D. J. Enright  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Dennis Joseph Enright (11 March 1920 – 31 December 2002) was a British academic, poet, novelist and critic, and general man of letters.



He was born in Royal Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, and educated at Leamington College and Downing College, Cambridge. After graduating he held a number of academic posts outside the United Kingdom: in Egypt, Japan, Thailand and notably in Singapore (from 1960). He at times attributed his lack of success in finding a post closer to home to writing for Scrutiny and his short association with F. R. Leavis; whose influence he mainly and early, but not entirely, rejected.

As a poet he was identified with the Movement. His 1955 anthology, Poets of the 1950s, served to delineate the group of British poets in question — albeit somewhat remotely and retrospectively, since he was abroad and it was not as prominent as the Robert Conquest collection New Lines of the following year.

Returning to London in 1970, he edited Encounter magazine, with Melvin J. Lasky, for two years. He subsequently worked in publishing.

The "Enright Affair"

Enright gained some notoriety in Singapore after his inaugural lecture at the University of Singapore on 17 November 1960, titled "Robert Graves and the Decline of Modernism". His introductory remarks on the state of culture in Singapore were the subject of a Straits Times article "'Hands Off' Challenge to 'Culture Vultures'" the next day. Among other things, he had said that it was important for Singapore and Malaya to remain "culturally open", that culture was something to be left for the people to build up, and that for the government to institute "a sarong culture, complete with pantun competitions and so forth" was futile. Some quotes include:

Art does not begin in a test-tube, it does not take its origin in good sentiments and clean-shaven, upstanding young thoughts.
Leave the people free to make their own mistakes, to suffer and to discover. Authority must leave us to fight even that deadly battle over whether or not to enter a place of entertainment wherein lurks a juke-box, and whether or not to slip a coin into the machine.

The following day, Enright was summoned by the Ministry for Labour and Law regarding his foreigner work permit, and was handed a letter there by the Minister for Culture S. Rajaratnam, which had also been released to the press. This letter admonished Enright for "involv[ing] [himself] in political affairs which are the concern of local people", not "visitors, including mendicant professors", and said that the government "ha[s] no time for asinine sneers by passing aliens about the futility of 'sarong culture complete with pantun competitions' particularly when it comes from beatnik professors." There was also some criticism that Enright had been insensitive towards Malays and their so-called "sarong culture."

With some mediation from the Academic Staff Association of the university, it was agreed that to put the matter to rest, Enright would write a letter of apology and clarification, the government would reply, and both were to be printed in the newspapers. Although the affair was "essentially dead" after that, according to Enright, it would still be brought up periodicially in discussions of local culture and academic freedom.

Enright gives his account of the incident in his Memoirs of a Mendicant Professor (pp. 124–151).



  • A Commentary on Goethe's Faust (1949)
  • The Laughing Hyena and Other Poems (1953)
  • Poets of the 1950s (1955) editor, anthology
  • Academic Year (1955) novel
  • The World of Dew: Aspects of Living Japan (1955)
  • Bread Rather than Blossoms (1956) poems
  • The Year of the Monkey (1956) poems
  • The Apothecary's Shop (1957) essays
  • Heaven Knows Where (1957) novel
  • The Poetry of Living Japan (1958) editor with Takamichi Ninomiya
  • Insufficient Poppy (1960) novel
  • Robert Graves and the Decline of Modernism (1960)
  • Some Men Are Brothers (1960) poems
  • Addictions (1962) poems
  • English Critical Texts 16th Century to 20th Century (1963) editor with Ernst de Chickera
  • The Old Adam (1965)
  • Conspirators and Poets (1966) essays
  • Selected Poems (1968)
  • Unlawful Assembly (1968) poems
  • Memoirs of a Mendicant Professor (1969)
  • Shakespeare And The Students (1970)
  • In the Basilica of the Annunciation (1971) broadsheet poem
  • Daughters of Earth (1972) poems
  • Foreign Devils (1972) poems
  • Man is an Onion: Reviews and Essays (1972)
  • The Terrible Shears - Scenes from a Twenties Childhood (1973)
  • Rhyme times rhyme (1974)
  • The Rebel (1974) poem
  • A Choice of Milton's Verse (1975) editor
  • Penguin Modern Poets 26 (1975) with Dannie Abse and Michael Longley
  • Sad Ires (1975) poems
  • The Joke Shop (1976) novel
  • Paradise Illustrated (1978) poems (translated into Dutch by C. Buddingh' in 1982 as Het paradijs in beeld in a bilingual edition)
  • Wild Ghost Chase (1978) novel
  • A Faust Book (1979) poems
  • Walking in the Harz Mountains, Faust Senses the Presence of God (1979) poem
  • Beyond Land's End (1979) novel
  • The Oxford Book of Contemporary Verse 1945 –1980 (1980) editor
  • Collected Poems (1981)
  • A Mania for Sentences: Essays on G. Grass, H. Boll, Frisch, Flaubert & Others (1983)
  • Fair of Speech: The Uses of Euphemism (1985) editor
  • Instant Chronicles: A Life (1985)
  • The Oxford Book of Death (1985) editor
  • The Alluring Problem - An Essay on Irony (1986)
  • Collected Poems 1987 (1987)
  • Fields of Vision: Essays on Literature, Language, and Television (1988)
  • Ill at Ease: Writers on Ailments Real and Imagined (1989) editor
  • The Faber Book of Fevers and Frets (1989) editor
  • Oxford Book of Friendship (1991) editor with David Rawlinson
  • Selected Poems 1990, Oxford, (1990)
  • Under the Circumstances : Poems and Prose (1991)
  • The Way of The Cat (1992)
  • Old Men and Comets (1993) poems
  • The Oxford Book of the Supernatural (1994) editor
  • Interplay: A Kind of Commonplace Book (1995)
  • Collected Poems: 1948-1998 (1998)
  • Telling Tales (1999)
  • Play Resumed: A Journal
  • Signs and Wonders: Selected Essays (2001)
  • Injury Time (2003)


  • William Walsh (1974): D. J. Enright: Poet of Humanism
  • Jacqueline Simms, editor (1990). Life By Other Means. Essays on D. J. Enright

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "D. J. Enright" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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