Word of the Day – Timonism

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November 26, 2012 by wildducks

I just finished reading Timon of Athens, one of Monsieur Shakespeare’s less popular tragedies. In it we find Timon, a generous spender and doting friend whose openhandedness has lead him deep into debt. After finding the charitable nature of all his friendships one-sided, with no one willing to support him -pockets all empty, good luck with that-he storms out of Athens, taking up residence in a cave and plotting the destruction of the entire city, himself, et al..

Yeah, vengeance.

So Timonism, noun – A misanthropic bitterness and hatred of others caused by rejection or betrayal; Timonian, adjective.

Wyndham Lewis

Wyndham Lewis’s portfolio for Timon of Athens

Wyndam Lewis did a collection of futuristic/cubistic prints for a never-published Timon edition in 1922. He is somewhat of a timonian character, and one of those artists far-left/antifa idealogists aren’t supposed to praise due to his early affiliation with the English fascists and the publication of several anti-semitic and pro-Hitler texts, much like Ezra Pound. Why we continue to overlook him for his political failures, or why any artist should be blacklisted or have their work banned, burned, or purposely ignored is imprudent to say the very least. He is opposed to my politics, but his work is meritorious and worth consideration.

What makes Lewis the perfect example of timonism was his shift further and further into individualism, away from collectivist movements like Marxism, and even democracy. As Timon himself retreated into a small cave, shunning all contact and cursing the masses. Lewis noted that the “mass mind is required to gravitate to a standard size to receive the standard idea,” which is rather Nietschean, if not completely Timonian. His Timonism probably grew as he saw his ex-co-collaborators of the world-renowned Bloomsbury Group heralded and praised, while his own reputation sank deeper into obscurity as he himself sank deeper into debt. Hmm, so what’s the lesson learned here?

Choose your friends wisely?
Choose your political affiliations carefully?
Don’t give up on the world or it will give up on you?

I chose, d) all of the above for my final answer.

Wyndham Lewis’s Portfolio of Timon of Athens

What Lewis captures here isn’t exactly how I would have illustrated Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens, and I don’t see the meaning behind the clean lines and sharp angles. I found Timon to be far more emotional, earnest, and even romantic, which calls to mind a different approach than cubism. Though I do see the corrolation between chaos in both works.

“The earth’s a thief,
That feeds and breeds by a composture stolen
From general excrement: each thing’s a thief.” Timon


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