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'' I was caught by the passion for print as an alcoholic is caught by the bottle.'' He decided to become a poet, but met with opposition at home, where his father worried, Sir Victor wrote, that he would ''starve in a garret.'' At 15, he was forced to leave school and was packed off to a menial clerical job ''on a stool'' at a leather wholesaler.
The work was deadly dull, but he whiled away the time by observing his colorful co-workers and immersing himself in fiction.
His mother, he said, ''always spoke of it as if writing were some unlucky thing -- like rain -- and that I was out in it without a coat.'' He found his way to the offices of The New Statesman, where he was almost immediately put to work.
His association with that journal was to last for 40 years, the first 20 of which, he wrote, he had to ''work for other papers in order to afford to write for it.'' But Sir Victor was never again satisfied with a single genre of writing, and combined his book reviews with published fiction of his own.
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'' My prose was at last too much for them,'' he said.
'' I was sacked.'' He moved back to London, looking for writing work, despite the continued suspicion of his parents.
By the time Victor was 12, the Pritchetts had moved 18 times, ricocheting between Ealing, Hammersmith, Uxbridge, Palmers Green and other London districts and suburbs.
'' I did not know that almost every time we moved house,'' Sir Victor wrote, '' Father had lost his job or was swinging dangerously between an old disaster and a new enterprise.'' As a result, Victor's education was undisciplined, haphazard and often underachieving, though he showed a precocious aptitude for languages.