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Ludovici, Anthony Mario (1882–1971), author, was born on 8 January 1882 at 88 St Augustine's Road, London, the third of the six children of Albert Ludovici (1852–1932), an artist, and his wife, Marie Cals (1850–1914). He was educated at a small private school in London and started his career as a book illustrator, then in 1906 became private secretary to the sculptor Auguste Rodin. The following year he spent in Germany, studying Nietzsche, to whose ideas he subsequently devoted himself; he was among the translators of the first English edition of Nietzsche's works and a close friend of its editor, Oscar Levy. Other readers at the British Library nicknamed the two men ‘the lion and the jackal’ (Levy, 126), and Ludovici portrayed Levy as Doctor Melhado in his first novel, Mansel Fellowes (1918). After lecturing on Nietzsche at University College, London (1909–10), he published three books about him, in which he developed the theory that ‘the strong will and must discharge their strength, and in doing so, the havoc they may make of other beings in their environment is purely incidental’ (Who is to be Master of the World?, 1909, 43), a belief he never abandoned. Ludovici was wounded and made a captain in the First World War in 1916, when he returned to London and worked for MI6. He was demobilized in 1919, and on 20 March 1920 he married Elsie Buckley (d. 1959), the daughter of Justice Buckley.

In his biweekly art column in the New Age (1912–14) Ludovici attacked abstraction as ‘anarchy in art’, leading to a fierce dispute with T. E. Hulme. He was much influenced by Nietzsche, and wrote eight novels (the best being What Woman Wishes, 1921) and thirty books and numerous articles on topics including aristocratic revivalism, Conservatism, social Darwinism, anti-feminism, sexology, anti-liberalism, anti-democracy, anti-alienism, race, antisemitism, health, birth control, eugenics, and religion. Among them are A Defence of Aristocracy (1915), Man: an Indictment (1927), The Future of Woman (1936), and The Specious Origins of Liberalism (1967). Notably, he published only one of these under the pseudonym Cobbett: the antisemitic Jews, and the Jews of England (1938).

With Lord Willoughby de Broke, the leader of the ‘die-hard’ peers between 1911 and 1914, Ludovici developed theories of tory revivalism, and later with Viscount Lymington and William Sanderson he established the English Mistery, a proto-fascist group devoted to creating an organic, monarchical, racially homogeneous society. In 1933 the English Mistery published Ludovici's most striking piece, Violence, Sacrifice and War, in which he argued that ‘sacrifice’ was necessary for society to function, given that excess energy had to be expended, and that the time had come consciously to select those who were to be the victims. In 1936 the group split, and Ludovici formed with Lymington the more politically oriented English Array. In the years before the war, which he called ‘the war for Polish independence’ (The Child, 1948, 20), he wrote for the English Array's Quarterly Gazette and for Lymington's journal, the New Pioneer. He wrote favourable reports on the Third Reich in 1936 for the English Review, travelled to Nuremberg to attend a Nazi rally, and, although not interned during the war, he was associated with the British pro-Nazis William Joyce and Francis Beckett. His claim to be a patriotic Englishman rather than a Nazi sympathizer is reminiscent of Oswald Mosley's claims.

Blaming Socrates and Christianity for society's physical and mental degeneration, under the Nietzschean slogan ‘transvaluation of all values’ Ludovici advocated a ‘masculine renaissance’, the subordination of women, the Alexander technique and correct body control, the need to apply the stock-breeder's perspective to human mating, post-natal selection, racial segregation, and a corporate community under the leadership of an aristocracy. Though involved with the Eugenics Society, he refused to join because he disagreed with its support for birth control, which he believed would be practised only by the ‘better’ classes.

Ludovici was noted for his striking good looks, his sartorial elegance, and his charm. He opposed the use of all bodily stimulants (though he opposed prohibition), banned his housekeeper from keeping sugar in his house in Ipswich (where he moved to escape the decadence of London), and attacked what he conceived as all forms of ugliness, bad taste, prudery, and hypocrisy in social and sexual relations. His writings on sexology, in particular, are characterized by striking frankness about sexual matters combined with an attitude towards women which sees them solely as breeding machines, physically incapable of a fulfilling sexual life which is not oriented towards child bearing. He scorned female emancipation (‘no reform can come of teaching women anything’; Man's Descent from the Gods, 1921, 222), and at the end of his life he despaired that British society had entered into irreversible decline. Nevertheless, despite their marriage being childless, Ludovici spoke of his wife as ‘one of the greatest blessings of my life’ (Confessions of an Anti-Feminist, MS, 172).

By the end of his life Ludovici was a curious ‘relic of a bygone age’ (Stone, 211). A Luddite-like attack on the motor car could be combined with a call for the ‘revivification of the English race through … mass murder’ (ibid.). Although a key figure in the early reception of Nietzsche's ideas in Britain, he deserves to be remembered not for any direct influence he exerted, even on extreme right structures: he played no role in organized anti-feminism and held aloof from the British Union of Fascists, and it is a testimony to the strength of liberal opinion in twentieth-century Britain that his numerous writings had little influence on public discussion. His significance lies rather in the evidence his career provides that there were indigenous strains of fascism, however weak, within British thought, which in very different circumstances might have been nourished into more vigorous growth. Perhaps, too, he should be remembered for a personality which enabled him unashamedly to propagate with remarkable tenacity throughout his long life views which were politically impracticable.

Ludovici died in his London home, 78 Cadogan Place, Chelsea, on 3 April 1971 from bronchopneumonia and was buried near Diss, Norfolk.

Dan Stone

Sources  

D. Stone, ‘The extremes of Englishness: the “exceptional” ideology of Anthony Mario Ludovici’, Journal of Political Ideologies, 4/2 (1999), 191–218 · O. Levy, ‘Autobiography’, MS, priv. coll. · WW (1970) · Contemporary Authors: Permanent Series, 1 (1975) · A. Ludovici, An artist's life in London and Paris, 1870–1925 (1926) · CGPLA Eng. & Wales (1971) · d. cert.

Archives  

Bodl. Oxf., letters · Bodl. Oxf., letters, MS AUTOGR.c.26, fols. 41–67 · U. Edin., MSS, MS 3121 · University of North Carolina, Greensboro, books |  JRL, letters to Francis Neilson · Wellcome L., corresp. in Eugenics Society papers, SA/EUG/C.212


Likenesses  

photograph, priv. coll.

Wealth at death  

£79,112: probate, 23 July 1971, CGPLA Eng. & Wales