Philip Toynbee was a journalist, public intellectual and novelist who, as a student communist in 1930s Oxford, was once beaten up by Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts.

Toynbee became a prominent figure in pre-war Bohemian London and wrote experimental novels, including the multi-volume verse novel Pantaloon. He was also a critic, reviewer and foreign correspondent on the Observer newspaper. His later life was marred by depression and alcohol dependency and he established a self-sufficient farming community with his wife. In 1961 he wrote an attack on J.R.R. Tolkien’s hobbit novels, describing them as ‘dull, ill-written, whimsical and childish’, observing prematurely that ‘today those books have passed into a merciful oblivion’.