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Porteus’s own work was significant and, as he justly stated, “I’ve been an art & lit. critic in all the quality papers — weeklies & sundaes — for over half a century.” Besides his book and 12 essays on Lewis, he wrote on Pound, Eliot, Durrell, Auden, George Barker and many others in hundreds of articles in the New English Weekly, Time and Tide, Twentieth Century Verse, Life and Letters, Nine, Agenda, Criterion, Scrutiny, Listener, Observer, Times and Encounter. Though usually generous, he could also be quite fierce. Reviewing a sympathetic study of Middleton Murry in 1934, he exclaimed, “It is difficult to see how anything of a wide and durable value can emerge from the labours of such an indiscriminate, submissive and parasitic” man. Using a similar phrase, he attacked Herbert Read’s Surrealist exhibition in 1936, declaring, “It is difficult to believe that the author of Reason and Romanticism actually is responsible for such an effusion as the prefatory note to the catalogue.”

Porteus’s Background to Chinese Art, a 60-page Faber pamphlet, was published in 1935 in conjunction with the First International Exhibition of Chinese Art at Burlington House. An expert while still in his twenties, he emphasises the culture, characters, calligraphy and painting of China. His brief work is studded with insights, such as “Chinese indeed seems to compensate for its poverty as a spoken tongue by providing in its script an intensely expressive miniature drama of gesture.”

In a creative surge in 1952 Porteus composed Dog River, a dramatic verse-fantasy for radio. The BBC’s Kubla Khan-ish description reads: “Dog River — the Nahr el-Kalb of the Arabs — is a Syrian river associated with Tammuz and also with the Egyptian Dog-God, Anubis. It runs for much of its course through underground caverns, in which part of the action of this programme takes place, and which are haunted by the Dog himself.” He also contributed “The White [Siberian] Tiger” to New Poems, 1952: A P.E.N. Anthology, which included verse by Auden, Day Lewis and Louis MacNeice. Porteus’s technically proficient and vividly impressive seven-stanza poem opens with:

Thud, pad, ripple of Mongol fur;
Breath, stars, glitter of teeth, spore;
   Black frost of the tundra.

Spirits of air and water, fire and earth,
Open the dark with thunder, and make path
   Now for the white tiger of the North.

A drinking companion of Dylan Thomas in the Thirties, Porteus met him in a pub (where else?) and was surprised and horrified by the grossness of the Welsh poet, who seemed stunned and barely conscious. More significantly, he summoned up remembrance of his friends — Eliot, Durrell, Orwell and especially Lewis. He recalled, “I saw a good deal of Eliot, less of Lewis, after my return from the Middle East. . . . Later I spent much time at the School of Oriental and African Studies, then opposite Faber’s, and often dropt in on Eliot for tea.”

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