D. B. Wyndham Lewis

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Dominic Bevan Wyndham Lewis FRSL (9 March 1891 – 21 November 1969) was a British writer best known for his humorous contributions to newspapers and for biographies. Born Llewellyn Bevan Wyndham Lewis, he dropped his first name and replaced it with "Dominic" after his conversion to Roman Catholicism in 1921. His family were originally from Wales, but he was born in Liverpool and brought up in Cardiff. He served in the Welch Regiment during World War I, and afterwards joined the Daily Express where he was briefly the newspaper's Literary Editor.

In 1919 he was put in charge of the paper's humorous 'By the Way' column and adopted the pen name Beachcomber. However he was not happy confining his contribution to humour, and gave up the column to the better-known J. B. Morton. Morton acknowledged Wyndham-Lewis' contribution by dedicating his first anthology of columns to him. Wyndham-Lewis lived in Paris from the mid-1920s while doing historical research (although he contributed a column called 'At the Sign of the Blue Moon' to the Daily Mail which his followers regard as his most outstanding body of humorous work).

In 1928 Wyndham-Lewis wrote a biography of François Villon, which seemed designed to be an entertaining read. Later biographies of French King Louis XI and of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V appeared tinged with Wyndham-Lewis' admitted Francophilia, although it was generally accepted that they were written with a verve rarely found in biographies of this sort of subject. However, perhaps his best-remembered work is as an editor, not as a writer: The Stuffed Owl which he co-edited with Charles Lee. This anthology of 'bad verse' is justly famous as being one of the funniest of all poetry collections, featuring William Wordsworth, Robert Southey, Edgar Allan Poe and many others at considerably less than their best.

Wyndham-Lewis had converted to the Roman Catholic faith in 1921. Later in the 1930s after returning to Britain, Wyndham-Lewis turned to humorous anthologies, and in 1954 he collaborated with Ronald Searle on The Terror of St Trinian's (under the pen-name 'Timothy Shy'). Later work also included biographies of Boswell, Ronsard, Molière, Goya, Rabelais, and Cervantes. His Catholic preoccupations were especially seen in the theological approach he took to his biography of the first known pedophile/serial killer, Gilles de Rais. In addition, he co-wrote, with Charles Bennett, the screenplay for the first version of Alfred Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934).

He also published as 'Mustard and Cress' in the Sunday Referee till 1935; after another stint at the Daily Mail, he wrote also for the Bystander and finally a decade-long column as Timothy Shy for the News Chronicle.

He was no relation to (though he was often enough confused with) his contemporary, the Canadian-born painter and author Wyndham Lewis.

Selected filmography[edit]

Published works[edit]

  • On straw, and other conceits (1927)
  • François Villon: a documented survey (Davies, London, 1928)
  • A Christmas book : an anthology for moderns (with G. C. Heseltine) (Dent, New York, 1928)
  • The Stuffed Owl: an anthology of bad verse (with Charles Lee) (Dent, London, 1930: enlarged 1948)
  • King Spider: some aspects of Louis XI of France and his companions (Heinemann, London, 1930)
  • Emperor of the West : a study of Charles the Fifth (Eyre and Spottiswoode, London, 1932)
  • Beyond the Headlines [as Timothy Shy] (Penguin Books, 1941)
  • I couldn't help laughing!: an anthology of war-time humour (Lindsay Drummond, London, 1942)
  • Ronsard (Sheed and Ward, London, 1944)
  • The hooded hawk: or, The case of Mr. Boswell (Eyre and Spottiswoode, London, 1946)
  • Four favourites (Evans, London, 1948)
  • The Soul of Marquis Gilles de Raiz (Eyre and Spottiswoode, London, 1952)
  • Doctor Rabelais (Sheed & Ward, London, 1957 & Greenwood 1968)