14 August 2009

it's War and Pakistan- Beverley Nichols

...until I complete some research on another in depth post about the natty Nichols- I will leave you with this last look at the other introspective complex Nichols.

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.

(from wikipedia photograph by Karl van Vechten)

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.

Nichols and India 1943

A trip to India during the war years by Nichols resulted in the book 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.


  1. Off topic here, but I wanted to write a public thank you note for the Graham Rust book, and the M.F.K. Fisher. They arrived as I was taking a break from lawn mowing while the hornet's nest I hit calmed down so I could retrieve the mower. A perfect distraction, and they definitely cheered me up! I loved Sister Age, so I'm looking forward to Serve it Forth, and the Graham Rust book is really a surprise. I didn't know his work, and am now torn between framing some of the botanicals and keeping the book intact for the useful information within. THANK YOU very much.

    Now I'm off to put Beverly Nichols in my Amazon cart.

  2. What a wonderful post, I am engrossed to the extent that I can not concentrate on my breakfast and I now I have dripped butter and jam on my keyboard. An amazing time in history

    kind regards
    Becca Madden

  3. Had forgotten it was Pakistan Independence Day today. It is the most stunning country with the most warm and engaging people. Let's hope it settles down politically before too long. Sorry, this isn't about BN!

  4. I think it is interesting to note the conviction of Nichols and that though he was flightly at times and whimsical- he was serious about the world. It is an important thing for me to remember as I blog away. Thanks for the comments.

  5. & by the by Nichols was driven to be terrifically famous- remembered that is one reason he was so prolific- always ready for the next big thing. His biographer says he was not always liked- and could be extremely cutting, readers of the gardening books should read the biography- If they really want to Know BN.Though he had money at times he would not have been considered Rich- that is one reason he was cranking out the books- money spent and all that. The Merry Hall house almost broke him. G


    So many complex themes here: war, travel the art of conversation, names, glamor, 'outing' Elsa Maxwell, traitors, Cannes, the Carlton, more war, wondering about peace and safety--and always conversation.
    It was the art of conversation--in the days before cell phones ruined everything. Oh, well, La-de-da.
    Fabulous post, more more! www.thestylesaloniste.com

  7. Thanks for a beautiful dose of complexity in an often Hollywood simplistic view of the word and the world.

  8. DDS and home- great to have valued opinions on my pages. I appreciate your continued reading.Gaye



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