Jane Rye

Summoning the Vortex

Wyndham Lewis


Tate Publishing 80pp £8.99 order from our bookshop

It’s a pity one can’t like Wyndham Lewis more. A brilliant, poverty-stricken rebel, darkly handsome, with a Byronic touch of the saturnine, and irresistible to women, he could so easily be a romantic and mysterious figure. Perhaps he is to his devoted followers in the Wyndham Lewis Society. But for the rest of us – in spite of his prodigious intellect, and the originality, courage and phenomenal energy he showed both as an artist and a writer – it’s difficult not to think of him as rather a tiresome fellow. The rows, the boastfulness, the hectoring tone he adopts are disagreeable. He was nasty to his wife – or at least he hid his marriage, even from close friends, for years, and kept her out of sight so that visitors had no idea of her presence in a back room; he had quite a large number of illegitimate children, in whom he appears to have taken no interest (as his American father took no interest in him); and he was touchy, jealous, on occasion ungenerous in acknowledging the source of his ideas, a pathological satiriser full of derision for friend and foe alike, deeply suspicious of everybody, with a strong (not always unjustified) sense of ill-usage. T S Eliot, a faithful friend and supporter, described him as ‘the most fascinating personality of our time’.

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