The Unquiet Grave Critical Context - Essay

Cyril Connolly

Critical Context

(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

Connolly was to go on to have a respected career as a critic in the best London newspapers. He continued to edit Horizon until it closed in 1950. He became the literary editor of the Observer, and later the main book reviewer for the Sunday Times. Yet he never wrote the great book that he thought he was capable of producing. His critics suspected that he failed to write that great book simply because of his enthusiasm for the pleasures of life, exactly the kind of self-criticism he makes in The Unquiet Grave.

This may be Connolly’s best work, although there is some support for his earlier work, Enemies of Promise (1938), about his school days at Eton. The Unquiet Grave is, perhaps, too self-interested, too indulgent of his ability to produce examples of his knowledge of European literature and, as a result, too diffuse to be taken quite as seriously as he wanted it to be taken. It is, however, a popular book, and it has been added to the list of Penguin Modern Classics, something of a sign of long-term interest, if not necessarily of “classic” status. The work successfully brings together the essay, the dramatic monologue, and the confessional journal; with considerable charm and occasional wit, Connolly expresses the state of mind which may be taken as a symbol for the intellectual confusion of the war years.