Sheila Costello
on May 6, 2021
This is our corrupt filthy BBC. The man Eric Gill who designed the sculpture at the front of BBC Broadcasting House there is now going to be a big push to get it removed (hopefully the media will fall first). As the teenage son of a clergyman growing up in Chichester, Eric Gill (1882-1940) had a revelation: “What marvelous thing was this that suddenly transformed a mere water tap into a pillar of fire,” he wrote in his journal. Don’t be fooled by the Biblical allusion; Gill was talking about his penis, the tool that ruled (and probably ruined) his life.
Gill’s sexual depravity is now, seemingly, more important than his skill as an engraver and typeface designer. It is with a certain sniggering glee that people talk of his incestuous relationships with his sisters (Gladys and her husband were later the subjects of his sculpture, F******); the way in which he saw his conversion to Catholicism as being “f***** by Christ”; and the embellished tales of over-familiarity with animals, such as the fateful day when he compared “specimens of semen from self and spaniel dog”.
In her clever, vivid 1989 biography, Fiona MacCarthy described the horrifically febrile atmosphere in the Gill household who, by this time, had decamped to Ditchling Common. His daughters, Petra and Elizabeth (Betty), were both sexually abused by their father. “ July 1921, when Betty was 16, Gill records how one afternoon while Mary and Joan [his wife and youngest daughter] were in Chichester he made her ‘come’ and she him, to watch the effect on the anus.”
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