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Andrew Marvell's To His Coy Mistress
Diana Athill Writer
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'Had we but world enough and time,/This coyness, lady, were no crime./We could sit down…' No, I can't, really. I mean, I could a little while ago. 'But at my back I always hear/Time's winged chariot drawing near;/And yonder, all before of us lie/Deserts of vast eternity./…/The grave's a fine and private place,/But none, I think, do there embrace'. It's a wonderful poem. I love it. And I loved The Garden one, too. 'Stumbling on melons.'

[Q] Is To His Coy Mistress, is it an argument that would succeed with a… a reluctant girl, do you think?

Oh yes. I mean, I hardly needed urging. I'd quite decided while I was at school that I was going to be seduced as soon as possible. I did the minimum amount of work and went to about three lectures and decided, 'Oh well, why bother to go to their lectures when one can read their books?' And then never did read their books.

Born in 1917, Diana Athill is a British literary editor whose publishing career began when she helped André Deutsch establish his company. She has worked with many notable writers, namely Philip Roth, Simone de Beauvoir, Jean Rhys and VS Naipaul. Following the publication of her memoirs, she is now hailed as an author in her own right.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is a London-based television producer and director who has made a number of documentary films for BBC TV, Channel 4 and PBS.

Tags: To His Coy Mistress, The Garden, Andrew Marvell

Duration: 1 minute, 11 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2008

Date story went live: 23 December 2008