Some stories never get written. Perhaps that is why so many of us crowd the internet with our own stories-what are we leaving behind? Pouring through books, shelving them, having them settle inexorably in our minds. The authors have written their stories, what do we take from them? Cecil Beaton's story of his beloved country home Ashcombe is one book that recurs in my mind's eye. What did the bon vivant say about...? This? That?
His stories are always about the people in his life-characters-real characters: Rex Whistler, Edith Olivier- two that inhabit the story & seem to form the spine of the Ashecombe narrative. His constants-as it were.
Conversation-piece at The Day House
1937, by Rex Whistler
Edith Oliver perched on her daybed- though the other Players are unidentified- they are likely Beaton, seated with Olivier, Ottoline Morrell, opposite, and perhaps the painter himself.
The ever knowledgeable Toby Worthington tells me- they are Lord David Cecil, Olivier, Ottoline Morrell and Rex Whistler- (where was Beaton? behind the camera, perhaps.)
Edith Olivier- charming mayoress of Wilton, Rex Whistler and Beaton took off on a joy ride while the two men were staying with Edith at her Dayehouse in Wiltshire-only to find themselves amongst the pages that would be Cecil Beaton's beautiful tale of Ashcombe- The Story of a Fifteen Year Lease.
Olivier strolling about Ashecombe just after Beaton arrived.
Though a stream of players would enter: Morrells, Sitwells, Cecils, Johns, and exit-an Olivier and a Whistler-and their friendship with Beaton were Ashcombe's brightest stars. Beaton dedicates the book- "to the memory of EDITH OLIVIER who brought me to Wiltshire:
from the 1949 Ashecombe The Story of A Fifteen-Year Lease
The Garden from the Terrace
by Cecil Beaton
"Of the neighbors on whom I grew to rely more and more, Edith Olivier was perhaps always the most cherished...& so largely responsible for my having blossomed into a happy adult life." Her close proximity deprived Cecil from her company as his weekend guest- "I would refrain from asking other guests, for selfishly I wanted to keep to myself the benefit of her company. Edith was always at her greatest advantage when a deux."
As the pages of Ashecombe receded in my mind, one day-this appeared.
A delicately painted notecard from a dear friend. Who was responsible for the magical garden watercolour? It struck me- a Cecil Beaton watercolour of Ashecombe? Was this another?
The artist is the vibrant daughter of the note's sender.
Where was Ashecombe? To the shelves with other of my Beaton books- & off it came.
Ah ha! Yes. There was the same distinctly atmospheric handling of a scene. Just enough detail to make it memorable. Both watercolour scenes of, as Beaton put it so well, where he blossomed into happy adult life. For Beaton, Ashecombe, for Laura-Chatam Hall. Her continued rite of passage from there to college and now a graduate-returning to Chatam Hall this autumn to start a career. I marvel at this daughter of my childhood friend and her siblings-as they travel through so many passages- marriage, motherhood and the loss we must all suffer inevitably as adults.
Beaton in the Circus room,posing in an 18th-century-style jacket, with surreal touches,
for a fete champetre, hosted at his country house, Ashcombe.
Rex Whistler stood by Beaton as constant friend within the many pages of Ashecombe. The friendship of the two- Rex and Edith- was a part of the story as well. Rex "made Edith's Dayehouse his second home. He often told me that he was happier there than anywhere else." He confided in Cecil his fears that he could not survive the sudden loss of Edith-were something happen to her. An Ashcombe Sketching Competition between the two friends was judged by Olivier. "Rex reflected an extraordinary atmosphere of serenity and quite continuum. It was a sweet Auburn sense of life that he liked and always seemed to create."
The eighteenth century was his inspiration" and his work said Beaton, "contributed much to the taste of the twentieth century." What might be a labour for other artists-Rex "flicked off expertly in a few twists of his pen."
Whistler's distinctive style
Parties and tableau were so much a part of the Ashcombe set, characters floating in and out, moving off stage and with the onset of the war, Ashcombe's idylls waned. Rex enlisted, Edith threw herself into the war efforts in Wilton. She chronicled her experiences beautifully in Night Thoughts of A Country Landlady & presided as Mayor of Wilton.
Cecil's return from his travels during the war found Edith much the same, somehow though her dark black hair, such a part of her gipsy persona, had turned pure white. Beaton feared Edith had become a staid spinster. After a few minutes of talk, he saw no other marked changes. His fears that their cherished Rex would not return from the war were realized when news came-Rex had been killed in Normandy. "I have never ceased to mourn his death... I am continually wishing for his delightful company, his views on character and people, and his suggestions on a thousand details of taste and decoration."
It is often the case as we see our own stories go off course- characters exit suddenly without saying goodbye- Our loss palatable. We cherish the illusion that we might go on for ever. (from Beaton Ashecombe)
"Love , marriage, death, the passing of a house-these things are the milestones of life and they point a finger to the clock. The expiration of my lease was as a milestone which indicated that a lump of my life had passed in a timeless flash." It can not go on forever.
all Quotations are from ASHCOMBE- Cecil Beaton ASHCOMBE, all house images-unless noted STYLE TRADITIONS RECREATING PERIOD INTERIORS, by Stephen Calloway and Stephen Jones-Whistler image of Daye House.
I've always been so intrigued by this Horst photograph of Mrs. Charles Fuller's Connecticut porch. I Love this table size food screen-a Japanese gauze fly guard. Its tentlike coverage with fine screening is brilliant for waylaying pesky flying things. Horst photographed and published Mrs.Fuller's home in the now covetable Vogue's Book of Houses Gardens People.
The house-once a church-was so tempting Mrs. Fuller purchased the property by telephone.
Intriguing- all the interiors- and I will share them as the summer progresses. It is a good mix of Bohemian elements all set within the 1889 stained glass Victorian structure. In fact several photographs transport us to the houses on the Bosporus.
What do you do that takes you away right on your own back porch?
this- a fragrance and flower I could never fore go in the summer
Lilium Regale, drooping their heavy heads
my own in the garden
"that was the moment I first saw the lilies. and that was the moment when, having seen them,I mentally signed the contract to buy the house...I had to possess those lilies...The lilies were a variety known as Regale, and they stood in rows of glistening white down the whole length of one side of the kitchen garden.a faint breeze was stirring, & as they nodded their heads there drifted towards us a most exquisite fragrance.never before, in any garden of the world, have I seen such lilies; their loveliness was literally dazzling;the massed array of the white blossom was like sunlit snow. nor was this shining, shimmering beauty merely the result of mass, for as I walked closer I saw that each individual blossom was a perfect specimen, with a stem that was often four feet high, bearing on its proud summit no less than a dozen blossoms." BEVERLY NICHOLS
Fumée d'Ambre Gris
John Singer Sargent
& Incense ESTEBAN ~CEDRE the only one I use year round.
Eau d' Teou
by Dissey & Piver
a label for the perfumer with Chinese figures & a dressing cabinet
my perfume cabinet is in the bedroom
a rare perfume cabinet made of marquetry from the 18th century used for traveling
Nancy spill vase, what is wonderful about it besides
the basket weave pattern?
I never tire of-Its' diminutive size,
(3 1/2 inches)
The Muse Collection by Charlotte Moss. Redecorating the White House, hosting state dinners and picnics in Nantucket… Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis left an enduring legacy that continues to inspire us today. The Nantucket Collection is decorated on cocoa beige and white enamel with delicate hand painted daisy chains and intricate shading on the basket weave.(from the Halcyon Days site)
more of Charlotte Moss's collection of Nantucket here
be inspired on the Charlotte Moss blog "tete e tete" here, & her "c'est inspire" here
I have been an interior designer for more than 25 years & have an abiding passion for the original, the truth & history. Little Augury was born on New Year's Eve 2008. It began as a way of continuing a conversation with a beloved mentor & the promise to keep just a bit of his wit & wisdom alive by sharing it whenever possible. Little Augury focuses on interior design, art, literature, fashion & social history with an eye, always looking back to the past, in the hope of understanding what is authentic & what will endure.