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It may be that this wide, accepting sympathy came naturally and without effort. What is certain is that the writing did not. If working with Michael as a student was pleasure unalloyed, it must be said at once that working with him as an editor was quite another proposition. Rarely can there have been so deep a disjunction between the serene lucidity of the finished prose and the sustained anguish, illuminated by flashes of panic, which attended its making. Deadlines would pass with apologies but never - honourably never - with excuses. The long nights of smoking and writing at the Mellon Centre would get longer and later. Misfortunes befell - the entire first version of the Claude entry for the Macmillan Dictionary of Art vanished irrecoverably into the Lethe of Cyber-Limbo at the careless pressing of a delete key - and round-the-clock support teams were necessary to ensure the delivery of the review of the Royal Academy Poussin exhibition. In the end, a text would arrive just in time - or nearly in time - manuscript and impeccable, without a crossing-out, and of the quality we all know, admire and envy. In Eliot’s happy formulation,

'The common word exact without vulgarity,
The formal word precise, but not pedantic,’

Few of us at the Courtauld knew what we wanted to do when we left. But we all knew we wanted to write like Michael Kitson.

Like all good critics, Michael produced an enormous number of scattered pieces - some of the finest are his broadcasts, later published in The Listener; and like all great critics, he had a position. Not an ideological one - from that he always stood aside - but a conviction that artists make art and that the critic’s task is to explain why that art matters, how it moves and instructs, raises our spirits and changes our lives.