A Grandiose Spirit

People might well ask, what have I got in common with Brian Sewell?

On the face of it, not much. However, if we both delve deeper into our psyche we might find a certain affinity that perhaps escapes notice.

To start with, he refers to himself as ‘queer’ and not gay, a term he detests – and I stand firm in the opposite direction sexually.

That does not matter in the least as carnal pleasures in any form are acceptable in a liberal society. Transparency is far better on sexual issues and is less harmful and dispels the notion of puritanical hypocrisy.

Brian grew up in a totally different environment, strained in some way, as the identity of his father was not known to him as a child – and I had a normal upbringing with a doting father whose violence caused fear and rebellion in the family, and in the process  became a nightmare to live with.

Brian’s relationship with his mother was an amalgam of love and hate and yet without her he would not have achieved the level of enlightenment and his passionate love of the arts.

I on the other hand, and in contrast, was endowed with my paternal grandmother and her unmarried sister, both totally illiterate, whose influence nevertheless shaped my future life and instilled in me the ambition to do well and fight the elements whenever the going got rough. Their love knew no boundaries and to this day I remember them with a nostalgic fervour that defies comprehension.

Brian, however, because of his background had the benefits of a literary coterie of people who inculcated in him many of the interests that were to develop in his adult life and make him the formidable man he became.

A consummate traveller for knowledge, his quest for high standards in everything he took on board, and his fearless pen, elevated him to horizons that we all yearn to reach.

Of course, he made a lot of enemies – especially in the art world, whose egos he ruptured and friendships he bruised to the point they considered unacceptable.

I for one am less of a bruiser, perhaps more of a sentimental dreamer who views human nature in a more tolerant disposition and refuses at times to see the negative side of a situation.

Brian is much more of a combatant in general, but I can be equally pugilistic when confronted on a matter of principle. My softness then takes a back seat.

My friendship with Brian stems from my admiration for his talent, from our first encounter in February 2000 when I interviewed him for my book Dialogues, and when in 2011 I had the privilege of becoming his publisher. In that last capacity I got to know him more closely than ever before, and found him bereft of greed and a most sympathetic friend who was always willing to help his publisher when the latter experienced a temporary cash-flow problem. That, I will always remember.


I applaud his grandiose spirit and pray that his serious illness today will miraculously disappear, as if the gods have willed it.

His latest book, The White Umbrella, speaks volumes of his indisputable talent – especially where the written word is concerned.

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