strut his sexual bias. Oscar Wilde,nasked what he thought about socialism,nflapped a wrist and replied, “All thosenevenings.”nWith the advent of a permissivenessnlargely imported from America, liberalismnparodied itself in English intellectualnlife as in American; “The wall ofnsilence and ignorance crumbled in thenfifties and sixties.” And “No Governmentnhad ever contained so manynformer dons and intellectuals as thenLabour administrations of the sixties.”nAnnan regales us with chapters onn”deviants” — Waugh, Leavis (“A donnwho despised scholarship as pedantry”),nMichael Oakeshott — alongsidenpen-portraits of C.P. Snow, A.J.P.nTaylor, Wittgenstein, my own Oxfordncolleague Hugh Trevor-Roper (nownLord Dacre), and a host of others, allnbrilliantly “placed” within their time.nAt the end he has to ask himselfnwhether Britain’s decline into a clientnstate of America is due to its educatednclasses or to the trade unions that splitnthe Labour Party in the 70’s (“Theynalso destroyed social democracy for andecade and the political assumptions ofnOur Age”). Mrs. Thatcher courageouslynopposed the latter, but by that’ntime the country had become fairlynungovernable. “Britain now becamenthe victirn of her own rhetoric. Shenfondly imagined she had won the war.nShe had not. America and Russia hadnwon the war.”nA similar book to Annan’s has justncome out by a friend of his, DesmondnFlower. Throughout this century threengenerations of the Flower familynowned and directed the celebrated firmnof Cassell & Co., Churchill’s publishern(and my own), until brutally boughtnout by the usual American conglomerate;none editor, Toby Buchan, JohnnBuchan’s son, told me he had beenn36/CHRONICLESnLIBERAL ARTSnAND PEE-WEE HERMAN’SnVOICE MADE HER . . .n”spat onto the street” by the Americannimpresarios. Desmond Flower’s memoirs,nFellows in Foolscap, read alongsidenAnnan’s, show a similarly sunnynperiod when a man of taste couldnpublish what he wanted to, without thencircus. Gloucester’s lament in Learnstands in my mind as an epitaph overnboth books: “We have seen the best ofnour time.”nGeoffrey Wagner is an emeritusnprofessor of English of the CitynUniversity of New York.nIshmael Among thenScrivenersnby Thomas FlemingnTeorie e Altre Lirichenby Peter RussellnRome: Carlo MancosunThe heroic age of modern poetrynhas been over for some time. Thenlearned reactionaries who shaped it forntwo generations have all been dead fornmany years: Eliot (1965) and Poundn(1972), Vale’ry (1945) and Claudeln(1955), Ungaretti (1970) and Montalen(1981). Diverse in style and technique,nthe great modernists were all ambitiousnin straining at the limits of expression, innfinding the principles that undedie formalnconventions, in bringing to bear thenweight of humane learning upon theninhuman conditions of the 20th century.nThe poets who have followed, evennwhen they are good, have had neithernthe erudition nor the ambition to takenup their challenge.nThere is, however, one outstandingnexception to this generalization, PeternRussell. Born in Bristol in 1920, RussellnA neurologist reported in the New England Journal ofnMedicine last summer that a woman’s epileptic seizuresnwere caused by the voice of Entertainment Tonight co-hostnMary Hart. Symptoms included an upset stomach andnmental confusion. The Associated Press reported Dr.nVenkat Ramani as saying, “It was very dramatic. . . . Thenexpression in her eyes—she looked like she was far awaynand out of it.”nnnserved in the British army in Europenand in the Indian army in the East. Henhas lived virtually everywhere —nMalaya, Berlin, Venice, Tehran, andnBritish Columbia, and at one time ornanother has studied much of what isnworth studying. He can translate fromnLatin and write in Serbo-Croatian, andnthe range of his allusions is almost asnbroad (although by no means as bewildering)nas that of Ezra Pound. Russell’snconnection with Pound goes deepernthan style, since it was Peter Russell whonworked for years to secure Pound’snrelease from St. Elizabeth’s. (Why is itnthat exile and madness are the twondestinies most frequently- enjoyed bynAmerican poets?)nQuite apart from a long list of volumesnof verse and criticism, Peter Russellnhas, over the years, involved himselfnin a number of literary projects, as editornof the arts review Nine in the 1950’s,nand more recently of his own newsletternMarginalia, which is like a personalnletter from a brilliant and learnednfriend. His work is also to be found innTemenos, an unusual journal of “imagination.”n• These days Mr. Russell is living innrural Tuscany, from which he continuesnto make lecturing forays, and isnregarded with considerable respect innItalian literary circles. His newest volume,na selection of his recent versenaccompanied by translations into Italian,nmight serve as an introduction tonreaders unfamiliar with Russell’s work.nHere we find examples of his hardedgednlyricism put into forms whosenrules he manages to twist and bend tonhis own convenience:nWould I could find the magicnarrownTo shoot up in the seamlessnbluenMy house of earth is narrow,nnarrownHow should I welcome you?nIt’s ruined too O make it widenStrike down these ruins andnrebuildnWhat if the bolt transfix my sidenIf my empty cup be filled.nThe following lines begin his poem “Bynthe Lake,” which also illustratesnRussell’s metaphysical bent:nPrimordial silence on the laken