Soho, ring-marked and a little soiled
He made most of his money from exploiting his friendship with George Orwell - and he hated the truth of that.
When the poet Paul Potts died in 1990 the Times obituarist noted his Dante Called You Beatrice as 'one of the most truly romantic confessions of the century', noting, however, that 'the prose becomes the poetry he feared he could not write'.
Potts was a disappointed man of Soho in an age when disappointed artists famously filled the places that money-splashing tourists fill now.
Before the days of street pornography - that advance celebrated everywhere in the obituaries of Paul Raymond who died this week - there were pubs where poets hawked their wares and lived off alcohol and each other.
Such is the accepted version of what went on. And alongside Tambimuttu, Dylan Thomas and George Barker at the bar there was Paul Potts.
He is often described as born in Canada but was instead a man of Datchet.
He is most remembered now for poetic failure and being 'irascible and light fingered'. It does not do to steal a lady novelist's typewriter.
His name does appear sometimes when some other Soho bohemian dies - when those typewriter-and-Orwell stories turn up in the life of a film-director who did not make many films but drank alot and was memorably attractive to women.
Fortunately it is not just the death of Paul Raymond who brings old Soho to mind.
An unusual catalogue has arrived from the bookseller-writer, James Fergusson, offering 'two working manuscript notebooks' by Potts with a 'further archive of typescripts, manuscripts, letters &c [1939-48]. . ring-marked and a little soiled'.
Fergusson describes Dante called you Beatrice as an 'extraordinary hymn to unrequited love' while noting, as is de rigeur for the Soho school of failure, that it 'was intended to be a new Unquiet Grave'.
His short bill of sale is a contribution to literary scholarship in itself - as is the rest of the catalogue in which it appears, a memorial to the Oxford bookseller, Robin Waterfield , whose biographical sketch by Fergusson, not available online as far as I can see, is a thing of bald beauty.
The catalogue is available from [email protected], price £5.
The price for the Pottsiana?
Which in pre-Paul-Raymond days would have whiskied-and-watered its author for months.