tique, fictional vision, and satiric insight of Wyndham Lewisnin his most ehtist and unrelenting guise.nSet apart by his birth (on a yacht moored at Amherst, NovanScotia), and as an only child by his father’s absence and bynhis mother’s intense love, Lewis was always “the Man fromnNowhere.” Me himself claimed that the Continent, where henstudied life and art in Madrid, Munich, and Paris, undid theneffects of his English education at Rugby and the Slade Schoolnof art. But Lewis would not be satisfied to be the young lionnof British art—he wanted something more and exploded in atnleast two other directions while personifying the latest developmentsnin avant-garde art in England. He began writing stories,nsketches, and essays as early as 1908, and later led the Vorticistnmovement after his feud with Roger Fry, Clive Bell, andnBloomsbury ruined his career as a painter. His eady writingsnculminated in his Vortieist revolt in Blast I (1914), that movementnitself blasted by the First Worid War, in Tarr (1918), andnin The Wild Body (1927). Lewis had already done more thannmost artists do in a lifetime; but when he returned from thenwar, his peers T. E. Hulme and Gaudier-Brzeska were deadnand his career at a dead end. It was time to go “underground”nand take on the Zeitgeist.nWyndham Lewis, more than any other writer, represents thenpenetration of Continental ideas into Britain and the Englishnspeaking world in the early 20th century. Precisely because ofnhis “outsider” status and nature, he stands apart from the Anglo-Americanntradition of political and social thought—wenhear little from him of the parliamentary mode, of “politics”nin the ordinary sense, and not until Rotting Hill (1951), of ordinarynbourgeois and civic concerns. Though Lewis citednBurke approvingly in his old age, there is little sense of traditionalnpolity, or of a Madisonian sense of the balance of powers,nin his work. We hear instead of Schopenhauer, Proudhon,nSorel, Bergson—of an “illegitimate” and radical tradition ofnspeculation and extremity. Lewis has reminded more thannone reader of Dostoyevsky in his gift for dramatizing ideas andnin his sensitivity to intellectual crisis. Both modernist andnmodern, Lewis’s sense that settled ways of thinking had beennmade irrelevant by the destruction of the old world did notnmake him a political prognosticator, but it did lend him anpower of prophetic insight into a radically new world.nIn his last letter to his old mentor, T. Sturge Moore, Lewisnlooked back on his wild ride through a violent time—a coursenthat was not yet over, when he wrote in 1941:nHow calm those days were before the epoch of warsnand social revolution, when you used to sit on one sidenof your work-table and I on the other, and we wouldntalk—with trees and creepers of the placid Hampsteadndomesticity beyond the windows, and you used tongrunt with a philosophic despondence 1 greatly enjoyed.nIt was the last days of the Victorian world of artificialnpeacefulness—of the R. S. P. C. A. and LondonnBobbies, of “slumming” and Buzzards cakes. As at thatntime I had never heard of anything else, it seemed tonmy young mind in the order of nature. You—I suppose—knewnit was all like the stunt of an illusionist.nYou taught me many things. But you never taught menthat. I first discovered about it in 1914—with growingnsurprise and disgust.nLewis’s sense of the treacherous nature of “reality”—of the de­nception of appearances—is here expressed as personal experiencenwhen it was also intellectual conviction. In either case,nhis apprehension of the century has been confirmed by events;nand his insights seem now to be incisive CAT-scans and instructivenX rays of a new order, a qualitatively different kind ofnsociety.nThe proto-Fascist politics of The Art of Being Ruled (1926)nare a species of irony. Lewis has turned Maehiavelli onnhis head, writing a treatise on how to be ruled rather than instructionnfor a ruler; but the conditions of politics have beennchanged forever, and the ruler will never be so simple and sonhumane as a Cesare Borgia. The new mass-world of urbanndemocracy, advertising, the rapidly developing media, behaviorism—thenmanipulative agents are more numerous, morendeceptive, and more powerful than ever. Lewis knows how tonbreak down “the individual” so there is nothing left that cannotnbe controlled. In a passage that anticipates our monstrousnroutine, he shows how the rulers do the job:nThe more classes . . . that you can make him becomenregularly conscious of, the more you can control him,nthe more of an automaton he becomes. Thus, if a manncan be made to feel himself acutely (a) an American,n(b) a young American, (c) a middle-west young American,n(d) a “radical and enlightened” middle-westnyoung American, (e) a “college-educated” dentist whonis an etc. etc., (g) a “college-educated” dentist of suchand-suchna school of dentistry, etc. etc.,—the more inflexibleneach of these links is, the more powerful, naturally,nis the chain. Or he can be locked into any ofnthese compartments as though by magic by anyone understandingnthe wires . . .nWe have become so inured to the Art of Ruling today—“education”ninstructs us in such convenient categories—that ourncomprehension has been dulled along with our sense of outrage.nWyndham Lewis is a pertinent instructor in how we arenset against each other, for the advantage of the ruling powers:nthe class war, the sex war, racial division, the generation gap,netc. As Terence Hegarty pointed out ten years ago, Lewis sawnthat “freedom” can be a highly useful illusion, as for examplenthe triumph of feminism: “[A]n important economic functionnof feminism, as political exploitation, is ‘the releasing ofnthe hordes of idle women … for industrial purposes.’ … InnLewis’s ability to penetrate the surface ofnstatist propaganda anticipates the contemporarynsituation by more than half a century.nthe day-to-day arena of ordinary life, this aspect of ‘women’snliberation’—by which most women, like most men, spendntheir time doing other people’s work rather than their own—nremoves the last bit of real freedom possessed by any personsnof low or moderate means.” Lewis’s ability to penetrate thensurface of statist propaganda anticipates the contemporarynnnAUGUST 1992/25n