Bloomsbury set-to

December 17, 1999

The plot thickens. Tom Arden (Letters, THES, December 10) claims that there is a second passage in Lucky Jim, ending "No, not Bloomsbury".

Unless the Gollancz edition of 1954 was changed for the first Penguin of 1961, Chelsea appears on page 250 and Bloomsbury nowhere. It is true that the alien but enticing presence of London is a recurring theme. It appears as an image to Dixon when he visits "the badly lit jakes" during his meeting with Margaret in the Oak Lounge. It crops up during the famous hangover scene, when Dixon asks himself "What was going on in London now?" And there is reference to "Marble Arch, Charing Cross, Coventry Street", but not Bloomsbury. Dixon rules out Chelsea presumably because its arty reputation reminds him of the ghastly Bertrand Welch.

It occurs to me, though, that in the 1957 film Bertrand (played by Terry-Thomas) was not a painter but a novelist. Might Bloomsbury have been mentioned there?

The academic world of Lucky Jim has gone in many respects (six history staff for 19 final-year students), but no doubt Professor L. S. Caton is alive and well somewhere concocting a fraudulent research assessment exercise return.

Jonathan Osmond Professor of modern European historySchool of History and Archaeology Cardiff University

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