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It must be said that there is not much self-doubt to be found in these poems. You sometimes catch an echo of Larkin's voice in them, and you feel he probably loves Larkin, but though James can be rueful about the way the world is going, it is not in his temperament to be rueful in Larkin's way about himself. Even when he laughs at himself it is usually knockabout comedy.

There is, however, one poem in which the line of feeling turns back on itself. In "Habitués" he begins by deploring the way in which old clubmen and people on sea cruises cease thinking critically and "lapse into familiar comfort". He thinks it shows proof "your life was lost on you". But then he suddenly wonders

How sure are we the failing is not ours,
Our cold contempt a portent of the void
Which is the closed heart...?

Even so, he bucks himself up by making a learned joke, only mildly self-critical, about the way in which lively, contemptuous souls such as he can waste their own lives doing such things as puzzling out the dialogue in

Act I, Scene IV of Cymbeline, which no one
Has remotely, since the day when it was written,
Enjoyed or even partly understood.

Overall, we can perhaps find an epigraph for this enjoyable book in a late poem of Yeats that James does not quote,  "A Dialogue of Self and Soul". "I am content to live it all again," says Yeats as he looks back on his life,

Every event in action or in thought;       
Measure the lot; forgive myself the lot!

Do not ask Clive James for mournful melodies. Give him a cheer! 

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