Jeremy Lewis, a well-loved figure of the literary world and a friend of Slightly Foxed, died in April 2017 aged 75. He was a man of letters through and through, and his long career included early bouts of publishing, writing biography, autobiography and journalism, and reviewing and editing.
Describing himself as a ‘Grub Street Irregular’ in his third volume of autobiography, his curriculum vitae is an impressive roll call of literary positions over the years. He was director of Chatto & Windus for a decade, deputy editor of the London Magazine from 1990 to 1994, editor-at-large of the Literary Review and commissioning editor of The Oldie from 1997. On top of all that, he wrote three volumes of autobiography and biographies of Cyril Connolly, Tobias Smollett, Allen Lane, the Greene family and David Astor. Not to mention his contributions to Slightly Foxed.
Jeremy supported and encouraged SF from the very beginning, and wrote no less than a dozen articles for the quarterly over the past 13 years. Each article would arrive by email, accompanied by a cheerful note that implored us to bin the piece if it wasn’t up to scratch. Of course it always was up to scratch and very rarely needed any intervention by us. He was a true professional and he had a genuine desire to communicate enthusiasm for the books he loved.
A frequent guest at our launch parties and events, Jeremy could be counted on to throw himself into the celebrations, glass of wine in hand. We invited him to speak at our inaugural Readers’ Day back in 2011, safe in the knowledge that we could rely on him to provide an interesting and entertaining talk, which he duly delivered, his cheerful booming voice revelling in tales of Graham Greene.
Always good-natured, self-deprecating and willing to advise burgeoning writers, Jeremy thought that anybody so inclined could take up a pen; it was just a question of practice and acquiring technique. He ran courses on the writing of memoirs and on journalism for readers of The Oldie in which he shared his experience and provided encouragement. With this in mind, The Oldie will honour his memory every year by awarding the Jeremy Lewis Prize for New Writers of £1,000 for 1,000 words to an individual over the age of fifty who has never been paid for an article by a regional or national magazine or newspaper or for a book by a book-publishing company. The criteria for the prize will be announced in the next issue of The Oldie.
His last piece for Slightly Foxed, on George Moore’s Esther Waters, appears posthumously in Issue 55, Autumn 2017.