In the 1920s and 1930s Byam Shaw was a successful actor, both in romantic leads and in character parts. He worked frequently with his old friend John Gielgud. After working as co-director with Gielgud at the end of the 1930s, he preferred to direct rather than act. He served in the armed forces during the Second World War, and then took leading directorial posts at the Old Vic, the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre and Sadler's Wells (later known as the English National Opera).
Byam Shaw was born in London, the youngest of five siblings (four sons and one daughter) born to artist John Byam Liston Shaw and his wife, Caroline Evelyn Eunice Pyke-Nott (1870–1959), also an artist. He was educated at Westminster School, where his contemporaries included his elder brother, James Byam Shaw, later a well-known art historian, and John Gielgud, who became a lifelong friend and professional colleague.
The actor Michael Denison, biographer of Byam Shaw in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography writes that Byam Shaw made his professional stage debut in August 1923 with no prior training. Denison speculates that Byam Shaw's cousin, actress May Ward, a close friend of Dame Ellen Terry, "may have been enough to make him take the plunge". The Times said of him, "Tall, gentle, and graceful in movement, he was valuable in any cast, particularly in classics and in the Russian plays."
Binkie Beaumont, Angela Baddeley and (George) Emlyn Williams by Angus McBean, bromide print, 1947, 15 in. x 11 3/4 in. (380 mm x 297 mm), Purchased, 1977, Primary Collection, NPG P59, Angus McBean Photograph. © Harvard Theatre Collection, Harvard University.
Glen Byam Shaw was an English actor and theatre director. Actress Constance Collier introduced him to Ivor Novello, then a leading figure in London theatre. This drew him into contact with the poet Siegfried Sassoon; he and Byam Shaw became close. Their friendship lasted for the rest of Sassoon's life, although they ceased to be partners quite quickly; Sassoon became involved with Stephen Tennant, and Byam Shaw fell in love with an actress, Angela Baddeley. Their 1929 marriage, which lasted until her death in 1976, was 2a supremely happy one, both domestically and professionally”.
Angela Baddeley by Bassano Ltd, whole-plate glass negative, 27 February 1922, Given by Bassano & Vandyk Studios, 1974, Photographs Collection, NPG x19100
Byam Shaw's first appearance was at Torquay in the west of England, in C. K. Munro's comedy At Mrs. Beam's. In 1925 he made his London debut, playing Yasha in J.B. Fagan's production of The Cherry Orchard, in a cast that included Alan Napier as Gaiev, O.B. Clarence as Firs and Gielgud as the young student Trofimov. Over the next few years Byam Shaw appeared in three more plays by Chekhov, and in plays by Strindberg and Ibsen. He made his New York debut in November 1927 as Pelham Humphrey in And So To Bed.
Actress Constance Collier was impressed by Byam Shaw and used her influence to gain him roles. Among those to whom she introduced him was Ivor Novello, then a leading figure in London theatre. She directed them both in the play Down Hill in 1926. This drew him into contact with the poet Siegfried Sassoon, a friend of Collier; he and Byam Shaw became close. Their friendship lasted for the rest of Sassoon's life, although they ceased to be partners quite quickly; Sassoon became involved with Stephen Tennant, and Byam Shaw fell in love with an actress, Angela Baddeley. They married in 1929. The marriage, which lasted until her death in 1976, was, Denison writes, "a supremely happy one, both domestically and professionally"; the couple had a son and a daughter (Juliet Shaw b. c 1934).
Byam Shaw and Baddeley toured together in South Africa in 1931, in a repertory of three plays. The following year, Byam Shaw appeared at the Lyceum in Max Reinhardt's mime play The Miracle, with Lady Diana Cooper as the Madonna, Tilly Losch as the nun and Leonid Massine as the Spielmann. In 1933, Byam Shaw took over from Gielgud as Richard II in the long-running play Richard of Bordeaux by 'Gordon Daviot' (Josephine Tey); the following year he played Darnley in another historical play by the same author, Queen of Scots, opposite Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies and Laurence Olivier, directed by Gielgud.
Byam Shaw continued to work with Gielgud, playing Laertes to his Hamlet in 1934, and Benvolio in the celebrated 1935 Old Vic production of Romeo and Juliet with Peggy Ashcroft as Juliet and Gielgud and Olivier alternating the roles of Romeo and Mercutio. During that Old Vic season, Gielgud invited Byam Shaw to join him in directing Richard II for the Oxford University Dramatic Society. Denison, who was in the cast, describes Byam Shaw as "stimulating, firm, and courteous to his undergraduate cast". Byam Shaw enjoyed the experience of directing, and never having especially enjoyed acting he turned gladly to direction.
Gielgud engaged Byam Shaw to direct Dodie Smith's Dear Octopus in 1938 with a cast including Gielgud, Marie Tempest, Kate Cutler and Baddeley. Byam Shaw concluded his acting career in the late 1930s in roles including D'Arcy in a dramatisation of Pride and Prejudice, character parts in The Merchant of Venice and Richard II, and Sir Benjamin Backbite in The School for Scandal. After appearing in Michel Saint-Denis's short season at the Phoenix Theatre in 1938, his final role was Horatio to Gielgud's Hamlet, both in London and at Elsinore Castle.
As the Second World War loomed, Byam Shaw joined the emergency reserve of officers. In 1940 he was commissioned into the Royal Scots. He served in Burma from 1942 and was wounded. He ended his military service in 1945 as a major, making training films in India. While in Burma Byam Shaw conceived a production of Antony and Cleopatra dressed in the costumes of Shakespeare's time, rather than those of Ancient Rome and Egypt. On his return to civilian life, he directed it at the Piccadilly Theatre in 1946, with Godfrey Tearle and Edith Evans. The Manchester Guardian called his production "a very adroit and finished piece of work."
Between 1947–51 Byam Shaw was the director of the Old Vic Theatre School, part of the Old Vic Theatre Centre run by Michel Saint-Denis which also included the Young Vic run by George Devine. Denison writes "Despite much success in all fields the three partners fell foul of the Vic governors and of the theatre's top-heavy and largely hostile administration". The same board had earlier dismissed Ralph Richardson and Laurence Olivier as heads of the Old Vic company, and now lost another leading team when Saint-Denis, Devine and Byan Shaw resigned in 1951.
From 1952–59 Byam Shaw was director of the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, first as co-director with Anthony Quayle, and in sole charge from 1956–59. He was appointed CBE in 1954. He directed 14 plays at Stratford; Denison singles out Antony and Cleopatra with Michael Redgrave and Ashcroft, Macbeth with Olivier and Vivien Leigh, As You Like It with Ashcroft,Othello with Harry Andrews and Emlyn Williams, and King Lear with Charles Laughton and Albert Finney. Before the 1950s, Stratford seasons had been widely regarded as worthy but unexciting. Under Quayle and Byam Shaw Stratford became one of the principal centres of British theatre, attracting the leading directors such as Gielgud, Peter Hall and Peter Brook. In 1959, he handed over to Hall, whom he had chosen as his successor.
In 1962, despite describing himself as tone deaf, Byam Shaw accepted the post of director of productions at Sadler's Wells Opera. He worked closely with the company's managing director, Norman Tucker, and musical director, Colin Davis. Tucker's successor, Lord Harewood, recalled "a series of striking productions, including The Rake's Progress, Così fan tutte, Der Freischütz and A Masked Ball … a notable elegant and witty Die Fledermaus, Hansel and Gretel … and Gluck's Orpheus."
Byam Shaw's most celebrated opera productions were in collaboration with the conductor Reginald Goodall, first The Mastersingers, the company's last major production at Sadler's Wells Theatre, and, after its move to the London Coliseum in 1968, the four operas of Wagner's Ring cycle, in which Byam Shaw's co-director was his former assistant John Blatchley. Byam Shaw's last collaboration with Goodall was Tristan and Isolde in 1981.
Glen Byam Shaw died in Goring-on-Thames at the age of 81, survived by his children and extended family.
Angela Baddeley was born on 4 July 1904 in West Ham, London, England as Madeline Angela Clinton-Baddeley. She was the daughter of William Herman Clinton-Baddeley. She married, firstly, Stephen Keer Thomas (director) in 1921. She and Stephen Keer Thomas were divorced. She married, secondly, Glen Byam Shaw, son of J. Byan Shaw, on 9 July 1929 at Kensington Registry Office, Kensington, London, England. She died on 22 February 1976 at age 71. She was an actress. From 9 July 1929, her married name became Shaw. She was invested as a Commander, Order of the British Empire (C.B.E.) in 1975. She was an actress, best known as the often irritable cook from the long-running television series, Upstairs, Downstairs (1971). Started her theatrical acting career at the age of eleven at the Old Vic in "Richard III", playing the juvenile "Duke of York". Toured with the Shakespeare Memorial Company in "Romeo and Juliet" in 1958.
Can be seen playing Mistress Quickly with her sister Hermione Baddeley as Doll Tearsheet in Henry IV (episode 3) in the DVD box "An Age of Kings - the History Plays of William Shakespeare". She died on February 22, 1976 in Grayshott, Hampshire, England, UK (pneumonia). Interred at St Mary's Church in Wargrave, Berkshire, beside Glen Byam Shaw. Older sister of Hermione Baddeley. Cousin of actor Dennis Clinton.
Siegfried Loraine Sassoon CBE MC (8 September 1886 – 1 September 1967) was an English poet, author and soldier. Decorated for bravery on the Western Front, he became one of the leading poets of the First World War. His poetry both described the horrors of the trenches, and satirised the patriotic pretensions of those who, in Sassoon's view, were responsible for a pointless war. He later won acclaim for his prose work, notably his three-volume fictionalised autobiography, collectively known as the "Sherston Trilogy". (P: ©William Edward Gray (1864-1935), after Glyn Philpot (1884-1937)/NPG D40553. Siegfried Loraine Sassoon, 1917 (©4))
Siegfried Sassoon was born and grew up in the neo-gothic mansion "Weirleigh", in Matfield, Kent, to a Jewish father and an Anglo-Catholic mother. His father, Alfred Ezra Sassoon (1861–1895), son of Sassoon David Sassoon, was a member of the wealthy Baghdadi Sephardic Jewish Sassoon merchant family. For marrying outside the faith he was disinherited. His mother, Theresa, belonged to the Thornycroft family, sculptors responsible for many of the best-known statues in London—her brother was Sir Hamo Thornycroft. There was no German ancestry in Siegfried's family; his mother named him Siegfried because of her love of Wagner's operas. His middle name, Loraine, was the surname of a clergyman with whom she was friendly.
Sassoon was the second of three sons, the others being Michael and Hamo. When he was four years old his parents separated. During his father's weekly visits to the boys, Theresa locked herself in the drawing room. In 1895 Alfred Sassoon died of tuberculosis.
During the 1920s and 1930s, Stephen Tennant had a sexual affair with the poet Siegfried Sassoon. His relationship with Sassoon was to be his most important: it lasted some four years before Tennant off-handedly put an abrupt end to it. Sassoon was reportedly depressed afterwards for three months, until Sassoon married in 1933 and became a father in 1936. Seigfried Sassoon died one week before his 81st birthday in 1967. When Tennant died in 1987, he had far outlived most of his contemporaries.
Sassoon was educated at The New Beacon Preparatory School, Sevenoaks, Kent; at Marlborough College, Marlborough, Wiltshire (where he was a member of Cotton House), and at Clare College, Cambridge, where from 1905 to 1907 he read history. He went down from Cambridge without a degree and spent the next few years hunting, playing cricket and writing verse: some he published privately. Since his father had been disinherited from the Sassoon fortune for marrying a non-Jew, Siegfried had only a small private fortune that allowed him to live modestly without having to earn a living (however, he would later be left a generous legacy by an aunt, Rachel Beer, allowing him to buy the great estate of Heytesbury House in Wiltshire). His first published success, The Daffodil Murderer (1913), was a parody of John Masefield's The Everlasting Mercy. Robert Graves, in Good-Bye to All That describes it as a "parody of Masefield which, midway through, had forgotten to be a parody and turned into rather good Masefield."
Sassoon expressed his opinions on the political situation before the onset of the First World War—"France was a lady, Russia was a bear, and performing in the county cricket team was much more important than either of them". Sassoon wanted to play for Kent County Cricket Club; Kent Captain Frank Marchant was a neighbour of Sassoon. Siegfried often turned out for Bluehouses at the Nevill Ground, where he sometimes played alongside Arthur Conan Doyle. He also played cricket for his house at Marlborough College, once taking 7 wickets for 18 runs. Although an enthusiast, Sassoon was not good enough to play for Kent, but he played cricket for Matfield, and later for the Downside Abbey team, continuing into his seventies.
Motivated by patriotism, Sassoon joined the British Army just as the threat of World War I was realised, and was in service with the Sussex Yeomanry on the day the United Kingdom declared war (4 August 1914). He broke his arm badly in a riding accident and was put out of action before even leaving England, spending the spring of 1915 convalescing. At around this time his younger brother Hamo was killed in the Gallipoli Campaign. (Rupert Brooke, whom Siegfried had briefly met, died on the way there.) Hamo's death hit Siegfried very hard. He was commissioned into 3rd Battalion (Special Reserve), Royal Welch Fusiliers as a second lieutenant on 29 May 1915, and in November was sent to the 1st Battalion in France. There he met Robert Graves and they became close friends. United by their poetic vocation, they often read and discussed one another's work. Though this did not have much perceptible influence on Graves's poetry, his views on what may be called 'gritty realism' profoundly affected Sassoon's concept of what constituted poetry. He soon became horrified by the realities of war, and the tone of his writing changed completely: where his early poems exhibit a Romantic, dilettantish sweetness, his war poetry moves to an increasingly discordant music, intended to convey the ugly truths of the trenches to an audience hitherto lulled by patriotic propaganda. Details such as rotting corpses, mangled limbs, filth, cowardice and suicide are all trademarks of his work at this time, and this philosophy of 'no truth unfitting' had a significant effect on the movement towards Modernist poetry.
Sassoon's periods of duty on the Western Front were marked by exceptionally brave actions, including the single-handed, but vainglorious, capture of a German trench in the Hindenburg Line. Armed with grenades he scattered 60 German soldiers:
He went over with bombs in daylight, under covering fire from a couple of rifles, and scared away the occupants. A pointless feat, since instead of signalling for reinforcements, he sat down in the German trench and began reading a book of poems which he had brought with him. When he went back he did not even report. Colonel Stockwell, then in command, raged at him. The attack on Mametz wood had been delayed for two hours because British patrols were still reported to be out. 'British patrols' were Siegfried and his book of poems. 'I'd have got you a D.S.O., if you'd only shown more sense,' stormed Stockwell.Sassoon's bravery was inspiring to the extent that soldiers of his company said that they felt confident only when they were accompanied by him. He often went out on night-raids and bombing patrols and demonstrated ruthless efficiency as a company commander. Deepening depression at the horror and misery the soldiers were forced to endure produced in Sassoon a paradoxically manic courage, and he was nicknamed "Mad Jack" by his men for his near-suicidal exploits. On 27 July 1916 he was awarded the Military Cross; the citation read:
2nd Lt. Siegfried Lorraine [sic] Sassoon, 3rd (attd. 1st) Bn., R. W. Fus. For conspicuous gallantry during a raid on the enemy's trenches. He remained for 1½ hours under rifle and bomb fire collecting and bringing in our wounded. Owing to his courage and determination all the killed and wounded were brought in.Robert Graves described Sassoon as engaging in suicidal feats of bravery. Sassoon was also later (unsuccessfully) recommended for the Victoria Cross.
Despite his decoration and reputation, he decided in 1917 to make a stand against the conduct of the war. One of the reasons for his violent anti-war feeling was the death of his friend, David Cuthbert Thomas (called "Dick Tiltwood" in the Sherston trilogy). He would spend years trying to overcome his grief.
At the end of a spell of convalescent leave, Sassoon declined to return to duty; instead, encouraged by pacifist friends such as Bertrand Russell and Lady Ottoline Morrell, he sent a letter to his commanding officer, titled Finished with the War: A Soldier’s Declaration. Forwarded to the press and read out in Parliament by a sympathetic MP, the letter was seen by some as treasonous ("I am making this statement as an act of wilful defiance of military authority") or at best condemnatory of the war government's motives ("I believe that the war upon which I entered as a war of defence and liberation has now become a war of aggression and conquest"). Rather than court-martial Sassoon, the Under-Secretary of State for War, Ian Macpherson decided that he was unfit for service and had him sent to Craiglockhart War Hospital near Edinburgh, where he was officially treated for neurasthenia ("shell shock"). Before declining to return to active service he had thrown the ribbon from his Military Cross into the river Mersey.
The novel Regeneration, by Pat Barker, is a fictionalised account of this period in Sassoon's life, and was made into a film starring James Wilby as Sassoon and Jonathan Pryce as W. H. R. Rivers, the psychiatrist responsible for Sassoon's treatment. Rivers became a kind of surrogate father to the troubled young man, and his sudden death in 1922 was a major blow to Sassoon.
At Craiglockhart, Sassoon met Wilfred Owen, a fellow poet who would eventually exceed him in fame. It was thanks to Sassoon that Owen persevered in his ambition to write better poetry. A manuscript copy of Owen's Anthem for Doomed Youth containing Sassoon's handwritten amendments survives as testimony to the extent of his influence and is currently on display at London's Imperial War Museum. To all intents and purposes, Sassoon became to Owen "Keats and Christ and Elijah"; surviving documents demonstrate clearly the depth of Owen's love and admiration for him. Both men returned to active service in France, but Owen was killed in 1918. Sassoon, despite all this, was promoted to lieutenant, and having spent some time out of danger in Palestine, eventually returned to the Front. On 13 July 1918, Sassoon was almost immediately wounded again—by friendly fire after he was shot in the head by a fellow British soldier who had mistaken him for a German near Arras, France. As a result, he spent the remainder of the war in Britain. By this time he had been promoted acting captain. He relinquished his commission on health grounds on 12 March 1919, but was allowed to retain the rank of captain. After the war, Sassoon was instrumental in bringing Owen's work to the attention of a wider audience. Their friendship is the subject of Stephen MacDonald's play, Not About Heroes.
The war had brought Sassoon into contact with men from less advantaged backgrounds, and he had developed socialist sympathies. Having lived for a period at Oxford, where he spent more time visiting literary friends than studying, he dabbled briefly in the politics of the Labour movement, and in 1919 took up a post as literary editor of the socialist Daily Herald. During his period at the Herald, Sassoon was responsible for employing several eminent names as reviewers, including E. M. Forster and Charlotte Mew, and commissioned original material from "names" like Arnold Bennett and Osbert Sitwell. His artistic interests extended to music. While at Oxford he was introduced to the young William Walton, whose friend and patron he became. Walton later dedicated his Portsmouth Point overture to Sassoon in recognition of his financial assistance and moral support.
Sassoon later embarked on a lecture tour of the USA, as well as travelling in Europe and throughout Britain. He acquired a car, a gift from the publisher Frankie Schuster, and became renowned among his friends for his lack of driving skill, but this did not prevent him making full use of the mobility it gave him.
Meanwhile, he was beginning to express his homosexuality more openly, embarking on an affair with artist Gabriel Atkin, to whom he had been introduced by mutual friends. During his US tour, he met a young actor who treated him callously. Nevertheless, he was adored by female audiences, including one at Vassar College.
Sassoon was a great admirer of the Welsh poet Henry Vaughan. On a visit to Wales in 1923, he paid a pilgrimage to Vaughan's grave at Llansanffraid, Powys, and there wrote one of his best-known peacetime poems, At the Grave of Henry Vaughan. The deaths of three of his closest friends, Edmund Gosse, Thomas Hardy and Frankie Schuster (the publisher), within a short space of time, came as another serious setback to his personal happiness.
At the same time, Sassoon was preparing to take a new direction. While in America, he had experimented with a novel. In 1928, he branched out into prose, with Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man, the anonymously-published first volume of a fictionalised autobiography, which was almost immediately accepted as a classic, bringing its author new fame as a humorous writer. The book won the 1928 James Tait Black Award for fiction. Sassoon followed it with Memoirs of an Infantry Officer (1930) and Sherston's Progress (1936). In later years, he revisited his youth and early manhood with three volumes of genuine autobiography, which were also widely acclaimed. These were The Old Century, The Weald of Youth and Siegfried's Journey.
Sassoon, having matured greatly as a result of his military service, continued to seek emotional fulfilment, initially in a succession of love affairs with men, including the actor Ivor Novello; Novello's former lover, the actor Glen Byam Shaw; German aristocrat Prince Philipp of Hesse; the writer Beverley Nichols; and an effete aristocrat, the Hon. Stephen Tennant. Only the last of these made a permanent impression, though Shaw remained his close friend throughout his life. In September 1931, Sassoon rented and began to live at Fitz House, Teffont Magna, Wiltshire. In December 1933, to many people's surprise, he married Hester Gatty, who was many years his junior; this led to the birth of a child, something which he had long craved. This child, their only child, George (1936–2006) became a scientist, linguist and author, and was adored by Siegfried, who wrote several poems addressed to him. However, the marriage broke down after World War II, Sassoon apparently unable to find a compromise between the solitude he enjoyed and the companionship he craved.
Separated from his wife in 1945, Sassoon lived in seclusion at Heytesbury in Wiltshire, although he maintained contact with a circle which included E. M. Forster and J. R. Ackerley. One of his closest friends was the young cricketer Dennis Silk. He formed a close friendship with Vivien Hancock, headmistress of Greenways School at Ashton Gifford, which his son George attended. The relationship provoked Hester to make some strong accusations against Vivien Hancock, who responded with the threat of legal action. Sassoon was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 1951 New Year Honours. Towards the end of his life, he converted to Roman Catholicism, and was admitted to the faith at Downside Abbey, close to his home. He also paid regular visits to the nuns at Stanbrook Abbey, and the abbey press printed commemorative editions of some of his poems. During this time he also became interested in the supernatural, and joined the Ghost Club.
Seigfried Sassoon died one week before his 81st birthday of stomach cancer, and is buried at St Andrew's Church, Mells, Somerset, close to Ronald Knox, a Roman Catholic priest and writer whom he admired.
On 11 November 1985, Sassoon was among sixteen Great War poets commemorated on a slate stone unveiled in Westminster Abbey's Poet's Corner. The inscription on the stone was written by friend and fellow War poet Wilfred Owen. It reads: "My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity."
Siegfried Sassoon's only child, George Sassoon, died of cancer in 2006. George had three children, two of whom were killed in a car crash in 1996. His daughter by his first marriage, Kendall Sassoon, has two children of her own with her boyfriend, Stewart Reeves. They are Oliver Thornycroft Reeves-Sassoon and Logan Thea Reeves-Sassoon. Kendall is Patron-in-Chief of the Siegfried Sassoon Fellowship, and a Lady Associate Royal Welch Fusilier.
In May 2007 Sassoon's Military Cross was put up for sale by his family. It was bought by the Royal Welch Fusiliers for display at their museum in Caernarfon.
In June 2009, the University of Cambridge announced plans to purchase a valuable archive of Sassoon's papers from his family. The intention is to add these to the university library's existing Sassoon collection. On 4 November 2009 it was reported that this purchase would be supported by £550,000 from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, meaning that the University still needed to raise a further £110,000 on top of the money already received in order to meet the full £1.25 million asking price. The funds were successfully raised, and in December 2009 it was announced that the University had received the papers. Included in the collection are war diaries kept by Sassoon while he served on the Western Front and in Palestine, a draft of "A Soldier’s Declaration" (1917), notebooks from his schooldays, and post-war journals. Other items in the collection include love letters to his wife Hester, and photographs and letters from other writers. Sassoon was an undergraduate at the university, as well as being made an honorary fellow of Clare College, and the collection will be housed at the Cambridge University Library. As well as private individuals, funding came from the Monument Trust, the JP Getty Jr Trust, and Sir Siegmund Warburg's Voluntary Settlement.
In 2010, Dream Voices: Siegfried Sassoon, Memory and War, a major exhibition of Sassoon's life and archive, was held at Cambridge University.
Several of Sassoon's poems have been set to music, some during his lifetime, notably by Cyril Rootham.
Stephen James Napier Tennant (21 April 1906 – 28 February 1987) was a British aristocrat known for his decadent lifestyle. It is said, albeit apocryphally, that he spent most of his life in bed. (P: ©Foulsham & Banfield/NPG x132862. Stephen Tennant, ca. 1920s (©19))
He was born in England, the youngest son of a Scots peer, Edward Priaulx Tennant, 1st Baron Glenconner, and the former Pamela Wyndham, one of the Wyndham sisters and of The Souls clique. His mother was also a cousin of Lord Alfred Douglas (1870–1945), Oscar Wilde's lover and a sonneteer. On his father's death, Tennant's mother married Lord Grey, a fellow bird-lover. Tennant's eldest brother was Edward - "Bim" - who was killed in the First World War.
During the 20s and 30s, Tennant was an important member - the "Brightest", it is said - of the "Bright Young People." His friends included Rex Whistler, Cecil Beaton, the Sitwells, Lady Diana Manners and the Mitford girls – part of the set that made the Nordstrom Sisters popular at The Ritz in 1939. He is widely considered to be the model for Cedric Hampton in Nancy Mitford's novel Love in a Cold Climate; one of the inspirations for Lord Sebastian Flyte in Waugh's Brideshead Revisited, and a model for Hon. Miles Malpractice in some of his other novels.
For most of his life, Tennant tried to start or finish a novel - Lascar. It is popularly believed that he spent the last 17 years of his life in bed at his family manor at Wilsford, Wiltshire, which he had redecorated by Syrie Maugham. Though undoubtedly idle, he was not truly lethargic: he made several visits to the United States and Italy, and struck up many new friendships, despite his later reputation as a recluse. This became increasingly true only towards the last years of his life. Yet even then, his life was not uneventful: he became landlord to V. S. Naipaul who immortalised Tennant in his novel The Enigma of Arrival.
During the 1920s and 1930s, Tennant had a sexual affair with the poet Siegfried Sassoon. Prior to this he had proposed to a friend, Elizabeth Lowndes, but had been rejected. (Hoare relates how Tennant discussed plans with Lowndes about bringing his Nanny with them on their honeymoon.) His relationship with Sassoon, however, was to be his most important: it lasted some four years before Tennant off-handedly put an abrupt end to it. Sassoon was reportedly depressed afterwards for three months, until Sassoon married in 1933 and became a father in 1936. When Tennant died in 1987, he had far outlived most of his contemporaries.
Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time by Elisa Rolle
Paperback: 760 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (July 1, 2014)
CreateSpace Store: https://www.createspace.com/4910282
Amazon (Paperback): http://www.amazon.com/dp/1500563323/?tag=e
Amazon (Kindle): http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MZG0VHY/?tag=e
Days of Love chronicles more than 700 LGBT couples throughout history, spanning 2000 years from Alexander the Great to the most recent winner of a Lambda Literary Award. Many of the contemporary couples share their stories on how they met and fell in love, as well as photos from when they married or of their families. Included are professional portraits by Robert Giard and Stathis Orphanos, paintings by John Singer Sargent and Giovanni Boldini, and photographs by Frances Benjamin Johnson, Arnold Genthe, and Carl Van Vechten among others. “It's wonderful. Laying it out chronologically is inspired, offering a solid GLBT history. I kept learning things. I love the decision to include couples broken by death. It makes clear how important love is, as well as showing what people have been through. The layout and photos look terrific.” Christopher Bram “I couldn’t resist clicking through every page. I never realized the scope of the book would cover centuries! I know that it will be hugely validating to young, newly-emerging LGBT kids and be reassured that they really can have a secure, respected place in the world as their futures unfold.” Howard Cruse “This international history-and-photo book, featuring 100s of detailed bios of some of the most forward-moving gay persons in history, is sure to be one of those bestsellers that gay folk will enjoy for years to come as reference and research that is filled with facts and fun.” Jack Fritscher
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