Hugh Kingsmill

British writer and journalist

Hugh Kingsmill Lunn (21 November 188915 May 1949) was an English biographer, literary critic, fiction-writer and anthologist. As an author he generally used only his first two names.


  • The reward of renunciation is some good greater than the thing renounced. To renounce with no vision of such a good, from fear or in automatic obedience to a formula, is to weaken the springs of life, and to diminish the soul's resistance to this world.
    • Matthew Arnold (1928) p. 89
  • What, still alive at twenty-two,
    A clean upstanding chap like you?
    • "Two Poems, After A. E. Housman", no. 1, line 1 (1933)
    • The opening of a Housman parody which the subject himself called "The best I have seen, and indeed the only good one." (Laurence Housman My Brother, A. E. Housman (1938) p. 180)
  • Like enough, you won't be glad,
    When they come to hang you, lad:
    But bacon's not the only thing
    That's cured by hanging from a string.
    • "Two Poems, After A. E. Housman", no. 1, line 5
  • 'Tis Summer Time on Bredon,
    And now the farmers swear:
    The cattle rise and listen
    In valleys far and near,
    And blush at what they hear.

    But when the mists in autumn
    On Bredon top are thick,
    And happy hymns of farmers
    Go up from fold and rick,
    The cattle then are sick.
    • "Two Poems, After A. E. Housman", no. 2, line 1
  • Society is based on the assumption that everyone is alike and that no one is alive.
    • Skye High (1937) p. 240.
  • Most of the avoidable suffering in life springs from our attempts to escape the unavoidable suffering inherent in the fragmentary nature of our present existence. We expect immortal satisfactions from mortal conditions, and lasting and perfect happiness in the midst of universal change. To encourage this expectation, to persuade mankind that the ideal is realizable in this world, after a few preliminary changes in external conditions, is the distinguishing mark of all charlatans, whether in thought or action.
    • "The Genealogy of Hitler", section 1, The Poisoned Crown (1944)
  • Every false philosophy is an imagination of a world propitious to irrational demands and unregulated desires. The false philosopher's dream infects someone in closer touch than himself with everyday experience, this agent of his desire seeks to translate the dream into reality, and disaster follows. It is the Cinderella story in actual life. Rousseau was Robespierre's fairy godmother, Karl Marx was Lenin's, Nietzsche was Hitler's.
    • "Oscar Wilde's Fairy Godmother", The Best of Hugh Kingsmill (1973) p. 278 (1948)

The Progress of a Biographer (1949)

  • There are dons who care for the intellect and the imagination, and there are priests who care for the spirit; but broadly speaking the function of universities and churches alike is to trim and tame enthusiasm, to suppress curiosity, and, in short, to whittle immortal souls into serviceable props of the established order.
    • "The Progress of a Biographer", p. 2
  • Charity may cover a multitude of sins, but success transmutes them into virtues.
    • "Rudyard Kipling", p. 31
  • Writers are idolized not because they love their fellow men, which is never a recommendation and in extreme instances leads to crucifixion, but because their self-love is in tune with current fears and desires, and in giving it expression they are speaking for an inarticulate multitude.
    • "Tennyson and W. H. Auden", p. 78
  • The public mind [is] a cloudy region where only the simplest shapes are discerned with any accuracy.
    • "William Gerhardi", p. 131
  • Hamlet is every man's self-love with all its dreams realized. He wears all the crowns and carries every cross.
    • "Hamlet Borgianized", p. 154
  • Hamlet is egotism as it appears to itself, and Don Quixote is egotism as it appears to the detached observer.
    • "Hamlet Borgianized", p. 156
  • Ideas get substance and value not by being discussed but by being lived.
    • "Biography and Criticism", p. 160


  • Behind the big names of twentieth-century literature there stands a shadow cabinet of writers waiting to take over once the Wind of Change has blown. My own vote goes to Hugh Kingsmill as leader of this opposition.
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