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This article is taken from PN Review 7, Volume 5 Number 3, April - June 1979.

Wyndham Lewis's Study of Himself C.H. Sisson

IT WAS no doubt as a piece of modest effrontery, of the kind he was accustomed to employ for the purposes of publicity, that Lewis included among his studies of his literary contemporaries a chapter on himself. Men without Art is one of the crucial works of twentieth-century criticism, and the necessary indignities it inflicts have even now not been absorbed by the public which claims to read books, and certainly writes them. The T. S. Eliot who is the object of study in the schools of English Literature is not, generally speaking, one from whom the bits pared off by Lewis in this volume have in fact been pared. It cannot be said that Lewis's study of himself is quite in the same style as what he wrote about others. This is inevitable, and no doubt the joke of giving himself an unfair advantage, for a moment, was not lost on him. For while Eliot, Hemingway and Virginia Woolf were placed in the perspectives of The Apes of God and Time and Western Man, the subject of the chapter on Lewis was, naturally, at the point of view from which those perspectives were the only ones.

Lewis starts from the phrase-apparently intended to be derogatory-of a critic writing in The Daily Telegraph. 'Mr Wyndham Lewis could be described as a personal-appearance satirist.' This is seized on with a sort of Tyro grin. 'But that is a compliment', Lewis says. The author of The Apes of God ...


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