Aldous huxley

Nymphomaniac, fearless campaigner, alcoholic – Nancy Cunard was all this and more

The title of Anne de Courcy’s riveting new book might give the impression that Nancy Cunard had no more than five lovers. In fact she had many, many more. Born in 1896, Nancy was the only child of fantastically ill-matched parents. Her mother, Maud – she later changed her name to Emerald – was an American heiress and socialite. Her father, Sir Bache Cunard, was a fox-hunting squire busily engaged in spending the fortune he inherited as the grandson of the founder of the shipping line. Maud neglected Nancy, leaving her in the charge of an odious governess. The only person who had any time for the lonely little girl

Driven to distraction — the unhappy life of Vivien Eliot

Do you think your mother slept with T.S. Eliot? That was the question I needed to ask the 98-year-old in front of me. It wasn’t easy. I’d never met him before. After some preliminary chat, though, I realised this affable man knew exactly where our conversation was heading and had pondered the question a good deal himself. The barrister Jeremy Hutchinson — Baron Hutchinson of Lullington — was the son of Mary Hutchinson, Eliot’s close friend. Infatuated with the poet for a time, she had met ‘Tom’ and his wife Vivien before Vivien’s adultery with Bertrand Russell, and some years before the publication of The Waste Land in 1922. When

Sybille Bedford — a gifted writer but a monstrous snob

Sybille Bedford died in 2006, just short of 95. She left four novels, a travel book, two volumes of legal process and a memoir. Selina Hastings has written a wonderful biography, with lashings of lesbian lovers, which provides a soundtrack to one version of the 20th century. Born German in 1911, Bedford grew up in a schloss in Baden’s Feldkirch, near the French border, her father a Bavarian Catholic baron and old soldier, her mother a beautiful and unstable bolter. ‘Her childhood,’ writes Hastings, whose previous books include lives of Nancy Mitford, Somerset Maugham and Evelyn Waugh, ‘was both intellectually inspirational and… emotionally deprived.’ Both parents were wealthy. Short and