Eric Gill

I was at the library yesterday and am now completely engrossed in Fiona MacCarthy’s biography of Eric Gill. Sadly, the book itself is now out of print. Eric Gill, font designer (Gill Sans), author (An Essay on Typography) and sculptor, was a fascinating man of contradictions. A man of immense skill and breadth of knowledge and a devout Catholic convert, he was the founder of several communes in the early part of this century. His ideal was to bring work and art and home life all together. Sadly, he was also a bit of a sexual oddity, pursuing incestuous relationships with his sisters and possibly even his own daughters. What a fascinating read, though. I mean, all of us are people of contradictions, too, but not all of us in such bold strokes. I especially liked this quote from his own autobiography:

“It is thus: we human beings are all in the same difficulty. We are all torn asunder, all of us, by this disintegration of our flesh and spirit. And so if in this book I am appearing more spiritual than credible to some of those I have loved, let them examine their own consciences. I think they will discover, as I have done, that they also are torn asunder and that they also have desired to be made whole.”

The biography’s title, by the way, for anyone who wants to try tracking it down at the library or whatever, is Eric Gill: A Lover’s Quest for Art and God, by Fiona MacCarthy (New York: Dutton, 1989).