Francis King

Peaking Early

Dreaming To Some Purpose


Century 388pp £20 order from our bookshop

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.’

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'The characters in many of these stories are trapped in the obsessive present tense of their own thoughts; in the m… ,
    • 'Libraries, for much of their existence, have embodied in microcosm many of the characteristics of the totalitarian… ,
    • 'Moss and Cynthia buy several properties through which to launder their ill-gotten gains, take lots of drugs, have… ,
    • 'Never mind the imperial cult. This is the cult of Boris. What happened to Rome?' From the LR archive:… ,
    • Thirty-two years ago this month, we published Muriel Spark's short story, 'A Playhouse Called Remarkable' Read it… ,
    • Time travel, bicycles and white horses populate @WomackPhilip's roundup of children's books by @marcussedgwick,… ,
    • RT : Joanna Kavenna’s ‘Cooking with Trotsky’s Frying Pan’ in June’s is the most well written and interesting… ,