LEWIS, Wyndham. The Apes of God. London: The Arthur Press, 1930.
Large 4to., original sandy cloth, spine lettered in green; original unclipped pictorial dust wrapper designed by the author; pp. [iv], 625, [i]; with 20 original black-and-white designs by Lewis to the chapter headings; cloth and upper edge with some damp-staining, not spreading to pages; endpapers and prelims lightly foxed; the rest rather clean internally; a very good example in the characterful dust jacket; slightly shelf soiled and worn all over; with some nicking to head and foot of spine; very good.
First edition, first impression. Number 109 of 750 numbered copies signed by the author. Also laid in with this copy is the original prospectus from The Arthur Press, with the order form to the lower cover.
By the mid 1920s, having already established himself as a writer and avant-garde painter, Lewis launched the abstract-art movement Vorticism, influenced strongly by Cubism and Futurism. The Apes of God is a sardonic account of day-to-day life in the post war London art and Literary circles, in which Lewis depicts the “gossip-column class” in a state of “violent restlessness imposed on them by the instability of time”. He argues that art has been betrayed into the hands of moneyed amateurs who debased its high calling by writing for coteries, thus destroying cultural standards. The novel depicts a moronic Daniel Boleyn, as he makes his way through the various echelons of London's artistic bohemia under the guidance of a mentor, Horace Zagreus. (Literary Encyclopedia) Among those he satirises are thinly-veiled references to the Bloomsbury group and particularly the Sitwells, with the last 250 pages devoted to a fancy dress party (‘Lord Osmund’s Lenten party’) depicting Osbert and his siblings Edith and Sacheverell. Perhaps unsurprisingly, these depictions landed him in hot water with London’s Art and Literary circles.