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This review is taken from PN Review 1, Volume 4 Number 1, October - December 1977.

WYNDHAM LEWIS AS CRITIC C. J. Fox (Ed.), Enemy Salvoes: Selected Literary Criticism by Wyndham Lewis, General Introduction by C. H. Sisson, Vision Press, £4.95.
Timothy Materer, Wyndham Lewis the Novelist, Wayne State University Press, $12.50.

In his preface to Enemy Salvoes C. J. Fox declares that his selection from Wyndham Lewis's literary criticism is intended to promote the long-overdue reprinting of 'key books' by Lewis. Mr Fox's sampling-mainly from The Art of Being Ruled (1926), The Lion and the Fox (1927), Time and Western Man (1927), Paleface (1929), Men Without Art (1934), and The Writer and the Absolute (1952)-is so judiciously carried out and intelligently presented that it should help considerably to establish Lewis as a major force in twentieth-century literary criticism. I say 'force' where 'energy' would do just as well, but where 'influence' would be inappropriate, for, up to now, as C. H. Sisson observes in his introductory essay, '[Lewis] has been rigorously excluded from the academic canon of criticism in our time'. This exclusion, Sisson suggests, has been the penalty imposed on the proudly self-styled 'Enemy' whose real offence as literary critic was his courageous exercise of a free, honest, and incisive intelligence during a conformist and mentally sluggish age:

A chronic independence of mind is unpardonable in any age; in our own it has certainly been safer to praise independence than to exemplify it. No-one was ever less a respecter of persons than Lewis was. The reading public at large is always more aware of reputations than of merits; a critic who combines a clear eye for merits with a knowledge of the mechanics of literary reputation is sure to be in trouble.


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