Obituary: Bryan Guinness

ALTHOUGH I scarcely knew Lord Moyne, yet I feel that he was almost an old friend. That was one of his many good qualities - to make you feel 'at home' in every sense, writes Marie-Jaqueline Lancaster (further to the obituaries by Simon Rendall and Frances Partridge, 8 July).

Heywood Hill, of bookshop fame, had written to Lord Moyne to ask if he would give me some material for my biography of Brian Howard, that seminal figure of the 1920s and 1930s, who had been a friend of Bryan Guinness - as he then was - at Eton, and more particularly at Oxford. A year later, having got no reaction, Heywood was on the point of 'stirring him up' when to my embarrassment a pre-publication piece appeared in the Observer claiming that Lord Moyne (amongst others) had contributed an essay on Brian at Eton. I hastily wrote to apologise but, far from being huffed by this premature assumption, Lord Moyne promptly invited me and my husband, sight unseen, to spend the next weekend, Whitsun 1966, at Biddesden.

And so it was that we found ourselves bowling down the drive, by diminutive Palomino foals (bred by Lady Moyne), that led to that most enchanting place, portrayed so well in Reynolds Stone's woodcut. The weekend was magical for me as Jonathan Guinness came over on the Sunday and the non-stop talk of Brian Howard at Eton, at Oxford, at bay between the wars, and during his comical Second World War career veering from sinister contact man at MI5 ('I think I smell a Fascist]') to irrepressible AC2 in the RAF, was hilarious. Best of all, I was left alone and uninterrupted far into the night in the library to copy out extracts from the fascinating collection of letters from my Brian to Bryan G. in the late 1920s. The two friends used to write to each other as 'I' and 'Y' (Brian Howard and Bryan Guinness). It was a case of attraction of opposites: Bryan G. the serious, gentle dreamer, and Brian H. the dynamic but doomed wrecker of lives, mostly his own.

It is amusing to see how Brian H. saw his namesake in one of his Oxford Portraits of 1925-6 in the Manner of Miss Gertrude Stein after Stein had been introduced to Oxford by Edith Sitwell. This parody, which appeared in a current Cherwell, shows more foresight of his subject's character than would have been credited at the time:

B**an G****ess

It is extremely remote to think that good is not good because it may produce an impression of remoteness. Because shy is not spry it is not therefore fly a lack of loudness or rather quietness does not mean no sound but generally something louder in a better way than just loudness and because industry is courteous and because industry does not hiccup that does not say that it means nothing because it is so courteous it is curious that so many people insist on the hiccup but the fact remains that industry is courteous.

While at Biddesden I was also given free run of a cache of contemporary photographs and newspaper cuttings about the famous 'Bruno Hat' hoax that had taken place at Bryan and Diana Guinness's London home in 1929. Diana - Lady Mosley - had already written to me in detail about this episode. They had talked it over for days, she said, and the more they talked the less enthusiastic Bryan G. had become. Brian H. had painted the pictures in John Banting's studio, on cork mats framed with white rope. On the day, the newspapers sent not only their art critics - which Bryan G. was prepared for - but their gossip-writers and photographers (for which he was not). Bryan G. was tormented, said Lady Mosley, by the thought that they might make fools of themselves and get the sack.

During the following months, Lord Moyne and I exchanged a volley of letters, for his invaluable contribution to my biography had arrived at an unfortunately late stage and I was immensely grateful for the speed with which he read and corrected - or censored - my instant retypes. He was kind and encouraging, and professional to his fingertips.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the world's leading suppliers and manuf...

Recruitment Genius: Multiple Apprentices Required

£6240 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Apprentices are required to join a privat...

Sauce Recruitment: HR Manager

£40000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: This is an exciting opportunity for a HR...

Ashdown Group: Interim HR Manager - 3 Month FTC - Henley-on-Thames

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established organisation oper...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore