Tuesday, 1 December 2009

John Minton

Five Leaves has got the go ahead to re-issue the two Roland Camberton books - Scamp and Rain on the Pavements in our New London Editions series. No date set yet, more details to follow etc. Camberton was one of the great mysteries of London literature, which meant of course that Iain Sinclair got on the case. Sinclair wrote a long piece on Camberton for the Guardian, which will be included in Scamp. We'll be using the original John Minton covers, which will gladden some hearts, and this led me to read Frances Spalding's Dance till the Stars Come Down (the title taken from an Auden poem), Minton's biography. Spalding's book is out of print, and not cheap on the net.

John Minton was a household name in his day, but died young, by his own hand, in 1957. He was part of that Soho set who would hang round The Colony Room and drink too much. Minton was part of the "homosexual freemasonry" (Spalding's phrase) and led a promiscuous life. He knew a sailor when he saw one, that's for sure, yet often fell in love with heterosexual men.

Minton inherited money, and was a successful artist. He supported many who needed his help and many who were spongers. He was never known to turn down a commission - it would be terrific to see an exhibition of all his book covers. As well as Camberton he produced covers for Martin Goff, Alan Ross and the cookery writer Elizabeth David, for John Lehmann and other publishers. A general retrospective would be good too.

Spalding has probably covered everything biographically, but her book is short on illustrations. An illustrated John Minton anyone? I'd buy one.

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