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Percy Wyndham Lewis (1882 - 1957)



'A towering, undisciplined, and quarrelsome egotist, his greatest enemy was himself'

(The Concise Dictionary of National Biography)

T S Eliot described Lewis's last book, Self Condemned, as one of 'almost unbearable agony' and considered its author to be 'the most fascinating personality of our time'.

George Orwell wrote, 'Enough talent to set up dozens of ordinary writers has been poured into Lewis's so-called novels. Yet it would be a very heavy labour to read one of these books right through.'

On his art, Walter Michel observed, 'His gifts were an extravagant visual invention and a metaphysical imagination informed by intelligence. The touching quality his work so often has arises when these great gifts bend to meet life vivid and simple.'

Little that involved Wyndham Lewis was straightforward or well ordered. A precise and disciplined reduction of his life and times would deny the chaos and turbulence that was his essence.

It was as if he drove six horses at a time, but not six horses neatly harnessed and guided from a carriage box. Oh no! He rode each one individually while simultaneously leaping between them at whim.

The following mosaic of fact and reportage is not definitive. The headline dates are indicative, the comments and quotations selected for their narrative content and positioned accordingly.

Any consequent chaos is typical of the artist, for although Lewis has been the subject of many biographies and much learned exegesis, the man himself still slips and slides and evades being pinned - like a butterfly on a board.

Article By: Dave Roberts.

First Published: 2007.



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