Don't Tell Sybil
A Memoir of English Surrealism and of E.L.T. Mesens
By George Melly.
Don’t Tell Sybil is a libidinous memoir by a master raconteur. George Melly (1926–2007) was impossible to ignore in London cultural circles between the 1950s and 90s. He first came to attention as a jazz singer, notable for risqué songs performed with verve rather than with great technical ability. An arresting personality, Melly dressed the part: his outrageous suits became a mark, and his talents as a raconteur soon brought him fame as a TV talkshow guest (usually late-night shows, for reasons of propriety). His cheerful bisexuality, recounted throughout his three volumes of autobiography, scandalized and then delighted a public whose own sexual attitudes changed over the decades they describe. Don’t Tell Sybil is a supplementary volume of autobiography which treats in more detail Melly’s youthful and long-lasting attraction to Surrealism, and his equally lengthy friendship with the contradictory character who headed up the English Surrealist group, E.L.T. Mesens. Their adventures form the core of this book--adventures of which Mesens did not want his wife, Sybil, to learn, hence the book’s title. Mesens was a perfect subject, an artist and prankster who could be as punctilious and stingy as the most respectable bourgeois. Anecdotes of the artists who showed at Mesens’ gallery, such as Schwitters and Magritte, pepper the narrative, a hugely affectionate memoir by a character who was truly larger than life. This new edition is augmented with previously unpublished photographs relating to Melly and English Surrealism.