Julian Maclaren-Ross, Selected Letters



Best known as the most flamboyant and dissolute of all the bohemians who flocked to 1940s and '50s Soho, Julian Maclaren-Ross was also an inimitably stylish writer. He had the rare ability to distil the detail of everyday life into vibrant stories, a skill he refined as a raconteur in pubs and clubs, and used to great effect in his letters. These range from gleeful accounts of his love life to glowering despair at his frequent poverty. All give a vivid sense ofthe life of a writer living at once on the margins of society and at the heart of London's artistic and literary bohemia; always with his distinctive narrative voice, whether effervescently or bleakly humorous, unconsciously poignant, bad-tempered or desperate.

Despite his rackety and chaotic life, his literary admirers – attracted by his beguiling, original and wryly amusing novels, memoirs, short stories andcriticism – included Evelyn Waugh and Graham Greene. Now a new generation has recognised him as a leading twentieth-century British writer. Selected Letters presents a revealing portrait of Maclaren-Ross's bizarre and dramatic life: a stint as a door-to-door salesman, desertion from the army, imprisonment, homelessness, even a dangerous obsession with George Orwell's glamorous widow. Drawing on Maclaren-Ross's correspondence with Anthony Powell, John Lehmann and other prominent figures, this collection also offers a vivid evocation of the vanished literary world he inhabited, the world of rationing, basement drinking clubs and evenings punctuated by the melancholy wail of air-raid sirens.


Click here to buy this book from Waterstone's.



Praise for Julian Maclaren-Ross’s Selected Letters


The Observer

“A neglected giant of postwar literary journalism comes alive in this correspondence…”


The Guardian

“Far more so than many of the Attlee-era scamps and hangers-on with whom he is occasionally compared, Maclaren-Ross is literature’s solitary, embattled conscience, the man for whom the compulsion to put words on paper dwarfs all other interests and whose absorption in his craft eventually leads him to destroy himself. Symbolism aside, Selected Letters is also a work of stark historical significance.”


The Independent

“A splendid collection”


The Daily Telegraph

“This handsome volume is a welcome addition to those of the collected fiction and memoirs that have already done so much to revive Maclaren-Ross’s reputation.”


The Irish Times

“The wreck of Maclaren-Ross’s life is everywhere in the pages of Selected Letters, presented and edited with critical zest by Paul Willetts, who seems to have single-handedly and single-mindedly recovered from the dust of oblivion the actual achievement of this haunted, troubled and self-destructive man… If you want to know the real inside story of the roots of contemporary culture… then Selected Letters takes you there.”


3am Magazine

"Selected Letters is a wonderful book, and also a rather telling one. The insights it gives to the struggling writer, determined to work for themselves, not the market, reminded me of George Gissing’s New Grub Street, written about fifty years before these letters and set just around the corner from Fitzrovia. Both are invaluable guides for the aspiring writer today."


Elizabeth Bowen, The Tatler

“Maclaren-Ross is a writer due for the front rank… There is an at once savage and fatalistic tolerance in Mr Maclaren-Ross’s approach to human beings: he has also often the merit of being extremely funny.” 

Using Format