Sunday 27 December 2015

On Ian Hamilton

Ian Hamilton died on this day, 27th December, in 2001. He was (said Clive James) 'the best prose writer of his time'. That's true, but only part of the story. Hamilton was also the best poet of his generation, an outstanding biographer, an editor of genius and mentor to a spectacular cohort of younger writers including James, Ian McEwan, Julian Barnes, James Fenton, Hugo Williams, Jim Crace and many others. He was (to use a rather cobwebby phrase) 'a man of letters' - one of our best and, perhaps, one of the last.

Here's a BBC4 documentary made the year after he died - a handsome tribute, and a reminder of what our literary culture used to be in an age of respected critical arbiters, of standard-setters. If you have an hour to spare in the dog days between Christmas and the New Year you could do worse than spend it here.

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