trial and eros


The court usher’s voice rang out in the courtroom at the Old Bailey: “Call Kingsley Amis!” Amis, the well-known British comic novelist, was nowhere to be seen. The defense, in the case of Regina v. Penguin Books Limited, moved on to its next witness. Later, Amis would apologize to Penguin’s solicitor, Michael Rubinstein, writing that he had left his house in Swansea “just in time to miss” Rubinstein’s letter specifying the time he was expected to testify, “and got back six hours or so after I should have been available in court.” A week later, one of Amis’s buddies, Robert Conquest, explained to another, Philip Larkin, just why the witness was absent: “He was at the time participating in an adulterous rendezvous. Pity he didn’t just make it, breathing heavily, smeared with lipstick and fly-buttons mostly undone, to testify that Lady C was a sacred monogamous work.” Amis’s escapade might have served as a motivation for Lar­kin to kick his own personal life up several notches.

more from Ben Yagoda at The American Scholar here.