Friends of Promise

Michael Shelden
Date Published
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This original book gives a revealing picture of the extraordinarily talented group of men and women who produced Horizon, the foremost literary review of the 1940s. Published monthly in Bloomsbury, Horizon was a cultural beacon during the dark days of the Second World War; it was brilliantly eclectic and fiercely independent.

Its principal editor, Cyril Connolly, regarded the pleasures of life and art as inseparable, cultivating his love of literature with the same intensity that characterized his love of good food and fine wine, and beautiful women. He published in Horizon the best and most influential writers of the period, among them W. H. Auden, T. S. Eliot, Graham Greene, Arthur Koestler, George Orwell, Edith Sitwell, Dylan Thomas, Evelyn Waugh, and many others.

The dedicated circle of friends assisting Connolly included Peter Watson, Horizon’s sophisticated publisher who supported the magazine generously with money inherited from his millionaire father, and who – as art editor – introduced readers to important new works by such artists as Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, and Henry Moore. Stephen Spender helped to start the magazine and the staff also included the ambitious Sonia Brownell who eventually married George Orwell, and Lys Lubbock – an engaging, attractive woman who became the business manager, and who lived with Connolly for most of the 1940s.

Drawing on interviews and unpublished documents, Michael Shelden provides an intimate account of literary life in a fascinating period of history, skilfully recreating the world of Horizon, and bringing vividly to life the colourful individuals who made the magazine a legend in its time.


Born in 1951, Michael Shelden grew up in the American Middle West. His essays and reviews have appeared in a wide variety of journals and periodicals, including the Times Literary Supplement. Friends of Promise was his first book and he subsequently went on to write acclaimed biographies of Graham Greene and George Orwell.

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