Both Hugh Wade and Denys Skeffington Smyth list Eddie Gathorne-Hardy as being at Elvira’s  cocktail party. Oddly, his close friend Brian Howard does not, although he does mention him in his statement. (see  https://elvirabarney.wordpress.com/tag/brian-howard/

They were both living at 39 Maddox Street at the time.

I’m sure he did attend. even if he did not go on to any of the later functions. Hugh Wade would have known him from The Blue Lantern and, anyway, the highly distinctive Eddie was not a figure you’d be likely to mistake for someone else. How well he knew Elvira or Michael Scott Stephen is hard to say.Not intimately, I would suggest, although he did have a fondness for rogues and scoundrels, so Michael may have intrigued him. He also shared a mutual friend with Elvira, the ubiquitous Viva King.

Hon. (Ralph) Edward Gathorne-Hardy; Hon. Robert Gathorne-Hardy; Eardley Knollys; unknown man, by Lady Ottoline Morrell, 1926 - NPG  - © National Portrait Gallery, London

He was the second son of the  3rd Earl of Cranbrook  (Gathorne Gathorne-Hardy – yes,really)  and, at 31, was older than all of the other named guests, apart from Olivia Wyndham. At the time of the party he was working for the booksellers Elkin Matthews (Eddie was a respected antiquarian – an expert on C18th Literature). He was also somewhat impoverished, maintaining a hectic  lifestyle by charging everything to his elder brother and, allegedly, subsisting on the mushrooms that grew up the stairs of 39  Maddox Street. His passion for botany may have helped him out there.

One of the central characters of the Bright Young People, he is the main model for Miles Malpractice in Vile Bodies, Gathorne-Hardy lived closer to the edge and more outrageously than most of his contemporaries, with the possible exception of Brenda Dean Paul. Though there is no great evidence of drug-taking, it is unlikely that he was sober for one day of his adult life . However it was his very open (loudly and frequently proclaimed) homosexuality that marked him out as the gayest of a pretty gay set. The police, while never taking action, were well aware of him.

With Gathorne-Hardy we can trace a link between the Bloomsbury circle and Elvira’s world. He knew Lytton Strachey and Ottoline Morrell and possibly D.H.Lawrence. Curiously, in 1929, Lawrence’s artwork which, was seized by the police , had been exhibited at Dorothy Warren’s gallery  which was on the ground floor of 39 Maddox Street. I don’t think Howard or Gathorne-Hardy had moved there yet but they would have got the connection. Eddie was certainly familiar with the Carrington-Strachey menage at Ham Spray in Wiltshire, as he was photographed in the garden by Frances Partridge.

Eddie in the garden at Ham Spray –  c 1932

But it would have been Eddie’s hedonistic side that Elvira more probably identified with. Alan Pryce-Jones provides a useful snapshot,

“One often saw Brian Howard with Eddie Gathorne-Hardy, whose monocle gleamed searchingly over manifold occasions. Eddie was a distinguished bibliophile, a caustic wit and a constant source of both worry and pleasure to his relations. Night after night at the Blue Lantern, he ran out of cash for the taxi home, and night after night he rang up Daimler Hire, in the name of his elder brother, Lord Cranbrook, whose bills for Eddie’s peregrinations after midnight were prestigious. He also had a maniac streak, as on a Blue lantern night when he ordered a brandy and ginger ale in the small hours after the bar had closed. The barman brought the ginger ale only, so Eddie, choosing his moment, climbed behind the bar and snatched from the shelf a bottle of brandy, upon which, for the next hour, he became drunk.”

Alan Pryce-Jones by Horst

Alan Pryce-Jones 1931 Paris

As it turned out the “brandy” was actually only coloured water, proving that erudition is not everything in this life.  That Eddie was at the Blue Lantern “night after night”  surely indicates that the equally bibulous Elvira must have been known to him.It seems equally unlikely  that his penchant for “rough trade” was not a subject for gossip at William Mews.

From 1935, Eddie’s “peregrinations” took him much further afield than London nightclubs and Bohemian retreats. He lived in Athens, Cairo and the Lebanon. His work at various colleges and  with the British Council was always being threatened by his behaviour but he had staunch defenders in the likes of Lawrence Durrell and other expatriate writers. It remained a chaotic and debauched existence, but though in poor health he managed to return to England in the late 60s, dying in 1978 at the age of 77. Few would have put money on such longevity.

In “Bright Young People”,  D.J.Taylor devotes considerable space  to Eddie as the epitome of  the  Bright Young homosexual. Having surveyed the scene in general,  he concludes that  “nearly all  these trails lead back to the willowy, epicene and impossibly languid figure of Eddie Gathorne-Hardy.”  For Taylor, Eddie is a combination of  fine qualities, he was “companionable”, famously loyal – not least to Brian Howard – and an extreme selfishness, with a penchant for puerile antics – thus making him a perfect exemplar for the whole sub-culture.

Stephen Tennant

Somehow, Gathorne-Hardy’s life, though dissolute, seems rather richer in achievement, and fun, than the better known Brian Howard or Stephen Tennant. For all his sense of superiority he seems less pretentious and certainly less lonely. He was, it appears, pretty comfortable with his own sexuality and less prone to anger or self-disgust. It is a pity that some of that did not rub off on Elvira . Of all the guests at the cocktail party, it would be  particularly interesting to know what Arthur Jeffress made of him. Jeffress, though younger and wealthy beyond Eddie’s imaginings, shared a taste for high art and low company which would at least have made for some rich conversation.

A useful article on Eddie can be found here  http://www.bookride.com/2010/08/eddie-gathorne-hardy.html.

See also Taylor Bright Young People, Pryce-Jones The Bonus of Laughter, Lancaster Brian Howard and Jonathon Gathorne-Hardy Half an Arch

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