A fervent mind: the life of Ruthven Todd
by Peter Main.
494 pages, illustrated.
Ruthven Todd was one of the last of the Twentieth Century renaissance figures. Although not university-educated, he became addicted to scholarship and was known both as a poet and expert on the art of William Blake and his contemporaries. To American children he became the adored creator of a feline astronaut, Space Cat. To others he was a knowledgeable and gifted illustrator of wild flowers and fungi. He embraced a bohemian lifestyle and was a friend of Dylan Thomas, Louis MacNeice and W.H. Auden.
Peter Main tracks Todd’s fascinating peripatetic life from his birth in Edinburgh and schooling at Fettes College, to the Isle of Mull, war-time London, New York, Martha’s Vineyard and finally to Mallorca where he died in 1978. Todd struggled with pulmonary disease and alcoholism for much of his life and it is against this background that Main has written a sensitive and perceptive account which is sad at times, but ultimately life-affirming. He includes many photographs, extracts from Todd’s autobiographical writing, and over forty of his poems.