ReadySteadyBlog

Sad news: heterodox Marxist literary critic, Christopher Hampton, has died.

Daniel Fraser (Oubliette magazine) has written this moving tribute...

The poet and critic Christopher Hampton died at his home in Montmorillon on 28 April.

Christopher was born in London and, studying first as a musician, he worked for a time as a pianist and conductor before giving up music for writing. From 1962-66 he lived in Italy with his wife and daughter, teaching English in Rome.

On his return to Britain he joined the Polytechnic of Central London (now the University of Westminster), where he taught for 28 years, as well as lecturing at the City Literary Institute.

Active on the left of the Labour party, he was involved in many protest movements of the eighties and nineties. In 1997 he resigned from the Party in opposition to Tony Blair’s New Labour "Third Way" politics.

His poems and articles on philosophy, politics and literature have appeared regularly in print and on the radio since 1960.

Publications by Christopher Hampton include The Etruscans and the Survival of Etruria (Gollancz 1969 & Doubleday 1970); Socialism in a Crippled World (Pelican 1981); A Radical Reader (Pelican 1984) and The Ideology of the Text (Open University Press 1990).

He was the editor of Poems for Shakespeare published by Sam Wanamaker’s Globe Playhouse Trust in 1972 as well as publishing four volumes of poetry.

I first met Christopher quite late in his life, only four years ago at his house in Poitou-Charente. There were pictures of Italy, where Christopher had taught English in the sixties, scattered around the walls. I remember in particular a picture of the crowded swirl of Sienna, the beautiful buildings an iris round the ‘circular square’ in the centre of the city.

During dinner Christopher spoke about Cicero and Marx as well as Nietzsche and Beckett. I contributed occasionally, though often found myself mumbling into my pasta, all the time fascinated by the vitality coming from his slight frame.

We left soon afterwards. There was a dense wet mist outside and the forests were hung with grey. On the way back I felt a dull ache of ideas opening up, suddenly the path I had embarked upon seemed worthwhile and applicable rather than merely cerebral. I had not expressed myself well, but I had learnt much.

We went on to talk many more times but this first encounter with his wild and inquisitive mind affected me the most. I am proud to have called him a friend and miss him dearly.

Christopher is survived by his wife Kathleen, daughter Rebecca and grandson Rohan.

There are two wonderful videos of Christopher reading available:

Here: bit.ly/KQqBbq
And here: bit.ly/LRlxnB

Readers Comments

  1. James Fraser Monday 25 June 2012

    Christopher in his modest way would have enjoyed your tribute. His active and enthusiastic response to the life of others was an endearing characteristic.

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