Anthony P. West Dies; Son of H.G. Wells

Times Staff Writer

Anthony P. West, a novelist and critic whose biography of his father, H.G. Wells, proved such a painful examination of his childhood that it took 40 years to complete, is dead at the age of 73.

The illegitimate child of a romance between authors Wells and Dame Rebecca West was visiting his son, Edmund P. West, in Stonington, Conn., when he died Sunday after a stroke. He lived in London, New York, and Fishers Island, N.Y.

An essayist who contributed several articles to The New Yorker for more than 20 years, West also was the author of books, including a critical biography of D.H. Lawrence published in 1948 and the 1984 biography of his father, “H.G. Wells: Aspects of a Life.”


Tale of Two Parents

His 1955 novel, “Heritage,” told the story of a son torn between two high-power literary parents and bore a strong resemblance to actual circumstances, according to his mother, who threatened to sue any publisher who printed it in Britain. None did until after her death in 1983 at age 90. “Heritage” and a sequence of such stories as “David Rees” and “Among Others,” deal with the problems of being the offspring of brilliant parents who are not married to each other.

Writing in the Los Angeles Times in 1984, book critic Richard Eder noted that “Anthony West never has got over his parents. The pain and allure of their relationship to each other--and their lack of a relationship to him--have overshadowed his life despite his considerable talent and success as a writer and critic.”

Rebecca West, born Cicily Fairfield, was 19 when she wrote a stinging criticism of Wells’ Victorian views as expressed in his novel “Marriage.” Her effort was admittedly designed to bring about an introduction to the world-famous, middle-aged and already married author. They met in 1912 and on Aug. 5, 1914, Anthony Panther West was born in Hunstanton, England. His middle name was derived from one of the terms of endearment his parents had for each other.

Parents Never Married

His parents never married and ended their liaison after 10 years. Rebecca West maintained that Wells understood and respected her feminist credo and independent viewpoint but wanted a traditional mate.

Anthony West worked as a dairy farmer and cattle breeder, and was an occasional contributor to magazines from 1937 to 1943. An indifferent student, he never attended college and joined the Far Eastern desk of the British Broadcasting Corp., where he worked until 1945.

West came to the United States in 1950, the year he began writing for The New Yorker.


West’s other books include “The Vintage” (1950), “Another Kind” (1952), “Principles and Persuasions” (1956), “The Trend is Up” (1960), “Mortal Wounds” (1966) and a critical biography of John Piper in 1978.

In addition to his wife, Lily, he is survived by two sons, two daughters and a granddaughter.