In memory of Colin Wilson, who died on December 5th, we are publishing following excerpt from “Bill Hopkins: An Anti-Humanist Life,” a transcript by V. S. of a lecture by Jonathan Bowden given at the 7th New Right meeting in London on April 8, 2006. We will publish a fuller tribute to Wilson’s life and work as soon as possible. The full Bowden text will be published early next year by Counter-Currents in Jonathan Bowden’s Western Civilization Bites Back.
Colin Wilson is interesting in certain respects because Wilson now—despite the many, many millions he’s made from writing what might be called popular or middlebrow literature which contains an intellectual element—is despised by the intelligentsia and is despised by the mass culture, even after sort of four hundred books translated into nine languages. And yet, he’s unbelievably productive. Unbelievably. Almost to a logorrheic degree. It’s sort of churned out of him.
Now, when he was younger he was very influenced by Bill [Hopkins] and very influenced by his ideas. His first novel, Ritual in the Dark, was dedicated to Bill, and although The Outsider was written in the British Museum’s reading room, but then British Library, when it was based over in the center of Bloomsbury where Karl Marx wrote Capital, of course, he used to sleep on Hampstead Heath in the summer (it was a different era then) because Wilson came down from Leicester. One of 9, 10, 11, 12 children from a very poor working class background, went to work in a bicycle factory when he was 14, had no educational qualifications at all, and genuinely was an outsider which is why his first book was called The Outsider.
Angus Wilson, who was then the chief librarian at the British Library, noticed him scribbling every day between the hours when you come in the morning and leave in the evening and said “What are you writing?” He gave him the first draft of The Outsider, and he went to a publisher and indirectly, through [Angus] Wilson’s advice, it was published.
Now, Wilson was taken up by the cultural glitterati of the time, was praised as a new genius by the Sitwells and this sort of thing and then dumped and trashed for his next book as a working class upstart and arriviste who can’t write a sentence and he’s exceeded his brief and doesn’t know what he’s talking about. So, he was brought forward, embraced, and then slapped and sort of disappeared. But didn’t disappear to the degree that he didn’t write anymore, because he actually became, in Bill’s view (and Colin is one of his oldest friends), a compulsive over-producer who’s churned out an enormous mass of material. Whereas Bill, when he hit a wall around this time, has produced virtually nothing since that has been widely disseminated. So, you have two contrary reactions.
But if we actually look at Wilson’s career, Wilson has been open to the dissemination of far Right views, even though he may not particularly agree with them himself. He wrote for Lodestar, which was a sort of literary and mildly theoretical journal that was put out by Jeffrey Hamm the ex-Mosleyite and continuing Mosleyite for many years. Wilson also defended causes which were ideologically anti-system, illiberal, and very unfashionable.
When somebody using the mild pseudonym Richard Harwood, whose real name is Richard Verrall, wrote a pamphlet called Did Six Million Really Die? Colin Wilson wrote a review, a reasonably neutral review but a totally unhysterical review, in Books and Bookmen which then was probably a much more important publication in that particular era than it is now. This was the internal journal within the book industry that was widely used to target particular books and post-manuscripts that would then get mass distribution in the major chains that existed. Now, Wilson said that this is an important thesis and may cause hysteria in certain areas but needs to be looked at. And for this, he alone became a little marked or a little smelly or was considered to have something about him that wasn’t quite nice or quite right and this sort of thing.
In my view, this openness to discourse which is unacceptable is partly Bill Hopkins’ legacy on Colin Wilson.