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Artistic parents


Being an illegitimate child
Brian Sewell Writer
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My mother came from a strict Roman Catholic Irish background. Having an illegitimate child was unforgivable. Hanging on to the child was even more unforgivable. It couldn’t… you couldn’t just… there was no question of an abortion. You had the baby and then it went into a home, and that was the end of that. That is, in my case, what didn’t happen.

My mother was therefore cut off without a shilling, as it were, by her family. My father’s mother, who was very substantially well off, gave my mother a small stipend until she got married. But after the age of three or four, or something like that, she no longer wanted to see me. Now there’s a certain logic there, in that there was a legitimate son. My real father had, at one stage, married, much earlier, and he had married because he’d already got a girl with child. They had the child and then decided to marry, so that the boy, Nigel, was legitimate, or legitimised.

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, 52 seconds

Date story recorded: 2008

Date story went live: 28 June 2012