(SOMETHING OF A SAINT AND A GENIUS'
By EVE McADAM
rR the portraitist, whatever his medium. to get a "likeness" of a personal friend must he difficult. When the friend is Eric 011. a man of genius and of most complex character, it must be even more perplexing.
Where does one start with a man like Gill? One of the greatest designers of type of all time, a great sculptor too. he himself regarded his work as that of a stone mason. a craftsman. Where Catholics are concerned the most important aspect of his character is that of the family man, the teacher. and one whose way of life was changed when he became a convert and entered the Church at the age of 31.
Clevcrdon's "Portrait of Eric Gill" (Third. Tuesday last) left out nothing that was essential, was fluent. warm, full of humour and perception. I'm glad to see that it is to be repeated on July 9. Programmes as good as this one deserve larger audiences. and would certainly attract them if only the public would be told beforehand, instead of afterwards, how good they are.
["LEVERDON travelled all over the country recording conversations with friends and relatives of Gill: in all he interviewed twenty people. Among those heard on Tuesday were Father Martin D'Arcy, S..1., Father Conrad Pepler. 0.P.. Gill's two daughters. Joan and Petra, students who worked under him and several well-known people like the water-colour painter, David Jones and the famous typographers. Stanley Morison and Beatrice Warde.
The predominant characteristic to emerge from this composite portrait was that Gill was, above all, a crusader and Catholic who fought in his own way. with weapons of his own devising against our contemporary machinemade civilization. Integrated with these ideas was his feeling about his family. what he hoped for them, wanted to do for them and what he considered constituted the proper conditions under which his family should grow up, As one of the speakers said, "He was always consistent. He sacrificed himself for his beliefs, and others too. He could have been rich by becoming a 'West End artist', because he had the talent and the personality, Rut he erected every fence that he could between himself and the bourgeoisie. He believed in Divine providence. provided you did the Lord's will."
HIS appearance was described in these words by one of his daughters: "He was a big man with a beard and he wore a smock. He invented it, It was made up of tweed or flannel. He never wore trousers under it but rather snazzy underpants, especially when he went to a Royal Academy dinner, when he wore red silk ones. When working he used paper hats made out of newspapers to keep the stone chips out of his hair. They were
three-cornered and looked very jolly."
Of his Catholicism we heard, "A religious conversion is self-evident to the convert, and rarely to the observer. So it is with Gill. Yet from his reception into the Roman Catholic Church he devoted his whole life to the working-out of what he took Catholicism truly to 'mean, a Catholicism that was wholly inimical by its nature to industrialism that degraded the true nature and being of man."
As most people know. Gill settled in Ditchling. in Sussex. Here over the years other families of craftsmen and Catholics also Settled to see what they could make of life outside industrial society. What lent cohesion to this community was Gill's personality. And waking of it I was particularly struck by two comments from Fr D'Arcy, "You couldn't help feeling what a dear he was. There was something so extraordinarily simple yet wise about him" ...and, "I think he fell into the fallacy, a very nice fallacy. of perfectionism: that is to say, like an many of us. he felt that the present condition of life is a very accidental and unfortunate one. Round the corner. and out of our present troubles, everyone would he perfect. But the new situation creates its own difficulties, shadows, problems instead, so we are always moving through a kind of warfare."
A FTER 1918 Ditchling became Pi a show place where the curious turned up to gape at the anomaly of craftsmen flourishing in the machine age. Gill then decided to withdraw and removed himself and his family to a disused monastery at Capel in the Welsh border mountains. This home turned out to be too remote and Gill finally settled in High Wycombe where his two daughters are still living.
Gill's famous Stations of the Cross are in Westminster Cathedral and other sculptors now stand in the Tate Gallery, Victoria and Albert Museum, outside Broadcasting House. His "Christ Driving the Moneylenders out of the Temple" is now a war memorial outside Leeds University.
As a designer of type every speaker seemed to think he was the greatest ever known and Stanley Morison, himself a famous typographer, believed that his Gill Sans Serif and Perpetua are trite creations, "I think they will be immortal", he said, Another friend. Meynell, said. "I think Gill was something of a saint as well as something of a genius. He was dedicated to his art and also to his idea of God and he was lucky enough to make a kind of synthesis of the two." (The heading. "Eric Gill etc.." at the top of this column is set in 3Opt. Gill Medium Italic capitals.) Cleverdon concluded the programme with a quotation from Gill's autobiography: "And if might attempt to state in one paragraph the work which I have chiefly tried to do in my life it is this, 'to make a cell of good living in the chaos of the world,' Lettering. type designing. engraving, stone-carving, drawing. these things are all means to the service of God of our fellows."
THERE was topical comment in ITV's "Eye Level" programme on Sunday when Mgr. Worlock. Secretary to Cardinal Godfrey, was asked, "Why was the young seminarist in danger of *oing blind singled out by the Cardinal for nine days prayer?"
Mgr. Warlock explained that to ask for prayers on behalf of others is an everyday practice in Catholic Churches. He added, "This man was a seminarist, taken away from his ordinary surroundings. and so had become the special responsibility of the Cardinal. It was right that the Cardinal should appeal for him. Blindness is a bar to priesthood. or at least would make it difficult for a man to say Mass or give Communion, as he couldn't see the Communicant's mouth. To become a blind priest would require special dispensation."
IN regard to my remarks on Lord Longford's recent television broadcast on the Christian attitude to punishment, Lord Longford tells me that in fact he is opposed to capital punishment and said Iso in the programme. He has been closely concerned with the campaign for the abolition of capital punishment.