Tag Archive: parties


The following is a picturesque and evocative snapshot of Bright Young rituals circa 1926-28.

“The 1920s were a good period for eccentrics. Self-expression was the note of the day;the rich had more money than ever before, and less inhibitions about what to express. Evelyn Waugh’s Decline and Fall and Vile Bodies have been taken as satirical fantasies, but they describe a real manner of life with total accuracy. In those years I saw a great deal of another cousin, Elizabeth Ponsonby, who exemplified her period perfectly.The waste of time which took place was prodigious. One was always, in the silly world I moved in at the age of seventeen, dressing up for a party; indeed, one travelled with a dinner jacket and a matelot’s uniform, which we had found out to be the quickest and simplest form of fancy dress.”

Matelot Dress Pattern 1934

“Night after night, there was Elizabeth, often starting our evening with half a dozen of our friends in the Grosvenor Square house of Arthur Bendirs (whose beautiful and silent daughter Babe Bosdari – much photographed by Cecil Beaton – shook our cocktails and helped us zip up our disguises) before we went on to Florence de Pena, or Gracie Ansell, or whoever was the hostess of an evening which inevitably took in a stop at the Cafe Anglais, where Rex Evans sang at the piano, and an eventual eclipse at an unassuming nightclub behind Piccadilly Circle, the Blue Lantern.”

Cafe Anglais 1949

This passage  is taken from The Bonus of Laughter, the autobiography of the writer and long-standing editor of the TLS, Alan Pryce-Jones . It’s a joy to read and has exactly the right feel about it, though one or two of the specifics are a little odd. Babe would not yet be Bosdari and if she was much photographed by Beaton, I can’t find any examples.

Nonetheless, the picture of Babe, pretty, quiet and slightly in the background, corresponds to other reminiscences.Evelyn Waugh, no fan at all, says much the same and Tom Driberg recalled her as, in comparison to Elizabeth Ponsonby, “much more placid, round-faced and innocent-looking, with very little expression in her face, but very beautiful in a way”.The one dissenting voice comes from Elizabeth’s mother, who blamed Babe for some of Elizabeth’s excesses and was none too pleased about Babe’s marriage to and hasty divorce from her nephew David Plunket Grene. Dorothea Ponsonby described Babe as looking like “a forty year old procuress”, a phrase as striking as it was probably inaccurate.

However, as time went on, I’m not sure the Bendir daughter stayed too much in the shadows. Although no innovator, chronicler or artist, she exemplifies a certain mode of existence as well as any of her set.

Babe played a significant part in producing and cementing the image of the BYP as far as the press, the public and her contemporaries were concerned.She achieved (if that is the right word) this through her friendships with other women, her fleeting marriages and her attendance at, and her role in organising, the many parties that still remain central to our view of the whole phenomenon.

Her close female friends, Elizabeth Ponsonby ( a cousin by marriage), Olivia Plunket Greene (sister-in-law) and the incomparable Sylvia Ashley, personified Bright Young Womanhood and Babe was their equal in her dedication to the hedonistic cause. I will say something about Babe’s relationship to all three, but particularly Elizabeth, in the next post. .Her marriages, and her unusual husbands, will also be dealt with later.

 c

Sylvia Ashley

For now, let’s just concentrate on a couple of parties.It is as one of the quartet who organised the Bath and Bottle Party that she earns her place within the BYP elite. Held at St.George’s Swimming Baths on Buckingham Palace Road from 11pm onward on Friday 13th July, 1928, it was the quintessential Bright Young gathering. Guests wore bathing costumes, a black jazz orchestra provided the music and, as D.J.Taylor reports, its “novelty and notoriety” surpassed all of the (many) other costume and “freak” parties. Moralists and gossip-columnists had a field day. If there was a single Bright Young highpoint, this was it.

Brian Howard

A few months later there occurred the other defining party of the period, Brian Howard’s overly-ambitious Great Urban Dionysia. This event, intended to be the ultimate in decadent glamour, was something of a failure, the reality falling far short of the concept. Guests were to come as characters from Greek mythology and were advised to research their designs at the British Museum. Willy King, Viva’s husband, worked there and helped Howard and others choose appropriate costumes. Viva was Sappho, Olivia Wyndham Minerva, Ernest Thesiger Medusa, John Banting Mercury, Mary Butts a Caryatid and so forth. Babe dressed in blue, her outfit modelled on a Nymph from a Greek vase. Her look was a success but many other outfits were over-elaborate and ponderous. Even worse, some were considered tawdry and, in a comment designed to give Howard nightmares, the whole affair was deemed by one columnist to be rather “suburban”.

The 16 inches long invitation, reproduced in Portrait of a Failre, with its list of Howard’s likes and dislikes is very revealing, but even that manages to both pretentious and rather adolescent. What tends to be overlooked is the name of the actual host.

The Dionysia Will Occur this Year

At 1 Marylebone Lane, Oxford Street

(Behind Bumpus’s) on the 4th of April 1929

At 11pm. Celebrated by

BABE PLUNKET GREENE

in honour of the 24th Birthday of

Brian Howard

and because the New Athens is sorry that

David Tennant

is going to Acadia”

This would suggest that, although the occasion was very much Howard’s endeavour, Babe was fairly integral to proceedings. I wonder whether she financed the event, as Brian’s income never quite matched his ambitions. Did she have any creative input? Probably not,but in later  life she was a patron to certain artists and a collector, so to assume that her presence was merely decorative is possibly a mistake.

False Dawn by John Tunnard (owned by Babe)

It is unlikely that Babe invested the “freak” parties with the sort of status Howard envisaged for them (early “Happenings” almost). But that she relished the mixture of outrage and aestheticism they aspired to is given added weight by the fact that not only was she involved in these two famous examples but that she, along with Elizabeth Ponsonby, had organised one of the early White Parties (white outfits, white decor, white food) that crop up throughout the period.If the Bright Young People are largely remembered in popular culture for the parties they threw then  Babe, with her fondness for dancing and cocktails, is, through her presence at and her participation in some of the era’s signature events, no background figure at all. The best known lines in Vile Bodies are these,

“Masked parties, Savage parties, Victorian parties, Greek parties, Wild West parties, Russian parties, Circus parties, parties where one had to dress as somebody else, almost naked parties in St John’s Wood, parties in flats and studios and houses and ships and hotels and night clubs, in windmills and swimming-baths, tea parties at school where one ate muffins and meringues and tinned crab, parties at Oxford where one drank brown sherry and smoked Turkish cigarettes, dull dances in London and comic dances in Scotland and disgusting dances in Paris – all that succession and repetition of massed humanity … Those vile bodies.”

This, without Waugh’s disapproving note, is the world Babe inhabited and helped create.

Incidentally, Bumpus’s, mentioned in the invitation, was one of the great London book stores, loved by bibliophiles, Bloomsbury and the more literary of the “smart set”. There are some splendid images of the place here  – Bumpus 1930  .

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Update on The Red and White Party

I posted something on Arthur Jeffress’  Red and White Party a while back ( see https://elvirabarney.wordpress.com/2011/10/26/the-red-and-white-party/ ) ,

In John Montgomery’s “The Twenties” (1957)  there is a slightly more detailed account of the revelries than that found in D. J. Taylor or Alec Waugh’s account of the night. It does not provide names (Brenda Dean Paul, Arthur Jeffress and Sunday Wilshin were all still alive when the book appeared) but it does give a good sense of the extravagance and excess of the occasion.

Arthur Jeffress and Pals

“The last hectic party of the twenties, the party to end all parties,  surpassing even the Wild West party and the Court party, the final fling of the “Bright Young Things”, started at eleven o’clock on the evening of November 21, in the house of the dancer. Maud Allan, although it was not her party.

The invitation cards had been sent out a foretnight earlier, and were much in demand. Many were stolen from chimney pieces and were later presented  by uninvited, unwanted guests. The wording on each card, engraved in white on a brilliant scarlet background, requested guests to confine their costumes and clothes to the colours red and white. It was to be a red and white party, a “monster ball”, as the young men of the West End called it.

Some 250 cards were sent out, but nearly 400 guests arrived. Their host greeted them in the hall, wearing a modified sailor suit of white angel-skin with red trimmings, elbow length white kid gloves loaded with diamonds and rubies, two diamond clips and a spray of white star orchids costing about£2 a bloom. He posed for photographs holding a muff made of white narcissi, which  newspapers reported had been flown from North Africa, but which had been bought that afternoon in Chelsea. A pair of red leather shoes completed the ensemble.”

White and Pink Star Orchid

“The food at the party was entirely red and white – red caviare, lobsters, salmon, ham, apples (but no pears), tomatoes (but no lettuce), pink and red blancmanges, trifles and jellies. Everything was of the best, and cigarettes were contained in red and white boxes.

The upstairs rooms of the house were empty, and a rope across the stairs indicated that guests were not expected to leave the ground floor. However this did not prevent many people from disappearing upstairs, to descend, later, covered in dust.

Guests arriving at the house found the entrance guarded by Metropolitan policemen, who solemnly examined all invitation cards but let anyone in whether they had cards or not. In those days off duty policemen could be hired for private parties. inside, after being greeted by their host, guests walked over a long red carpet through a vast hall towards three large rooms, en suite, with big double-doors leading from one to the other.The centre and largest room was hung with broad strips of scarlet and white bunting.Banquettes were covered with red velvet. Dancing took place here to a negro orchestra – a sine qua non in those days – each musician wearing white tails with scarlet fittings. The two slightly smaller rooms were hung respectively with white and red bunting, the white room being a vast bar. The red room, furnished with red-covered mattresses, was for sitting-out.”

Red Caviare

” What began as a reasonably formal, although distinctly eccentric, gathering soon developed into a noisy and hilarious free-for-all. Hired servants, dressed in scarlet double-breasted coats with large white buttons, struggled among the seething, jostling, swaying, shrieking mass of dancers and drinkers. The orchestra, overwhelmed by the noise, played louder and louder; the rooms became thick with smoke and the smell of scent.

No whisky was available, only champagne, white or red win, or gin. There were plenty of bottles for everyone. The kitchen was stacked high with crates of liquor and boxes of hired glasses. Some guests mixed the drinks and gulped them down; then mixed their dancing partners. The huge room became a medley of red and white sailor suits, white dresses and sashes, red wigs, long  white kid gloves, pink hats, and even false red noses. Red and white “nuns” danced with men dressed as exotic birds with elaborate feather head-dresses, men danced stripped to the waist, wearing red sailors’ bell-bottom  trousers; a man dressed as Queen Elizabeth, wearing a red wig, sat in the hall solemnly playing Abide With Me on the organ.”

” At about half past one a girl had to be prevented from pulling the hair of another woman who was attempting to get herself a drink. Half-full glasses and bottles stood all around, under chairs, behind curtains, under tables. The girl was wearing only a choker of pearls ansd a large red and white spotted handkerchief  fixed around her middle by a thin white belt. People wearing more clothes found it  almost unbearably hot.

Hair Puller  – Brenda Dean Paul

Hair Pullee – Sunday Wilshin

The party finished with the dawn, long after the last policeman had finished guarding the doors and had gone home. It was afterwards estimated that the evening had cost about £500.”

Though it takes a suitably moralistic tone and reads like something cobbled together from a mixture of newspaper reports and  imaginative licence, there is a hint of insider knowledge here. I don’t know much about John Montgomery apart from the fact that he wrote a lot of books. This one is dedicated to Hugh Wade’s sometime musical collaborator, Collie Knox (see https://elvirabarney.wordpress.com/2012/01/20/hugh-wade-the-savoy-orpheans-and-collie-knox/ ) and there was an old chap who was supportive of the Gay Liberation Movement in Brighton in the 1970s of that name.  I think he might have been an attendee.

The £500 (£25,000 today) is, if anything,  an under-estimate. The most prominent “Negro” orchestra in London at the time was Noble Sissle’s outfit, resident at Ciro’s, and they alone would have cost a few bob. I presume Queen Elizabeth was Hugh Wade but hope not – Abide With Me is rather naff in comparison to Body and Soul, a rendition of which Wade is supposed to have performed on said organ.

If nothing else, I like this piece because the room for “sitting-out” is the earliest example I know of a “Chill Out Space”, the presence of which has greatly enhanced the club scene since the 1980s. As for the political and moral implications of this event, I will leave that for future discussion.

Osbert Lancaster

In the summer of 1932, the artist and illustrator Osbert Lancaster attended a party in Cheyne Walk, Chelsea. The house had once been the home of James McNeill Whistler but was now the London residence of Bryan and Diana Guinness, the couple who represented the most exclusive, topmost tier of the “Bright Young People”.

The party was held for Unity Mitford, younger sister of Diana, and Osbert’s partner for the evening was another sister, Nancy (then Mrs. Peter Rodd). Under the aegis of the already legendary siblings, for the 24 year-old Osbert, this night was sure to be  “a rather more interesting evening than most Deb-dances” of which he was already thoroughly bored.

Jessica, Nancy,Diana, Unity, Pamela 1935

But Osbert was in for an initial surprise.

“Our hostess’s connection with Oxford and The Bright Young People would ensure, I thought, the presence of some of the more picturesque survivors of the previous decade not usually to be found at such functions; and, by the same token, it seemed likely that the girls from the shires and the beefy young ensigns from the Brigade would for once be in the minority.

Nevertheless I was in no way prepared for the first departure from the customary routine. On catching sight of the usual small crowd of sightseers gathered on the pavement outside the gate, I braced myself to conceal the embarrassment invariably induced by the appreciative cooing which the appearance of the female guests normally provoked.”

Baba Beaton, Wanda Baillie Hamilton and Lady Bridget Poulett  – “Coo, Ain’t they Lovely?”

“I need not have bothered. The smiles were sardonic rather than welcoming and instead of “Coo, Ain’t She Lovely!” we received solicitous but ironic enquiries after the health of Mrs. Barney and pious expressions of hope that the lady had not forgotten her gun.”

Mitford Sisters “Coo, Ain’t they eccentric?”

Osbert, balancing precariously between satire and snobbery, continues,

“The Barney Case, in which the verdict just announced had clearly not given any manifest satisfaction to the proletariat, had already produced a widespread revulsion of feeling that involved, I know realised, circles far distant from those in which that trigger-happy and rather sordid poor little rich girl normally moved. The Twenties, it was generally decided, had gone on quite long enough and the Bright Young People, of whom Elvira had never in fact been one, were to be swept smartly under the carpet. Hem-lines came tumbling down, chaperones were returning with a rush, and formality was, quite clearly, on the way back.”

This paragraph contains as succinct a summary of the general consensus regarding Elvira and the significance of her case as you are likely to find. To whit, Elvira was lucky to get off (“trigger-happy”), her lifestyle was immoral (“sordid”) and, though apparently nothing to with them, she hastened the demise of the Bright Young People. Furthermore, her actions affected the whole class system, causing a loss of deference amongst the “proletariat” and a scurrying back to traditional values of modesty and decorum among her own kind. Lancaster was writing 30 years after the incident, but the moral of his tale could not be clearer.

Lady Bridgett Poulett and Mrs. Charles Sweeny, Claridge’s 1938

Back at the party, Osbert was relieved to find that the Palace Gates had not, as yet, been stormed and all was as it should be.

“Once inside, however, it was not apparent that the critical barrage to which they had been subject on arrival had had any lasting effect on the spirit of the guests. As I had hoped the ilder generation represented by Harold Acton and Mrs. Armstrong-Jones were present in force, and of the current crop of debs only the most glamorous appeared to have received invitatations.”

Iconic image of Harold Acton at Oxford (by Evelyn Waugh)

Mrs. Armstrong-Jones (Anne Messel)

“It would have taken more than a few snide comments to ruffle the mask-like composure of such reigning beauties as Miss Margaret Whigham or Lady Bridget Poulet even, which seemed unlikely, had they been fully comprehended. From the garden came the strains of “Peanut Vendor” played by one of the newly-fashionable rumba bands, and half way up the stairs our hostess, glorious as some Nordic corn-goddess wearing a magnificent diamond tiara slightly on one side and presumably quite unaware of the views being expressed by the man in the street, radiated beauty and enjoyment as she received her guests.”

Margaret Whigham, Lady Bridgett Poulett and Unity Valkyrie Mitford – all in 1932

Lancaster chooses his representative and emblematic markers of the period well – in fact,with the same precision he would later bring to his cartoons. Even the mention of “Peanut Vendor” is spot-on. Smart Set favourite, Ambrose had introduced it the year before sparking a craze for frilly shirts and Latin rhythms which lasted well into the 1950s and seemed to particularly appeal to the upper-crust (Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret’s patronage of Edmondo Ros being the classic example),

Harold Acton was the uber-aesthete of the Bright Young People, outranking even Elvira’s guest Brian Howard.There are still arguments over which one was the model for “Anthony Blanche” in Brideshead. Mrs. Armstrong-Jones was the beautiful Anne Messel, without whom no Bright Young weekend was quite complete. She was the sister of Oliver Messel, innovative stage designer and talented artist and the most neglected of the Bright Young inner circle. It was he who brought together the worlds of the literary, the theatrical and the visual arts – so well represented by Elvira’s pals. He was also a neighbour and friend of Billy Milton – the man who arrived at the cocktail party a day late.

Margaret Whigham and Bridgett Poulett  are, equally,  apposite and fascinating examples of the “younger generation”. Both born in 1912, they were the most photographed and fashionable Debs of the early 30s. I don’t know whether Lancaster is making a subtle social comment in mentioning them, but the former was to eventually cause a scandal that far eclipsed even Elvira’s tribulations. Alreadya veteran of a number of affairs (including,allegedly, an early pregnancy courtesy of a young David Niven), Miss Whigham was Deb of the Year and her marriage to Charles Sweeny the following summer was one of the last “great” society weddings. Her celebrity status was confirmed by appearance in the lyrics of Cole Porter’s “You’re the Tops”.

Whigham-Sweeny Wedding

However, it was as Margaret, Duchess of Argylle in the 1960s (about the time Lancaster was penning these memoirs) that she achieved true notoriety, featuring in the infamous “Headless Man” divorce case. For some of the less than salutary details of this incident, which, incidentally, got collapsed into the Profumo scandal, see Headless Man.

Duchess of Argylle

Lady Bridgett Poulett, also did not quite fulfil the expected role, not marrying until 1948 and then to a Colombian diplomat, albeit a very wealthy and Cambridge educated one. Football historians will know Luis Robledo as the man who first instigated overseas transfers , as owner of Bogota Santa Fe he imported a number of English footballers from Stoke City and Manchester United, who found themselves in a strange climate and on wages not enjoyed by their English counterparts for at least a generation. As Lady Poulett, she is best remembered for the exotic photographs taken of her by Madame Yevonde, who also made portraits the wife of of Elvira’s close friend Terence Skeffington-Smythe.

Lady Bridget Poulett as Arethusa by Madame Yevonde

Of course, the real scandal of the evening, although as yet unrecognised, was that Diana Guinness had already embarked on her affair with Oswald Mosley which would lead to their marriage at the home of Joseph Goebbels in 1936, while the party’s raison d’etre, Unity. was about to embark on her journey to become Hitler’s most fanatical English follower.

If this was the new respectability, give me Elvira’s indiscretions every time.

Lancaster himself, with his university friend, John Betjeman, went on to forge a career sensibly defending Britain’s architectural heritage and, more problematically, portraying the Upper Class as a benign if somewhat amusing factor in English life. He also famously collaborated with Nancy Mitford and is as responsible as anyone, not least through his Daily Express cartoons, for the generally benevolent view we hold about our “social superiors”. That Elvira should seem to have been a threat to this happy state of affairs and that Osbert spotted it, speaks volumes about him and, probably, about all of us.

James Laver, Iconographer

In the context of the era of parties and excess, James Laver is remembered mainly for an extract of comic verse entitled  “The Women of 1926” . This witty and insightful summary of, at least, one aspect of the 1920s features  prominently in both Marek Kohn’s “Dope Girls” and D.J.Taylor’s’ Bright Youmg People“.The poem has just the right mixture of satirical distance and insider knowledge to simultaneously valorize and deplore its chosen target. It is a tease   – but telling and achingly evocative, nonetheless.

“Mother’s advice, and Father’s fears,
Alike are voted—just a bore.
There’s Negro music in our ears,
The world’s one huge dancing floor.
We mean to tread the Primrose Path,
In spite of Mr. Joynson-Hicks.
We’re People of the Aftermath
We’re girls of 1926.

In greedy haste, on pleasure bent,
We have no time to think, or feel
What need is there for sentiment
Now we’ve invented Sex Appeal?
We’ve silken legs and scarlet lips,
We’re young and hungry, wild and free,
Our waists are round about the hips
Our skirts are well above the knee

We’ve boyish busts and Eton crops,
We quiver to the saxophone.
Come, dance before the music stops,
And who can bear to be alone?
Come drink your gin, or sniff your ‘snow’,
Since Youth is brief, and Love has wings,
And time will tarnish, ere we know,
The brightness of the Bright Young Things.”

But James Laver wrote far more than these few lines. In fact, he was a bit of an expert when it came to affectionately sending up the Manners and Mores of the Bright Young People. Apart from the racy 1933 best-seller, Nymph Errant – turned into a musical by Cole Porterm he produced three  long verse pieces that attained cult status. A Stitch in Time (1927) Love’s Progress (1929) and Cupid’s Changeling (1933) (collected together as Ladies Mistakes 1933) were three mock-Augustan pastiches chronicling the journey of various young women through the pifalls and perils of the Modern World. Imagine Alexander Pope among the Bright Young People and you get a sense of the mood. Considered quite saucy at the time, they remain an engaging social document and are still entertaining, even though the humour is a little forced. The marvellous  illustrations by Thomas Lowinsky make them even more attractive and worth hunting down.

“Love’s Progress” is my favourite. It tells the sad tale of a young Suburbanite, Araminta, and her entanglement in the Artistic circles of Bloomsbury and Chelsea. The description of a Chelsea party and its guests conjures up the world of Olivia Wyndham or Viva King with uncanny accuracy,

The poem continues

“One girl, with more to show, wore even less,

And one young man came in a bathing dress.

Another man (though to describe him thus,

As masculine, is almost libellous)

Had shaved his eyebrows smoother than his chin

And painted more artistic eyebrows in.

One woman wore a short, divided skirt,

A black tie and a very stiff, white shirt

As if to show herself a thing apart,

And tell the world she carried in her heart

All Messalina’s wild desires, or worse,

And everything of Sappho – but her verse.

To you Fair Reader, sated as you are

With gin on tap in your own private bar,

This party would have offered nothing new,

Nor had to her, were Araminta you.

But she, poor girl, cut off from knowledge quite

Had passed her youth in grim, Suburban night;

And that instinctive preference for the best

That you by Nature, and at birth, possessed,

She knew not of, nor could she e’er have guessed

That these were what the gossip-writer calls

“All Chelsea’s smartest Intellectuals”.”

and so forth. There is more acute social observation in the hundred or so light-hearted pages that make up the trilogy than in any of the novels of the era, with the possible exception of Evelyn Waugh. More examples can be found at

Ladies’ Mistakes – Laver and Lowinsky

and for more on the illustrator see

Thomas Lowinsky

James Laver (1899-1975), who described himself as an “iconographer”,was nothing if not diverse in his interests. As a a curator and consultant at the V&A, he practically invented modern fashion history, bringing a psychological and what might be termed a “Cultural Studies” approach to the area. He was just about the first person to deem theatre design and stage sets worthy of scholarly interest and C20th Design History is deeply indebted to his pioneering efforts. He was a gifted translator of verse, an influential teacher and a useful journalist. He also contributed to the first forays into fashion and design programmes on television (both pre-war and in the 1950s). As a sideline he was an expert on the Occult and knew Aleister Crowley during the The Great Beast’s final days.

He was drawn into the world of Bohemia and all things theatrical through his marriage to the actress Veronica Turleigh.The couple lived in Piccadilly and then Chelsea. Always something of an outsider, his father was a printer and he was a “scholarship boy” at Oxford, he appears to have enjoyed slipping between different social worlds. In his autobiography “Museum Piece” he recalls, with some relish, “To my colleagues at South Kensington I had become a cigar-smoking, Savoy-supping, enviable but slightly disreputable character, hobnobbing with chorus girls and hanging round stage doors. To Gertrude Lawrence and her friends I was something ‘in a museum’, engaged in mysterious and apparently useless activities quite outside their comprehension; a character out of The Old Curiosity Shop, hardly fit to be let out alone.Perhaps unconsciously, I played up to both these delusions.”

Laver’s  classic textbook (still used by students)

He was an observer rather than a participator. He did know some of the leading Bright Young People (including Brenda Dean Paul) but he was never of that circle. However, through his novels, his satirical verse and his collaborations with the likes of Cole Porter, Oliver Messel, C.B.Cochran, Gertrude Lawrence and,even, Anna May Wong he found himself at the centre of Fashionable Modernity and to no little extent helped shape the way in which that world – in all its modes and manifestations – were perceived by the wider society.He was no moralist or political analyst but, as he himself put it, an iconographer – and often a very perceptive and playful one.

Anthea Rosemary Carew

Another of Elvira’s friends who did time in Holloway ( see  https://elvirabarney.wordpress.com/2011/12/11/medical-officers-report-on-elvira-dolores-barney/ ) was Brenda Dean Paul, whose decline into addiction received more publicity than even Elvira managed. Brenda will pop up quite often on this blog but some of the people around also deserve mention. Not the least of these is Anthea Rosemary Carew, another probable member of Elvira’s crowd.

Described by Brenda Dean Paul as her “staunchest” friend and by others as her “fast friend”, Anthea Carew was prosecuted, together with her good pal, a couple of months after the Barney trial. She had been attempting to buy cocaine from a “French Countess” for Ms Dean Paul. The details can be found in the newspaper reports below.

Two Young Women on Parole Sep 1932

Alleged Attempt to Procure Cocaine

Torn Letter in Drug Case

Brenda Dean Paul with  Anthea Carew

The first thing that struck me was the reference to “Terrence” in the letter to the “Countess”. Could this be Terence Skeffington-Smyth? I do hope so and it would make sense in all sorts of ways. (See https://elvirabarney.wordpress.com/2011/10/17/terence-skeffington-smyth/ ). I am also slightly intrigued by the strange idea that cocaine was a good way of getting through opiate withdrawal. It does serve to portray Anthea as a Good (if somewhat unorthodox) Samaritan but I am not entirely convinced.A host of other questions spring to mind. How much was “any you don’t want”? How much would £60 worth have been in 1932 – not to mention £1200?  Who was the mysterious Countess?

Anthea and Patrick Gamble as children

Anthea Rosemary Gamble (1906-1960) and her brother Patrick  ( 1905-1956) were definitely part of the young “Smart Set”. Though not rich in the way Elvira was, they enjoyed high social status due to their father being Dean of Exeter. They were Belgravia born and bred, growing up in Sloane Street. Both children seem to have embraced with some enthusiasm the freedoms and pleasures that the twenties offered them..

Patrick hosted one of the early “Blackbirds” parties in Mayfair, for the all-black cast of the stage show that had such an impact on the Bright Young People. It may have been at this gathering that Brenda Dean Paul became enamoured of the idea of being a “coloured dancer” and suggests she was already a friend of the Anthea’s, who would have been there also.

Florence Mills and Blackbirds Chorus, London Pavilion Sep 1926

Patrick was a friend of Matthew Ponsonby, brother of the incorrigible Elizabeth, who was to become close to many of Elvira’s circle – Hugh Wade especially. Evelyn Waugh’s diaries describe his dining with Matthew and Patrick (Matthew is the real-life source of the “drunk and disorderly” car episode in Brideshead Revisited). They also record his misgivings about attending the wedding, in 1928, of Anthea to Dudley Carew.

Anthea, variously  described as “lovely” and “beautiful”, married the cricket-writer and novelist Dudley Charles Carew at Exeter.The marriage was not a success. Carew wrote many years later, “My whole whirlwind affair with Anthea, culminating in my engagement, had an air of unreality about it”. He compared their incompatibility and the marriage to Waugh’s own short-lived relationship with Evelyn Gardner but added that ” Evelyn’s lacked the touches of fantastic extravaganza that illuminated my own (to Anthea Gamble). Fantastic is the right word, and that element was heightened by a liberal attitude to alcohol”. The couple divorced in 1933 but had lived separate lives for some time before that.

He-Evelyn, She-Evelyn

Dudley Carew was an odd-character. A gifted writer on cricket, his “To The Wicket” is one of the finest works on the county game. It is also a nostalgic tribute to the inter-war years and includes a spirited defence of the , by 1946 almost universally despised, Bright Young People. His novels and poetry have lasted less well. He was at Lancing with Waugh and hero-worshipped him all his life. Waugh however, although spending much of the 1920s in his company, was at best patronising and later on completely dismissive of his acolyte. Carew, though hurt, continued to be a loyal advocate, going so far as to deny rumours of Waugh’s youthful homosexual escapades and even ridiculing suggestions of homosexuality at Lancing (where Tom Driberg was a prefect!).

Whether he was the “Mr.Carew” who ended the evening with Brian Howard and Plunket-Greene on the night of the shooting, I can’t be sure but it is more than possible. Whether he was in anyway related to the “Philip Carew” who died after a cocaine binge at a Chelsea party that Elvira attended shortly before that event, I cannot say as the incident, mentioned by Peter Cotes, has so far proved impossible to verify.

Anthea, in the meantime, like so many of Elvira’s friends was a young married woman with no husband in any real sense, and hence free to enjoy the party circuit. She and Brenda Dean Paul became closer and, although she undoubtedly indulged in her share of excesses. does appear to have done her best to look after her self-destructive friend. Her fine and the conditions of her probation, sent to Mowbray House under strict supervision, suggests that the court had no doubt that by 1932 Anthea also had a drug-problem. One Gamble who certainly did have was Gertrude, whose suicide in August 1932 after spending time with Elvira in France is one of the oddest aspects of the whole case. She was not, however, related, as far as I can tell.

Patrick Gamble married Basil Dean’s ex-wife, Lady Mercy Greville, in 1936 – but that too did not last. By the late 1930s both Patrick and Anthea had faded from public view and I can find no post-war references to either.

I will leave the puzzle of the Countess and the presence in court of the rather dubious Dr. Frederick Stuart to a later post.

Washington Hotel

Finally, it is perhaps worth noting that at the time of her arrest Anthea Carew was living at the impressive Art Nouveau styled hotel the Washington, Curzon Street, Mayfair. This hardly yells out poverty to me. For more pictures and information on this impressive building, still a hotel, see  http://www.victorianweb.org/art/architecture/commercial/22.html