Howard will write, in different moment in his life: "I am doing my utmost to involve myself emotionally with Sam, and have only succeeded so far physically. I feel quite unsafe still. But I never intend to let Sam go." And later: "I am now really, to tell the truth, violently in love with Sam. I have received a letter from him which almost made me cry."
Howard was born to American parents in Hascombe, Surrey, of Jewish descent, and brought up in London; his father Francis Gassaway Howard was an associate of James Whistler. He was educated at Eton College, where he was one of the Eton Arts Society group including Harold Acton, Oliver Messel, Anthony Powell and Henry Yorke. He entered Christ Church, Oxford in 1923, not without difficulty. He was prominent in the group later known as the Oxford Wits. He was one of the Hypocrites group that included Harold Acton, Lord David Cecil, L. P. Hartley and Evelyn Waugh.
Brian Howard in drag for a non-pro theatrical performance
Brian Howard was an English poet, whose work belied a spectacularly precocious start in life; in the end he became more of a journalist, writing for the New Statesman. Sam Langford was the Irish-born companion to Brian Howard, from 1943 onwards. Like Howard, Langford became addicted to drugs. He died in his bath when he was gassed by a faulty water heater at the house he shared with Howard in the south of France. A few days later, Howard committed suicide by taking an overdose of sedatives.
After a double funeral, Brian Howard & Sam Langford were buried together at the Cimetière Caucade de Nice, Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur, France.
It has been suggested that Howard was Waugh's model for Anthony Blanche in Brideshead Revisited. But Waugh wrote, to Lord Baldwin: "There is an aesthetic bugger who sometimes turns up in my novels under various names -- that was 2/3 Brian [Howard] and 1/3 Harold Acton. People think it was all Harold, who is a much sweeter and saner man [than Howard]."
At this time he had already been published as a poet, in A. R. Orage's The New Age, and the final Sitwell Wheels anthology. He used the pseudonyms Jasper Proude and Charles Orange. His verse also was in Oxford Poetry 1924. His poetry was admired and promoted by Edith Sitwell in the late 1920s.
In the late 1920s, he was a key figure among London's "Bright Young Things" - a privileged, fashionable and bohemian set of relentless party-goers, satirised in such novels as Evelyn Waugh's 1930 "Vile Bodies" where the character of Miles Malpractice owes something to Howard. Apart from Waugh, Howard knew all this circle, including Nancy Mitford, Henry Yorke, Harold Acton, and especially Nancy Cunard with whom he shared artistic and political interests, maintaining contact throughout his life.
In 1929 he was famously involved in the "Bruno Hat" hoax when fashionable Hon Mr & Mrs Bryan Guinness promoted a phoney London art exhibition by an apparently unknown German painter Bruno Hat (impersonated by the German-speaking Tom Mitford, brother of Nancy and Diana Mitford - the latter a socialite, arts patron and friend of Howard, Lytton Strachey, Evelyn Waugh, Boris Anrep, Dora Carrington, John Betjeman etc., before her second marriage to British Fascist leader Sir Oswald Mosley). Bruno Hat's paintings were the work of Brian Howard.
Howard is credited with coining the phrase “Anybody seen in a bus over the age of 30 has been a failure in life”, wrongly attributed to Margaret Thatcher. According to Daily Telegraph correspondent and historian, Hugo Vickers, (writing in November 2006) the author was Brian Howard. The phrase came into wider use when used by Loelia, Duchess of Westminster, in her memoir, Grace and Favour (1961).
During World War II he was part of the little ships armada to Dunkirk and later worked for MI5 but was dismissed from the War Office in June 1942, after which he was conscripted to the Royal Air Force with a low-level clerk's job at Bomber Command, High Wycombe, and an Air Ministry note on his file that he should never be given a commission. Transferred to another posting, where he referred to his commanding officer as 'Colonel Cutie' (a trait Evelyn Waugh gave his rebellious rogue Basil Seal in the novel "Put Out More Flags"), Howard was dismissed in December 1944, by which time he had formed a longstanding open relationship with Sam, an Irishman serving in the Air Sea Rescue.
After the War, Howard drifted around Europe with Sam, continuing to write occasional articles and reviews for the New Statesman, BBC and others, fitfully working on an uncompleted biography of the gay English writer Norman Douglas (of "South Wind" fame) and doing no substantial work. Indiscreetly promiscuous, drinking heavily, taking drugs and behaving outrageously, they were expelled in turn from Monaco, France, Italy and Spain, the French authorities noting their "moralité douteuse" (dubious morality).
Evelyn Waugh wrote: "I used to know Brian Howard well—a dazzling young man to my innocent eyes. In later life he became very dangerous—constantly attacking people with his fists in public places—so I kept clear of him. He was consumptive but the immediate cause of his death was a broken heart.
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)
Amazon: Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time
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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