She had a mystery female lover, Josephine, and several flirtations with men during the 1930s. Then she met a journalist, James Wentworth Day. Despite his being on the ugly side and of a clubbish, anti-Modernist hue, she married him in 1936.
After two years of bored housewifery, she left him and when it was formed in mid-1939, began training in the WAAF. She soon resigned and learnt to drive an ambulance.
Visiting her mother in Rottingdean, Sussex, she met two women: “Andy” Sharpe and, somewhat older, Helen Mayo, respectively a gynaecologist and one of the first female dental surgeons. Nerina enjoyed an affair with Helen and moved into the pair’s house in August 1939. After war broke out, she joined a North London ambulance team.
A year after the outbreak of war she met the broadcaster Howard Marshall. As famous in his day as his friend Richard Dimbleby, he had sent his family abroad, and he and Shute conducted a passionate affair. When his wife returned the lovers agreed to separate for three months, but managed only two, then married.
Nerina Shute and Helen mayo, ca. 1939 (©19)
Nerina Shute was an English writer and journalist, described by the Sunday Times as the amazingly colorful, brilliant and bisexual film critic. Visiting her mother in Rottingdean, Sussex, she met two women: “Andy” Sharpe and, somewhat older, Helen Mayo, respectively a gynecologist and one of the first female dental surgeons. In 1958 she met and fall in love with Phyllis Haylor, the doyenne of ballroom dancing. "I had never been so happy in all my life," Nerina recalled. Their relationship lasted until Phyllis's death in 1981.
Their union, which had been joyful as wartime subterfuge, proved fraught in the candour of peace. She found refuge in writing, with a novel about Fanny Burney, Georgian Lady (1958), followed by Poet Pursued (about Shelley, 1951) and Victorian Love Story (on Rossetti, 1954). Shute’s marriage was not helped by losing a baby and the marriage ended after she confessed to him, during a row on New Year's Eve, 1953, that she was having an affair with their French maid.
After a brief return to London, to work for Andy Sharpe, and alarmed, in her turn, by goings-on among the young Chelsea set, Shute returned after her mother died to live with her latest stepfather, Noel, in Sussex. Much the same age, they were attracted by the Beatles on television; London beckoned, and they moved to a flat in Cadogan Place, off the King's Road. Some assumed that Noel was either her husband, brother or lover, but in fact the household was completed by the celebrated ballroom dancer Phyllis Haylor, with whom Shute had been immediately smitten, and who was a part of her life for 22 years, until her death in 1981.
In 1989, Shute was introduced by a friend to the artist Jocelyn Williams who became her lover and, as Shute's long life neared its end, her devoted carer.
Despite missing Marshall, she had achieved serenity and, as if in gratitude, helped at a hostel for unmarried mothers (girls with “syncopated moralities”, she said) and later gave much time to the Samaritans. She did not become pompous or censorious but, living in Putney to which they had moved in 1979, was always happy to look back chortlingly at so long and colourful a life.
She also wrote two volumes on London’s villages and a study of the Spencer family’s royal connections, but her four volumes of memoirs are her most imaginative production: in revealing more each time, she had to drop as many good stories as she included.
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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