This edited collection of letters by William Empson (1906-1984), one of the foremost writers and literary critics of the twentieth century, ranges across the entirety of his career. Parts of the correspondence record the development of ideas that were to come to fruition in seminal texts including Seven Types of Ambiguity, The Structure of Complex Words, and Milton's God. The topics of other letters range from Shakespeare's Dark Lady to Marvell's marriage and Byron's bisexuality. Empson relished correspondence that was combative, if not downright aggressive. As a result, parts of this edition take the form of a serial disputation with other critics of the period, including Frank Kermode, Helen Gardner, Philip Hobsbaum, and I. A. Richards. Other notable correspondents include A. Alvarez, Bonamy Dobree, Leslie Fiedler, Graham Hough, C. K. Ogden, George Orwell, Kathleen Raine, John Crowe Ransom, Christopher Ricks, Laura Riding, A. L. Rowse, Stephen Spender, E. M. W. Tillyard, Rosemond Tu
John Haffenden is Professor of English Literature at the University of Sheffield. His books include The Life of John Berryman, W. H. Auden: The Critical Heritage, Viewpoints: Poets in Conversation, and Novelists in Interview; and he has edited Berryman's Shakespeare and several collections by William Empson including Complete Poems. The first volume of a biography, William Empson: Among the Mandarins, was
published in 2005. Haffenden is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and of the English Association, and has been a British Academy Research Reader and a Leverhulme Research Fellow.