The central character of Erasmus is Late is Erasmus Darwin, opium-eater and brother of the more famous Charles who is indeed late. Late for a dinner party that he himself is giving and whose illustrious guests, already assembled around his table, include: Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense under Kennedy; Masura Ibuka, co-founder of Sony; and Murry Wilson, father of Brian Wilson.
Whilst the guests wait, Erasmus dawdles through contemporary London becoming waylaid by different sites, which represent for Gillick, the development of free-thinking; Gillian Gillick, the artist’s mother, illustrates these sites with line drawings. Erasmus Darwin epitomises for Gillick the activity of free-thinking; a form of political pursuit dependent on wealth and leisure and problematic in its relationship to ‘unfree’ thought and the working classes.
On one level a guide to contemporary London seen through the eyes of a Georgian, Erasmus is Late is also an examination of pre-Marxist positions, an ill-researched investigation of a Utopian optimism that is struggling to predict the future.
Originally published 1995.