Dreaming To Some Purpose by Colin Wilson - review by Francis King

Francis King

Peaking Early

Dreaming To Some Purpose


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Like Byron after the publication of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, Colin Wilson awoke in 1956 to find himself famous after the publication of The Outsider. Philip Toynbee compared him to Sartre, adding that, on the whole, he preferred the youthful Englishman's style and method to the elderly Frenchman's. Cyril Connolly, a critical curmudgeon never easy to please, declared that the 24-year-old had produced 'one of the most remarkable books I have read for a long time'. The young Wilson, who had a laughably high opinion of himself, saw no reason to demur. In his journal he wrote: 'This book will be the Waste Land of the Fifties, and should be the most important book of its generation.'

Unfortunately, whereas Byron's genius has ensured that his fame has survived to the present, Wilson's fame - like John Braine's after the success of his debut novel Room at the Top - soon plummeted. Within six months all the people who had been so effusive in their praise decided that

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