John Wain was, perhaps uniquely, a member of –  or linked with –  three of the seminal literary groupings of the mid-twentieth century: and his association with each one was in varying degrees problematical.

Of C.S. Lewis and Tolkien’s Inklings, in which he was the youngest participant, he had very little good to say in future years. (He did, though, have colossal respect and affection for Lewis himself, his tutor for three years in the 1940s.)

He rejected ‘Angry Young Man’ as a tag to apply to himself. All but a couple of dedicated self-publicists did the same, but contemporary journalists and later on, literary critics, did squeeze him into this jigsaw, along with such other odd and disparate pieces as Amis the elder, John Osborne, John Braine, Alan Sillitoe and Mr Colin Wilson.

Perhaps, though, John Wain is best described as one of the Movement poets, who also numbered Donald Davie, Philip Larkin and Elizabeth Jennings as well as Amis. This description has the virtue of being the only one that he did not himself disown.

 

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