We believe this Satin birch box with metal applied straps to have once been the property of Barbellion. Born Bruce Frederick Cummings at 14 Cross Street, Barnstaple in September 1889 . WNP Barbellion was his pseudonym. He writes to his brother in 1917: “I think it is appropriately inflated and therefore very suitable!!” The surname is that of the proprietor of a chain of sweetshops with branches in South Kensington, Bond Street and elsewhere; the initials stand impishly for Wilhelm Nero Pilate – “the world’s three greatest failures”.
He is famous for his diary, “The Journal of a Disappointed Man”. “The fact is,” he says later with a whimsical smile, “no man dare remain alive after writing such a book.” During the weeks that follow publication in 1919 it is greeted with undisguised contempt, damned as immoral, acclaimed a work of genius, hailed as a masterpiece, dismissed as a work of fiction and described as “a wonderful record of a great spirit and a great fight”, “a merciless examination of self that Rousseau might have envied” and “one of the most extraordinary human documents that have ever been penned”. One critic even declares it “more complex and more opaque than a Greek tragedy”, adding that “like the ‘Medea,’ in manner if not in degree, this Journal should leave us enriched and better tuned to the infinite”. H G Wells in fact wrote the preface for this book an indication of his esteem
Sadly Barbellion died at the age of 29 in late 1919 of Multiple Sclerosis.