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Six months later he gave a grimly humorous account of the latest cataclysmic events: “The flat here is threatened by Squatters. The mezzanine has the village drab living with the village idiot, whose Romeos climb my kitchen roof over barbed wire, climb over balconies, reproduce keys, leave the front door open to the new riff-raff coming up from Gloster as gatecrashers, and misuse my loo, fouling it up, and come in and out day and night, screaming and playing pop.”

In addition to these Job-like trials, Porteus suffered natural catastrophes and personal illness: “I’ve been in great difficulties. . . . My place here was flooded in my absence . . . and I was so crippled with arthritis that travel, for more than a few hundred yards, was virtually out of the question.”

The condition of his book on Lewis — with the inscription “For my most devoted and more learned pupil Dr Jeffrey Meyers, with blessings from Hugh Gordon Porteus” — suggests the state of his library. It had no dust wrapper and badly needs one, and seems to have been carried through combat. It is irrevocably foxed and spotted, stained and smeared, mildewed and mouldy — though still precious, for all that, at least to me.

Unduly impressed by my doctorate, Porteus was generous with his praise. “You approached me like a KGB interrogator,” he wrote. But “I found you cheerfully stimulating . . . I enjoyed your company here v. much indeed. You are so jolly — a rare trait in academics — together with your brisk efficiency and amazing range of accurate knowledge.”

When I invited him to write a chapter for Wyndham Lewis: A Revaluation (1980), which I edited for Athlone Press to coincide with the publication of my Life of Lewis, he thanked me formally "for your kind offer of the honour of contributing to the W.L. collection.” As the deadline approached he reported, “I made a list of subjects I wished to broach with you, but it’s mislaid under heavy accumulation of unanswered correspondence,” which helps to explain why he never wrote the long-awaited essay.

Instead, he enclosed as compensation, a delightful irregular haiku, with a pun on the last two words:

The turtle doves their lovey-doves
their lovey-doves pursue
still on his pine one (turning turtle) flew
out on a limb but now from clouds above
hurtling down a gracenote drops for you
to a p r o l o n g e d
high COO.

As I was completing my biography he timidly pleaded, “Please do spare your punches when you mention me.” When the book appeared, he spared his own punches and concluded, “I must salute you for writing a very true life of WL, unlikely to be superseded; and for incidentally doing me proud.”

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