Letters from London

This edition Signal Books, 2003

In 1932 CLR James left his home in Trinidad for the first time and sailed to the United Kingdom to fulfil his literary ambitions. He was 31 years old. During his first weeks in London he wrote a series of vigorously opinionated essays for the Port of Spain Gazette, giving his impressions of the great city and its’ inhabitants, and describing his progress through the Bohemian circles of Bloomsbury.

Published in 2003 by Signal Books Letters from London collects these essays which form an extraordinary record of a crucial period in James’s life, with an extensive introduction and notes. Drawn to London’s literary and political avant-garde, he describes life in Bloomsbury, arguments with Edith Sitwell, visits to theatres, museums and concert halls, and his seminal friendship with the great West Indies cricketer, Learie Constantine. Initially in awe of London, James soon develops a critical stance towards the city and its once mysterious people, analysing their drab architecture, shallow newspapers and repressed social relations. “Londoners have had sixty years of compulsory education and all the advantages of a great modern city,” he writes. “When you look at the intellectual quality of the people, you are astonished.” A resurrected “classic” of considerable importance, Letters from London provides a hitherto inaccessible picture of the young CLR James and his formative period.

“Important new light is shed upon CLR James’s life and thought, his intellectual development and interests, above all the connections between the Caribbean intellectual and British cultural life.”

Paul Buhle, author of The Artist as Revolutionary. A Life of CLR James.

“Vital to any understanding of one of the twentieth century’s great thinkers and revolutionaries, Letters from London fills a crucial gap in the publication of the James canon. Required reading”.

Aldon L Nielsen, author of CLR James, a Critical Introduction

“This series has in it James’s whole life’s work…. Indispensable to any conception of James as a writer”. Jim Murray, Director of the CLR James Institute.

This book is available for purchase here


Letters from London by Scott McLemee

When Trinidad came to Bloomsbury By Nicholas Lezard