Bedford was born as Freiin Sybille Aleid Elsa von Schoenebeck in Charlottenburg on the noble outskirts of Berlin to Baron Maximilian Josef von Schoenebeck (1853–1925), a German aristocrat, retired lieutenant colonel and art collector, and his German-Jewish wife, Elizabeth Bernard (born 1888-died 1937). Sybille was raised in the Roman Catholic faith of her father at Schloss Feldkirch in Baden. She had a half sister, by her father's first marriage, Maximiliane Henriette von Schoenebeck (later Nielsen, aka Jacko or Catsy). Her parents divorced in 1918, and she remained with her father, under somewhat impoverished circumstances in the midst of his art and wine collection. He died in 1925, when she was 14 years old and Sybille went to live in Italy with her mother and stepfather, an Italian architectural student. During these years she studied in England, lodging in Hampstead.
In the early 1920s, Sybille often traveled between England and Italy. With the rise of fascism in Italy, though, her mother and stepfather settled in Sanary-sur-Mer, a small fishing village in the south of France. Sybille herself settled there as a teenager, living near Aldous Huxley, with whom she became friends. Bedford interacted with and was influenced by many of the German writers who settled in the area during that time, including Thomas Mann and Bertolt Brecht. During this time, her mother became addicted to morphine prescribed by a local doctor, and became increasingly dysfunctional.
Sybille Bedford (16 March 1911 – 17 February 2006) was a German-born English writer. Many of her works are partly autobiographical. Julia Neuberger proclaimed her "the finest woman writer of the 20th century" while Bruce Chatwin saw her as "one of the most dazzling practitioners of modern English prose". Bedford spent the 1950s, 60s and 70s living in France, Italy, Britain and Portugal, and during this period had a twenty-year relationship with the American female novelist Eda Lord (1907-1976).
©Lady Ottoline Morrell (1873-1938)/NPG Ax140859. The Huxley family, 1920 (©4)
In 1933, Sybille published an article critical of the Nazi regime in Die Sammlung, the literary magazine of Klaus Mann, the son of Thomas Mann. When her Jewish ancestry was subsequently discovered by the Nazis, her German bank accounts were frozen. At this time it was difficult for her to renew her German passport, and staying in Italy without a valid passport or source of income carried the risk of being deported to Germany. Maria Huxley came with a solution in 1935. Maria is known to have said, on occasion who should marry Sybille "We need to get one of our bugger friends". Sybille entered a marriage of convenience with an English Army officer, Walter "Terry" Bedford, (who had been an ex-boyfriend of a former man-servant of W.H Auden's) whom she described as a friend's "bugger butler", and obtained a British passport. The marriage ended shortly thereafter, but Sybille took her husband's surname, publishing all of her later work as Sybille Bedford.
With assistance from Aldous Huxley and his wife Maria, Bedford left France for America in advance of the German invasion of 1940. She followed the Huxleys to California and spent the rest of World War II in America.
After the war, Bedford spent a year traveling in Mexico. Her experiences on that trip would form the basis of her first published book, a travelogue entitled The Sudden View: a Mexican Journey, which was published in 1953. Bedford spent the remainder of the 1940s living in France and Italy. During this time she had a love affair with an American woman, Evelyn W. Gendel, who left her husband for Bedford and became a writer and editor herself. In the 1950s she became Martha Gellhorn's confidante.
A Legacy, Bedford's second book and first novel, was published in 1956 (successfully dramatised by BBC television in 1975), and was described by Francis King as "one of the great books of the 20th century". Though ostensibly a work of fiction, it was somewhat autobiographical - it presents a stylized version of her father's life, as well as some of the author's early childhood, in Germany. That novel was a success, and enabled Bedford to continue writing. In her lifetime, she published three more novels as well as numerous works of non-fiction. As a writer of non-fiction, Bedford was best known as a travel writer and as a legal reporter.
In 1979 she settled in Chelsea in London. In 1981 she was appointed OBE. She worked for PEN, was a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and in 1994 became a Companion of Literature. Bedford's final work was Quicksands, a memoir published in 2005.
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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