Brian Sewell: my father was sexually sadistic composer

Nov 13, 2011

Candid autobiography also reveals how the art critic was used as ‘sexual bait’ at Christie’s

ART CRITIC Brian Sewell reveals in his upcoming autobiography, Outsider, that he is the son of the “sexually sadistic” bisexual composer Peter Warlock. According to The Sunday Times, the long-serving Evening Standard critic describes how his mother revealed the true identity of his father just before her death in 1996.

Warlock, whose real name was Philip Arnold Heseltine, is best known for composing a set of dances called Capriol, but gained notoriety for living a hedonistic life of sex, drugs and the occult in the 1920s. He died of gas poisoning at the age of 36, seven months before Sewell was born.
Despite admitting he “cannot bear” his father’s music, Sewell sees similarities in their lives. “I really think I am like my father in the sense that we both saw our careers as having been failures,” he says. Warlock, like Sewell, was a journalist, writing as a music critic.
Sewell’s candid autobiography contains many more remarkable revelations, especially about his sex life. He describes losing his virginity at the age of 15 to a fellow pupil at Haberdashers’ Aske’s. Abstinence followed as Sewell battled with religious guilt in his twenties, but promiscuity eventually won out.
Sewell claims he was used as “sexual bait” by the auction house Christie’s in the late 1950s and 1960s. “I was the pretty boy sent off to the country houses to seal the deal,” Sewell told The Sunday Times. “I usually had to stay the night as these homes were often miles from London and there would be a discreet knock on the bedroom door and you would have to make up your mind about fending the person off.”
Guy Burgess, the British intelligence officer who defected to the Soviet Union, was among those who courted Sewell. “He suggested a drink one day, but I refused,” Sewell writes. “A day or two later he waylaid me and invited me to dinner at his club ... I was compelled to dance with him, but was put off by his bad breath and food stains on his tie.”

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