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Being an illegitimate child


My father's suicide
Brian Sewell Writer
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[Q] What happened to your father?

He died. Put his head in the gas oven. Literally. At a time when gas was poisonous. Very carefully put the cat out before he did so.

[Q] Goodness.

My mother was three months pregnant. And she, I think… they weren’t married, which made for further difficulties. She, I think, as a Roman Catholic, had absolutely refused to do what my father’s other girlfriends had been compliant in, which was to... having an abortion. And she said, 'No', and I… my… insofar as one can talk to one’s mother, much later, after the event, about such matters, I think that her feeling was always that she had in some way precipitated his suicide by having blazing row about the abortion or not... very shortly before he put his head in the gas oven.

Born in England, Brian Sewell (1931-2015) was considered to be one of Britain’s most prominent and outspoken art critics. He was educated at the Courtauld Institute of Art and subsequently became an art critic for the London Evening Standard; he received numerous awards for his work in journalism. Sewell also presented several television documentaries, including an arts travelogue called The Naked Pilgrim in 2003. He talked candidly about the prejudice he endured because of his sexuality.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Philip Heseltine, Peter Warlock, Mary Jessica Perkins

Duration: 1 minute, 38 seconds

Date story recorded: 2008

Date story went live: 28 June 2012