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EMPSON, FRYE AND WIMSATT*
When visiting U of T in the spring of 1973 Empson and Frye and Wimsatt had dinner. It was there that Empson told of days when he had begun supervisions under Richards. He said that he was in the habit of regaling his undergraduate friends after each supervision with a detailed account of what he and they regarded as Richard's utter absurdity. They would literally roll on the grass, howling with merriment as the crazy psychological and linguistic ideas were reviewed. Empson said it was more than a year before he began to detect some sense in I.A.R.
Empson spent the year 1973 as visiting professor at York being completely ignored by U of T. Corinne and I had him to dinner with Claude Bissel and then came an invitation to lecture at U of T. He gave an unforgettable lecture on the secret marriage of Andrew Marvell. Marvell was a political double agent for England, Holland etc. and a hater of women. His secret marriage was motivated in part by tax problem, partly by his getting married to his landlady. The political complication exceeded all varieties of ambiguity. Empson is very noticeable deaf and has a big white mustache and the florid face of a Col. Blimp. Typically, Wimsatt and Frye played coy at dinner and after, having nothing to say on any subject. They were awed by Empson, like rustics. Wimsatt has attacked Frye in print, as I have, but they were unable to rally any social grace. Empson spoke of his essays as occasional raids on English lit. Mrs. Empson is a refreshingly open and boisterous gal socially. Very plain but vivacious. Both urged to visit them in London.
*Note written on the fly-leaf of Some Versions of Pastoral by William Empson (London: Chatto & Windus, 1935).