Ivor Brown

Ivor BrownIvor (John Carnegie) Brown was born in 1891 in Malaya but brought up in England. He was one of Barry’s team at The Saturday Review (their drama critic) but had moved on to be The Observer‘s drama critic the year before The Week-end Review began. For Barry, he wrote cultural articles about the theatre, but also about language – like Lynd, he was particular about exactitude, as this extract from an WR article might suggest:

Some time ago, Mr. J.C. Squire made nouns of assembly the subject of a competition in the Week-end Review … the old nouns of assembly were proof of the abounding wealth of the English language … When our language was at the top of its form, when Shakespeare was in full torrent … the users and makers of words seemed to be so seized with the joy of creation that they could not leave an idea alone. They diversified and they amplified … The uninventiveness of our current speech is shown by the endless, intolerable employment of such adjectives as ‘marvellous’ … The richly creative world of scientific invention is painfully uncreative of language; it falls back on cumbrous classicisms, half of which are villainous blends of Latin and Greek. What a pitiful bastard is “television” …  (from ‘Verboojuice’, article in the WR, 1931).

Brown was highly knowledgeable and passionate about Shakespeare – if he could squeeze a reference to Hamlet into an article, he would – and he did return to be being The Observer‘s drama critic at the end of the 1940s, and until 1954, when he was succeeded by Kenneth Tynan. In the interval, he was the editor of The Observer from 1942 to 1948, although he left the political side of the paper to his deputy.

Like Kingsley Martin, Brown was both a conscientious objector in World War One, and an employee of the Manchester Guardian (although in its London office). Like J.C.Squire, he loathed the ‘balderdash’ and ‘gibberish’ of Eliot’s The Waste Land. Culturally, and increasingly, politically, he was conservative. He wrote over seventy books, many after leaving The Observer, and including Mind Your Language (1962), which is available here.

Ivor Brown died n 1974. A picture of him at the National Portrait Gallery is here.

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