Saturday, 21 November 2020

Most of them as a matter of fact wanted dreadfully to be photographed

Oliver Messell, stage designer

All picnics should be like this!

"Subtle and understated" were their watchwords Stephen Tennant, Paula Gellibrand, Edward ‘Boy’ Le Bas, Baba Beaton (twice), Cecil Beaton, Georgia Sitwell

A plethora of "Bright Young Things".

They knew how to party!

...She almost wished in this new mood of exaltation that she had come to the party in fancy dress. It was called a Savage party, that is to say that Johnnie Hoop had written on the invitation that they were to come dressed as savages. Numbers of them had done so; Johnnie himself in a mask and black gloves represented the Maharanee of Pukkapore, somewhat to the annoyance of the Maharajah, who happened to drop in. The real aristocracy, the younger members of those two or three great brewing families which rule London, had done nothing about it. They had come on from a dance and stood in a little group by themselves, aloof, amused but not amusing. Pit-a-pat went the heart of Miss Mouse. How she longed to tear down her dazzling frock to her hips and dance like a Bacchante before them all. One day she would surprise them all, thought Miss Mouse...

...There were two men with a lot of explosive powder taking photographs in another room. Their flashes and bangs had rather a disquieting effect on the party, causing a feeling of tension, because every one looked negligent and said what a bore the papers were, and how too like Archie to let the photographers come, but most of them as a matter of fact wanted dreadfully to be photographed and the others were frozen with unaffected terror that they might be taken unawares and then their mamas would know where they had been when they said they were at the Bicesters' dance, and then there would be a row again, which was so exhausting, if nothing else...

...There were about a dozen people left at the party; that hard kernel of gaiety that never breaks. It was about three o'clock.

'Let's go to Lottie Crump's and have a drink,' said Adam.

So they all got into two taxicabs and drove across Berkeley Square to Dover Street. But at Shepheard's the night porter said that Mrs Crump had just gone to bed. He thought that Judge Skimp was still up with some friends; would they like to join them? They went up to Judge Skimp's suite, but there had been a disaster there with a chandelier that one of his young ladies had tried to swing on. They were bathing her forehead with champagne; two of them were asleep.

So Adam's party went out again, into the rain.

'Of course, there's always the Ritz,' said Archie. 'I believe the night porter can usually get one a drink.' But he said it in the sort of voice that made all the others say, no, the Ritz was too, too boring at that time of night...

Evelyn Waugh's Vile Bodies was published 90 years ago this year - it was Waugh's intention to satirise the antics of these 1920s hedonists, but in doing so provided inspiration for Noel Coward's A Marvellous Party and Cole Porter's musical Anything Goes, which is partially based upon the novel.

[NB Click on any of the photos above to embiggen]


  1. Those picnic photos remind me very much of teen & twenties von Trapp children wearing yet another window-full of curtains!

    1. I am not sure, but I somehow doubt the Von Trapps consumed quite so much drink and drugs. Jx


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