One of my favourite articles from The Powys Journal in recent years must be Timothy Hyman’s recollections of the theatrical literary critic G Wilson Knight – best known for his scintillating works on Shakespeare.
The current chairman of the Society remembers first meeting Wilson Knight at the inaugural Society conference in 1972, held to mark the centenary of John Cowper Powys’s birth, and getting to know a charming man who “radiated a kind of benign simplicity”; “I wanted to be to Wilson Knight what Porius was to Merlin/Cronos.”
It’s a piece full of insights into one of the most celebrated and rousing of Powys commentators, as well as glimpses of an appealingly eccentric character. Like the Powys conference in 1984 when Wilson Knight treated attendees to a performance of speeches by Timon of Athens wearing a reddish wig, when he finished up his recital by stripping naked (he was very proud of his muscular torso). And this memory of a visit to Wilson Knight’s home:
“So we were in this small kitchen together, he doddery and I clumsy, and every time I made a wrong move he would emit a strange loud sound, a sort of juddering shriek, which made me break out in giggles. At the end of the meal, which I’m afraid I left mostly uneaten, he just heaved the contents of my plate out of the kitchen window and into the thick tangle of bushes. He saw my surprise: ‘Well, there’s never anything left in the morning.’ / ‘So what do you think eats it?’ He replied, in a sweet sing-song, ‘I —don’t — know — hedgehogs?’”
(The Powys Journal 2015, XXV)