First meeting with Wyndham Lewis

In the spring of 1943 McLuhan was alerted by his Mother (then living in Detroit) to the presence of Wyndham Lewis in the area. McLuhan was already in touch with Fr Stanley Murphy at the time in the hope of moving from his St Louis University position to one at Assumption College in Windsor — a hope that would be realized the next year when McLuhan assumed the post at Assumption that he would occupy for two years, 1944-1946.

A job at Assumption would bring McLuhan closer to his Mother, would bring him back to Canada, would bring him within the orbit of Basilian institutions headquartered at St Michael’s College (University of Toronto) and would therefore bring him one step closer to a job at St Mike’s — McLuhan’s vocational goal. McLuhan’s mentor, Fr Gerald Phelan, President of the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies at St Mike’s, was the genial hand behind this chain of moves, all of which would culminate in McLuhan obtaining a position at St Michael’s starting in 1946 — where he would remain for the rest of his life.

Here are the first letters exchanged between McLuhan and Lewis leading to their meeting in person at the end of July or start of August, 1943.1

McLuhan to Wyndham Lewis, July 24, 19432

Dear Mr Lewis, Father Murphy said that he had mentioned me to you as one who was much interested in your work. When our summer-school winds up here in a few days I have to go to Detroit. If you are not too busy or too exhausted by our heat, there is nothing I should more enjoy than a chat with you. Yours Sincerely,  Marshall McLuhan

Wyndham Lewis to McLuhan, July 26, 19433

Dear Mr. McLuhan. Thank you for your letter and I include hope that when you are up here you will let me know.

  1. McLuhan was accompanied in his meeting with Lewis by his SLU colleague and close friend, Felix Giovanelli. Giovanelli wrote to Lewis on August 3, 1943: “Dear Mr. & Mrs. Lewis: I wish to thank you for having received and entertained us so graciously.” (Wyndham Lewis collection, Cornell (Box 109, Folder 3) Fr. Murphy was also at the meeting, which he describes in ‘Wyndham Lewis at Windsor’ in Canlit #35, Winter 1968.
  2.  Letters 129.
  3.  Wyndham Lewis collection, Cornell (Box 73, Folder 45).