Francis King “was fascinated by meanness and evil…”

rancis King in 1993. Photograph: Denis Jones/Evening Standard/Rex

Francis King in 1993. Photograph: Denis Jones/Evening Standard/Rex

Jonathan Fryer writes of Francis King:

Francis loved to travel, developing a passion for Egypt. Always immaculately turned out in suit and tie, he had the exquisite manners and precise diction of a former age. Though a strong supporter of the Conservative party, he held some radical views, not least relating to his sexuality. He was a prolific correspondent and took great delight in private missives in adopting fake personas of both genders, notably the putative Italian aristocrat, Francesca di Rimini Pimini. Francis claimed that the letters page of one edition of the Spectator was entirely filled with spoof letters he had sent from backwoods’ colonels and spinsters.

He was an extraordinarily kind and generous man, his generosity latterly obliging him to sell of some of his best paintings, including a magnificent Duncan Grant. His tolerance of some of his acquaintances’ dishonesty and unpleasantness puzzled many of his friends; despite being such a good man himself, he was fascinated by meanness and evil – as is reflected in some of the characters in his books.

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