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Obituary: Cy Fox

Cyril "Cy" Fox (photo), who died aged 86 in his native Canada on Tuesday, came relatively late to Reuters and did not stay very long. His 12 years with the agency, almost wholly on the London World Desk, were marked, as was most of his life, by a reputation as an eccentric with a singular obsession.

That obsession was an intense interest in Wyndham Lewis, now largely forgotten as a non-conformist British writer and artist who was at the centre of Vorticism, a short-lived modernist art movement of geometric abstraction which grew out of Cubism and Futurism in the First World War era.

Lewis’s reputation was tarnished by his 1931 book on Hitler, written after he had spent time in Germany watching the rise of national socialism. It presented the future führer as “a man of peace”.

Fox amassed the world’s most comprehensive collection of Lewisiana - around 900 books, art, magazine clippings, tape recording, correspondence and other ephemera - and he became a world authority, collecting, corresponding, reading, lecturing and writing about Lewis. He had no idea what his collection was worth.

Wherever he went, Fox rummaged around bookshops and snapped up anything Lewis-related. After half a century of this activity, in 2006 he donated it all to the library at the University of Victoria, British Columbia, where it is held in a special collections vault.

Fox called it his life's only legacy and when movers hauled away the last box from his home in Toronto he was bereft. “It left me limp. A huge void. A huge gap,” he said.

“I was seized by this character and he has never let go,” Fox once told an interviewer. “He's still there up on the bookcase, ready to start talking. As soon as I open the page I hear that voice ready to bark out at you in the most spirited fashion. Very amusing, too. Entertaining. Very outspoken. Very honest. Direct. Exciting in the extreme.”

Born in Newfoundland, Fox joined Reuters in November 1974 after years of work with the Associated Press and the Canadian Press. He was a chief sub-editor on the London World Desk when he took early retirement on 31 December 1986. He had a temporary assignment to Hong Kong in early 1985. ■