Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

VSP - a Most Unlikely Roue; Behind the Smile and the Specs, VS Pritchett Was a Serial Adulterer with a Ruthless Streak

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

VSP - a Most Unlikely Roue; Behind the Smile and the Specs, VS Pritchett Was a Serial Adulterer with a Ruthless Streak

Article excerpt

Byline: CLAIRE HARMAN

VS Pritchett: A Working Life

by Jeremy Treglown

(Chatto, [pounds sterling]25)

VS PRITCHETT'S is no longer a name to conjure with, as his biographer Jeremy Treglown admits. The late novelist, critic and storywriter, who was one of the most widely published and best respected figures on the post- war book scene, is now likely to be confused with VS Naipaul or Terry Pratchett, his once-famous initials (which even his wife appears to have used when addressing him) more suggestive of a tonic wine or patent antiseptic than a literary figure.

Pritchett was brought up in a lowermiddle-class home where one of the only books was his father's wellthumbed copy of How to Avoid Payment of Debt.

"VSP" strove never to get into debt at all.

He left school at 16 and took a job sorting leather in a Bermondsey dockyard. Later, he made the most of an unglamorous start in journalism at the Christian Science Monitor and after some difficult years (which coincided with his unhappy first marriage) was able to begin writing fiction, subsidised by massive quantities of book reviewing.

He was remarkably successful, worked very hard and reaped the rewards; a house in Regent's Park Terrace, plenty of wine and travel, the children at boarding school, himself at the Savile.

His private life was similarly wellguarded: though apparently blissfully happy in his second marriage, especially in the 1940s when his two children were young, it appears Pritchett was serially unfaithful to his wife and drove her into depression and alcoholism. They had 10 or more years of scenes and separations, but the really extraordinary revelation is that the marriage survived, or revived.

Dorothy's cure worked (eventually), Victor scaled down the adulteries, and soon they were everyone's favourite dinner guests again, ploughing on devotedly into highlyrespectable old age. …

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