Facing reality is hard. At times in Nichols life, he refused to really look at it. With the outbreak of the second World War imminent, he motored to Lourdes with the aside to friends that he was "seeking a renewal of Faith." As always with Beverley a touch of the dramatics was more expected than the simple truth that he was off to an assignment.
From Lourdes , He sped to Cannes ."Cannes was a lunatic asylum" and a place he knew well. The fact that he was able to turn from one fix to the next , Beverley said, from " the sublime to the second rate" could be considered "damning proof of his superficiality." Nichols might have been fooling a few but not many-He was in no way fooling himself.
In Cannes, the streets were jammed but his favored old haunt- the Carlton Hotel was practically empty. Charles, the bartender, insisted "Monsieur Beverley" have drink on the house. Beverley wandered out to the terrace and who did he find-but the original party animal- Elsa Maxwell.
La Maxwell: "Come up to the villa and dine. It may be the last time that I can ever ask you." Presumably, referring to the home of Dorothy better known as Dickie Fellowes-Gordon, her life long companion.
Seven souls dined that night in the open air of the villa's terrace. Suddenly the lights of the bay went dark. An omen? Maxwell wondered how long it would be before the lights would come back on.
Beverley Nichols remembered years later that moment signified the dimming of the Mediterranean's allure for many of his generation.
Nichols' notes survived on the night's conversation up at the villa- reading like a "hymn to the past."
Aly Kahn, EM, BN
Here- some of the conversation.
What will happen to that lovely city (Salzburg)? Shall we have to bomb it?
D o you think they've moved all the pictures from the Louvre?
Where is Cecil Beaton? Will he photograph the war? Will he draw it?
Do you remember Ludwig's fairy castles? Will they be bombed?
Will we use gas?
Do you remember Le Touquet and Syrie Maugham's Villa?...the Dolly Sisters?
Suppose the Germans get the Channel Ports? Can the French be trusted? What about Laval?
Much of what they talked about that night-manifest itself through the war years. They lost friends, some, like Maxwell, returned to America. Nichols for one-returned and stuck it out in England for the most part.
Verdict on India-a far cry from his jaunty garden tales. The book was a best seller and sensation on both sides of the Atlantic. The book followed the British propaganda line throughout- except for the last 70 pages. Here, Beverley asserted the need for the creation of Pakistan. The idea was radical- new. Nichols' open airing of the idea of partition was the first widely read of its kind. For Nichols- it was simple- Opposition to a nation for 100 million Muslims was a denial of self determination for 100 million Muslims. Verdict on India was published in 1944.
Pakistan's Independence Day is observed TODAY, Aug. 14, the day on which Pakistan became independent from British rule in 1947.
use of all the photographs in the BEVERLEY NICHOLS stories has been graciously granted by Timber Press.
source for this story from the Bryan Connon's biography Beverley Nichols A Life.