The portrait was developed during Lewis' friendship with the Sitwells before he singled them out for unpleasant treatment in The Apes of God. Edith is here dignified as a Sibyl, a solemn gnomic presence but the still life of books, teetering on an unsafe shelf hints at Lewis' true feelings as to her literary reputation. The carapace is skillfully devised and the hands, although often quoted as evidence of Lewis' lack of visual conviction, look great to me as crystalline flanges.

As their relationship fell apart, Lewis, I was told, always expected the Sitwell brothers (or their hirelings) to jump him. Lewis always sat with his back to the wall in a pub. The brothers sent him a severed ear at one stage, and he took this as a sort of threat.