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After the war, HR was given a high-flying post in the Treasury but, feeling stifled by the civil service, secured a transfer to the ceramics department in the V&A. His ambition was still to be a poet, and it would seem that literary London found something agreeably anomalous about this decorated young officer with a Yorkshire accent eager to enlist in the avant-garde. Through Frank Rutter, the director of the Leeds Art Gallery, he met Richard Aldington and Ezra Pound. He was taken up by Osbert and Edith Sitwell and, dining at Osbert's house at 2 Carlyle Square, was introduced to Lytton Strachey, Virginia Woolf, Siegfried Sassoon and Aldous Huxley. Edith Sitwell found him "shy and charming"; he was a regular guest at her Saturday afternoon tea parties and would sometimes stay on and make an omelette for supper. On the night before his investiture with the DSO at Buckingham Palace, he was invited to dinner at the Carton Restaurant to meet "by special request" another poet whose work he had read and admired, T.S. Eliot. The two men became life-long friends.

On August 7, 1919, HR had married Evelyn Roff. His mother was dead; he had no family; she was the only girl he knew. She shared some but not all of his enthusiasms but was suspicious of his Bohemian friends. Later my father confessed that he had somewhat brow-beaten her into accepting his proposal, and the marriage was not a success. By the time Evelyn gave birth to a son, John, in 1923 she already felt neglected by a husband who, returning from a day's work at the V&A, would shut himself up in his study to pursue his literary career. 

On the recommendation of the Director of the V&A, Sir Eric Maclagan, Read was made art critic of the newly-formed BBC review, The Listener, and he began writing in defence of avant-garde artists and sculptors such as Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore. The articles became a book, The Meaning of Art; and further works on contemporary art followed — Art Now, Art and Society, Art and Industry, Education Through Art. In 1931, he was appointed Professor of Fine Art at the University of Edinburgh. He moved to a substantial house in the city with his wife and son, but soon after his arrival he met a young musicologist from the university, Margaret Ludwig. They fell in love and a year later Read resigned his Chair, left his wife and son, and fled to London with the woman who would in due course become his second wife and the mother of four more children.

In Art Now, Read had praised Gauguin for having the courage to give up his job in a bank, leave his wife and family and devote himself to painting. In another work, In Defence of Shelley, he commended the poet for his desertion of his wife: "He earned immediate opprobrium and more than a century of calumny; but he lifted himself out of a premature old age of exhaustion, into a brighter element of intellectual vitality, and into a new lease of poetic inspiration." No doubt Read hoped that his own scandalous elopement would do the same. In the garden of their first home, a studio in Hampstead close to those of Nicholson, Hepworth and Moore, he built a wooden hut and wrote a novel, The Green Child, a work of poetic beauty admired by many but conventional in style and form — more W.H. Hudson and Joseph Conrad than James Joyce or Henry Miller.

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