English Review; later he wrote a good deal of non-fiction for this periodical's successor, the English Review Magazine. His large output includes criticism, essays and biographies, parodies and humour, as well as novels, and edited a number of anthologies. He is remembered for saying 'friends are God's apology for relations', with a notable flavour of Ambrose Bierce. The dictum was subsequently used by Richard Ingrams for the title of his memoir of Kingsmill's friendships with Hesketh Pearson and Malcolm Muggeridge,[2] two intimate friends whom he influenced greatly.

Muggeridge drew a darker attitude from Kingsmill's sardonic wit. Kingsmill's parody of A. E. Housman's poetry has been recognised as definitive:

What still alive at twenty-two,
A clean, upstanding chap like you?
Sure, if your throat 'tis hard to slit,
Slit your girl's, and swing for it.

Like enough, you won't be glad,
When they come to hang you, lad:
But bacon's not the only thing
That's cured by hanging from a string.

So, when the spilt ink of the night
Spreads o'er the blotting-pad of light,
Lads whose job is still to do

Shall whet their knives, and think of you.

Housman himself said of this parody: "It's the best I have seen, and indeed, the only good one."[3][4]

Dawnist was Kingsmill's word for those infected with unrealistic or utopian idealism – the enemy as far as he was concerned.


"If criticism is to be more than an academic diversion, a critic should not be content to play about inside a man’s work as though it was a glass bowl suspended in a vacuum. A man’s work expresses his character and each should be used to illumine the other".[citation needed]


  • The Will To Love (1919) book
  • The Dawn's Delay (1924) stories
  • Blondel (1927)
  • Matthew Arnold (1928) biography
  • After Puritanism, 1850-1900 (1929)
  • An Anthology Of Invective And Abuse (1929)
  • The Return of William Shakespeare (1929) novel
  • Behind Both Lines (1930) autobiographical
  • More Invective (1930) anthology
  • The Worst of Love (1931) anthology
  • After Puritanism (1931)
  • Frank Harris (1932) biography.
  • The Table of Truth (1933)
  • Samuel Johnson (1933) biography
  • The Sentimental Journey (1934) biography of Charles Dickens
  • The Casanova Fable: A Satirical Revaluation (1934) with William Gerhardi
  • What They Said at the Time (1935) anthology
  • Parents and Children (1936) anthology
  • Brave Old World (1936) humour, with Malcolm Muggeridge
  • A Pre-View of Next Year's News (1937) humour, with Malcolm Muggeridge
  • Skye High: The Record of a Tour Through Scotland in the Wake of the Samuel Johnson And James Boswell.(1937) travel, with Hesketh Pearson
  • Made on Earth (1937) anthology on marriage
  • The English Genius: a survey of the English achievement and character (1938) editor, essays by W. R. Inge, Hilaire Belloc, Hesketh Pearson, William Gerhardi, E .S. P. Haynes, Douglas Woodruff, Charles Petrie, J. F. C. Fuller, Alfred Noyes, Rose Macaulay, Brian Lunn, Rebecca West, K. Hare, T. W. Earp
  • D. H. Lawrence (1938) biography
  • Next Year's News (1938) humour, with Malcolm Muggeridge
  • Courage (1939) anthology
  • Johnson Without Boswell: A Contemporary Portrait of Samuel Johnson (1940) editor
  • The Fall (1940)
  • This Blessed Plot (1942) travel, with Hesketh Pearson
  • The Poisoned Crown (1944) essays on genealogies
  • Talking of Dick Whittington (1947) travel, with Hesketh Pearson)
  • The Progress of a Biographer (1949)
  • The High Hill of the Muses (1955) anthology
  • The Best of Hugh Kingsmill: Selections from his Writings (1970) edited by Michael Holroyd
  • Bernard Shaw, His Life and Personality


  1. ^ Waugh, Alex (1967) My Brother and Other Profiles Cassell London
  2. ^ Richard Ingrams, God's Apology: A chronicle of three friends, Andre Deutsch, London 1977
  3. ^ James Dickey, Classes on Modern Poets and the Art of Poetry, University of South Carolina Press, 2004, p. 58
  4. ^ Cyril Alington, Poets at Play


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