Obituary: Allanah Harper
For the next two years we enjoyed the ideal biographer's correspondence - me gently prodding her, she holding me at bay with tempting anecdotes about her friend Brian Howard (whose biography I was compiling). She managed to fit more words on a postcard than most people do on a double sheet of writing paper.
'The trouble with you and Brian,' Mrs Howard told me when we were both in our twenties (Allanah Harper wrote), 'is that you both have such flair that neither of you have ever really worked hard at anything, facility has made you both lazy and unconcentrated' . . .
In our world in the early Twenties, to be 'Avant Garde' was considered strange and Bolshie; to like contemporary art estranged one from one's friends and made one feel oneself to be a superior person. I remember returning from Paris full of enthusiasm about the 'Soirees de Paris', in which Parade and Salade were given and other ballets, and recitals of modern poetry, and the music of Les Six. It was the first time I had come in contact with the contemporary movement in the arts and it was a revelation to me. These manifestations had the same reception as the Sitwells' Facade, they were greeted with howls of vulgar laughter, tomatoes and eggs were hurled at the artists, instead of the bouquets they should have received . . .
I brought back several books by Andre Gide including the first edition of Les Caves du Vatican in its orange jacket. I showed them to Brian who said he must have these books at once . . .: 'You are an intellectual, I see, one of us.' At that period I thought I was, humility came in middle age, when one was no longer a member of a small group who was interested in living art, but one of many, and knowing much less than they.
Trouble loomed in late 1967 after she had by chance seen an advance cover proof of my book when she took offence at the jacket blurb's implied reference to Brian's homosexuality. Her postcard to me read:
Why underline B's homosexuality to the public. I may be old-fashioned, it is a form of illness, frustrated mother love, or glandular imbalance, and it is not a thing to publicise. Also I think (and Sybille Bedford agrees with me) that it is very unkind to put 'Portrait of a Failure' on the cover (a feeling shared by both Cyril Connolly and Maurice Richardson at the time). It is not for us to judge who is a failure and who is not. We do not know enough of the workings of the inner being, what inner development has taken place at the end of a life.
From the blogs
Even though there was a complete absence of our favourite odd couple Brienne and Jaime, we got anoth...
If you had any doubt where Binky gets her brilliantly brassy disregard for social graces, episode se...
As England’s new football strip – made by Nike – is revealed today, new research shows the English F...
The Photography Blog: ‘Control Order House’ by Edmund Clark – Photographing our response to terrorism
Recent events in Boston have served as a painful reminder of the threat posed by terrorism. In Contr...
- 1 The ‘Beverly Hills’ of Surrey pays more income tax than big cities of the North
- 2 Austerity has hardened the nation's heart
- 3 Tottenham to smash pay scale with £150,000-a-week contract in attempt to tie Gareth Bale to club
- 4 The moral case on tax avoidance is overwhelming - and we all know Google wants to do the right thing
- 5 Sam Wallace: The second coming of Jose Mourinho at Chelsea will be a reunion that can only end in tears
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Find out what The Independent's resident travel expert has to say about one of the most beautiful small cities in the world
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.
£350 - £500 per day: Progressive Recruitment: Project Manager - Public Sector ...
£30000 - £35000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...
Negotiable: Capita Education Resourcing Permanent Team: HR Manager Independe...
£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Huxley Associates: INTERIM HR MANAGER - ...