elisa_rolle (elisa_rolle) wrote,

Denton Welch & Eric Oliver

Maurice Denton Welch (March 29, 1915 - December 30, 1948) was born in Shanghai, to Arthur Joseph Welch, whose parents were English, and Rosalind Basset, whose family was originally from New Bedford, Massachusetts. Denton Welch was the youngest of four boys and spent his early childhood in Shanghai, with many visits to England. (Picture: Denton Welch, Self-portrait)

In 1924, Welch was enrolled in a school in Kensington, and then in 1926-1929 he attended St. Michael's, a preparatory school in Uckfield, Sussex. While he was in school, his mother, with whom he was especially close, died in Shanghai during March of 1927; this event had a profound effect on her son. In 1929 Welch started attending school at Repton in Derbyshire. Welch started at the Goldsmith School of Art in New Cross in 1933, where he studied for three years; among his teachers was the printmaker and graphic designer Edward Bawden. At first he lived in a house where his brother Bill was also rooming, and then he moved into a house near Greenwich Park where the landlady was Evelyn Sinclair, who became a close lifelong friend.

On June 7, 1935, Welch was traveling by bicycle to go visit his aunt, when he was hit by a car. His spine was fractured, and for a few months he was paralyzed from the chest down. He was able to learn to walk again, but with difficulty. For the rest of his life he had kidney and bladder infections, which would cause frequent severe headaches. After the accident, Welch first spent time at National Hospital, and then in the Southcourt Nursing Home in Broadstairs, Kent. When he left the nursing home July 1936, Welch rented an apartment with Evelyn Sinclair in Tonbridge in order that he could be close to his doctor, John Easton. He met his companion, Eric Oliver, in November 1943 while he was convalescing. Sinclair remained with Welch as his housekeeper at his different residences until May 1946, two months after Welch and his partner Eric Oliver moved to Middle Orchard, the country house of Noël and Bernard Adeney at Crouch, near Borough Green, Kent. However, Sinclair returned to Middle Orchard in July 1948 to assist Welch until his death. (Picture: Denton Welch, Cat Waiting For Its Master, ca. 1935–1948, Watercolor, pen, and ink on board, 13 5/8 x 9 1/16" (34.6 x 23 cm))

Denton Welch, portrait by Gerald McKenzie Leet, 1935
When Denton Welch left the nursing home in July 1936, after recovering from an accident knjury, he rented an apartment with Evelyn Sinclair in Tonbridge. He met his companion, Eric Oliver, in November 1943 while he was convalescing. Sinclair remained with Welch as his housekeeper at his different residences until May 1946, two months after Welch and his partner Eric Oliver moved to Borough Green, Kent. However, Sinclair returned to Middle Orchard in July 1948 to assist Welch until his death.

The Coffin House, 1946, Watercolor and ink on paper, 14 1/4 x 19 3/4 inches, Collection of Eric Brown, New York

Denton Welch restoring the Doll's House. His magnificent restored 18th century dolls' house is on display at the Victoria & Albert Museum of Childhood in London

This house is named after Denton Welch (1915-1948) who was a famous artist and writer. He was seriously injured in 1935 and it was during his convalescence that he put his artistic talents to good use restoring this house which had been stored in a friend's cellar. The house was in very bad condition. He found the date when it had been made, 1783, by the kitchen fireplace under a layer of paint together with the initials M.J.D. Despite the neglect suffered, the house had retained many of its original features, in particular the mantlepieces in each room and the perfect moulded cornices and door frames, the doors themselves being two panelled. Underneath the many layers of paint Denton Welch found the small red bricks which were originally painted on the house. He was probably responsible for decorating the fanlight which was usually painted or left plain in houses of the period. The stairs are made of oak with replacement balusters. As with most 18th century houses the central panel is fixed, with a door opening on each side. The house also has a pediment and balustrade running along the top, both typical of the period.

By the Sea, Detail

By the Sea, Detal

Harvest, 1940, Tate Collection

Welch continued to paint and draw after his accident. In 1941 the Leicester Galleries in London first exhibited some of his paintings, and continued over the next few years to include his paintings in their exhibits. The Leger Gallery and Redfern Gallery, both in London, also exhibited his works. Welch began writing in 1940, and some of his poems appeared in minor publications in 1941. In 1942, after the death of the painter Walter Sickert, Welch's article "Sickert at St. Peter's" (an amusing account of his having tea with Sickert shortly before Welch left the nursing home in Broadstairs) was published by Cyril Connolly in the August Horizon. Welch received a letter of praise from Edith Sitwell. Soon after, Herbert Read, editor at Routledge, accepted Welch's manuscript for "Maiden Voyage", and Dame Edith offered to write the foreword; she also wrote a review for the book. With her support, Maiden Voyage sold out before its May 1943 publication. The book received enthusiastic reviews, and Welch began writing In Youth Is Pleasure, which was published in February 1945. He also wrote several short stories, and in the fall of 1945, as his health was worsening, Welch resumed his work on A Voice Through a Cloud, a novel that he had begun earlier, and that was to remain unfinished at his death. Although Welch was to consider himself primarily a writer after the success of Maiden Voyage, he kept painting and drawing. Nine of his late paintings, created during a time when his health was failing, were reproduced in A Last Sheaf (published in 1951). He died December 30, 1948, at Middle Orchard Cottage in Crouch, Kent.

William S. Burroughs cited Denton Welch as the writer who most influenced his own work, and dedicated his novel The Place of Dead Roads to Welch.

Source: http://research.hrc.utexas.edu:8080/hrcxtf/view?docId=ead/00242.xml

For nearly half a century Eric Oliver (born Bromley, Kent 6 October 1914; died Portslade, East Sussex 1 April 1995) basked in the reflected glory of having lived with the writer Denton Welch for the last four years of his life. (P: Eric Oliver in 1947)

Oliver was introduced to Welch in November 1943 at a time when Oliver, a conscientious objector, was working on the land and Welch was living as a semi-invalid, following a disastrous road accident when he was 20, near Hadlow, in Kent. "After you left the other night," Welch wrote to the painter Nol Adeney, "who should appear but Francis [Streeten, one of Welch's more eccentric acquaintances] and a new hearty land-boy friend! The land-boy kept suggesting that I should get up and go out and have a drink with him! As I was almost a corpse by then, I could not oblige." He elaborated in his Journals: "I tried to be very bright; but it was an awful strain. They had been drinking in a pub and had come on to me later. They were still mildly redolent of the pub and beer."

Despite Oliver's boozy and often hurtful conduct, Denton Welch fell in love with him. The intensity of Welch's emotions was not returned, for on his own admission Oliver was incapable of love ("You must never take me seriously," he wrote in the only letter of his to Welch which survives), but, once they had sorted out the imbalance in their relationship, Oliver moved in with him, and as Welch's physical condition deteriorated Oliver nursed him with practical expertise.

On the face of it, Eric Oliver seemed an incongruous choice of companion for a writer and painter as fastidious as Denton Welch. "It is just because you are different that I like you," Welch wrote to him in February 1944. "You wouldn't touch my imagination in the very least if you approximated more to my type." Oliver was virtually illiterate, and had little judgement about people, art or business. As Welch's residuary beneficiary on his death at the tragically early age of 33 (inheriting about £5,000), he appointed himself his literary executor, but parted with the copyrights of Welch's works to a bookseller who promptly resold them to the University of Texas. Oliver always maintained that he did not understand what he was signing.

Eric Oliver was six months Denton Welch's senior (though when they first met Welch lied to him about his age, knocking off a couple of years, a conceit Oliver continued to perpetrate even after Welch's death). He was born in 1914, the fifth of sixth children; his eldest brothers had all been educated at Dulwich, but Eric failed the Common Entrance examination, and his formal education ceased when he was 13. He drifted from job to job, and spent much of his time at race meetings and dog tracks. In late middle age he was finally located working in the mortuary of Brighton General Hospital.

Welch relied heavily upon Oliver, and not just as a nurse; only four months before his death in 1948, the pair of them were proof-reading Welch's first collection of short stories, Brave and Cruel, published posthumously in 1949. When Welch died on 30 December, in Oliver's arms, the manuscript of his third and finest novel, A Voice Through a Cloud, lay by the bed, and Oliver was instrumental in John Lehmann's publishing it in 1950, with a foreword signed by Oliver but probably written by Lehmann. Lehmann was rewarded for publishing both this novel and a second collection of short stories, A Last Sheaf (1951), by being asked to take care of one of Denton Welch's chests, in a drawer of which he was somewhat shocked to discover an urn containing the writer's ashes. Oliver kept them for many years in his wardrobe, until he was persuaded to hand them over for safekeeping to a clergyman. His only reminder of Welch thereafter was a cigarette case Welch had given him as a birthday present. This he sold for £50 to a young American journalist who wanted to give it to William Burroughs.

Where Denton Welch was homosexual, Eric Oliver was without sexual morals or preferences. No sexual exploit initiated by him, however, ever superseded in audacity his conquest, shortly after Welch's death, of their 55-year- old housekeeper, Evie Sinclair; he divested her of her virginity in the bath.

Welch made good literary use of Oliver by turning him into two characters in short stories, Trevor Pinkston in "The Hateful Word" and Tom Parkinson in "The Diamond Badge", both published posthumously in A Last Sheaf. Nol Adeney, who was obsessively jealous of Eric Oliver, put him in her venomous autobiographical novel No Coward Soul (1956), but gave him a sex-change. He emerges as a Fascist, clod- hopping land-girl. Asked how he felt about this libel, Oliver gave the typically laconic reply, "It is better to be looked over than overlooked!"

After the story of their often stormy relationship was told in my biography Denton Welch: the making of a writer (1984), letters constantly arrived from Welch enthusiasts asking if Eric Oliver were still alive and, if so, where he was living. They would beat a path to his flat in Portslade, near Brighton, as if on pilgrimage. Oliver said that knowing Denton Welch was the most important thing that ever happened to him.

Source: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/obituary-eric-oliver-1614132.html (Michele De-la-noy, Tuesday 04 April 1995, The Independent)

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)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1500563323
ISBN-13: 978-1500563325
CreateSpace Store: https://www.createspace.com/4910282
Amazon (Paperback): http://www.amazon.com/dp/1500563323/?tag=elimyrevandra-20
Amazon (Kindle): http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MZG0VHY/?tag=elimyrevandra-20

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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Tags: art, author: denton welch, days of love

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