Brother of Daniel Day-Lewis talks about rift with Hollywood star
Oscar-winner Daniel Day-Lewis is famous for his ability to get into the heads of others but now a national newspaper has revealed he refuses to see eye-to-eye with his own Westcountry brother – as Martin Hesp reports.
What links a past Poet Laureate, an East Devon village, a Somerset school, a retired TV critic, a food writer, some Hollywood Oscars and Abraham Lincoln with a sad dislocation in one Westcountry family's private affairs?
As a Hollywood producer might bark about a script containing such diverse elements: "This is no good, no one will believe it – you couldn't make it up!" But each link in the chain is sound. Let's run through the list…
The Poet Laureate was Cecil Day-Lewis who lived for a few years in Musbury in East Devon, from where he sent his eldest son (who went on to be a national newspaper TV critic) to Allhallows School in Somerset – a county which happens to be home to the poet's daughter Tamasin Day-Lewis, who is the well known sister of Oscar-winning actor Daniel, who has just been massively successful in his movie role as Lincoln.
So where does the sad family dislocation come in?
The answer has just been revealed in the newspaper for which Sean Day-Lewis used to be television critic. The Telegraph has exposed a rift between its 81-year-old one-time employee – who still lives just a couple of miles from the old family home at Musbury – and his Oscar-winning half-brother. The two have not spoken for 19 years – and this weekend The Telegraph carried a story in which Sean regrets the sibling rift…
"I made a terrible mistake by helping an author who was writing a so-called biography of Dan," said Sean, speaking from his East Devon home. "I only gave him my book (a biography of C Day Lewis called An English Literary Life, which Sean wrote in 1980). I wanted him to get the facts right, and he didn't even do that – he got birthdays on the wrong days. It was full of errors.
"Anyway, he acknowledged my help in the foreword and Dan saw that and completely blew me out of the water. He phoned me up and told me to '******* get a life'. '**** off,' he said. I couldn't get a word in. That was in 1994, and that was our last conversation."
The family's Westcountry-based story runs like this…
Cecil was married first to Mary King, daughter of a master at Sherborne School in Dorset, and the pair had two children, Sean and Nicholas. But by 1951 the poet had left Mary to wed actress Jill Balcon who gave him a daughter, Tamasin (well known food writer and broadcaster), and a son, Daniel (who now holds a record for Oscar-winning performances).
Of the older siblings, Nicholas – a scientist – lives in Australia and never returns to England, while Sean has now retired to live near Colyton in East Devon.
He says he regrets the split with his young half-brother and claims he'd desperately like to get back in touch.
Which seems in keeping with the family ethos – here's what Tamasin wrote recently in another newspaper: "Often, the only person who truly penetrates into a child's reverie is a sibling. And as I know, the blood tie between brothers and sisters lasts for ever. The bond is about love, hate, trust, honesty and lies. Strong stuff, its influence is relived through memory for the rest of our lives."
Indeed, Sean himself was the subject of one of the most emotional and heart-wrenching things ever written in this country about family life. The 1956 Cecil Day-Lewis poem Walking Away, which many assume to be about Daniel, actually recalls Sean's first day as a seven-year-old boarder at Allhallows School in Somerset – and the final lines read…
"I have had worse partings, but none that so/
Gnaws at my mind still. Perhaps it is roughly/
Saying what God alone could perfectly show –/
How selfhood begins with a walking away,/
And love is proved in the letting go./
Alas, the boy at the centre of the poem reckons his half-brother has let go for too long.