The Letters of Noel Coward (Hardcover)

The Letters of Noel Coward Cover Image
By Barry Day (Editor), Noel Coward
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A publishing event! The first and definitive collection of letters (most of them previously unpublished) both from and to the incomparable Noël Coward, a unique and irresistible portrait of a society and age—from the Blitz to the Ritz and beyond.

The range, charm, and vitality of his talents—he was a playwright, actor, composer, librettist, lyricist, director, painter, writer, cabaret singer, wit—brought him into close encounters, and often close friendship, with the great and the gifted. He knew everybody who was anybody in the theater and in the movies, in literature and in politics, on both sides of the Atlantic.

Among those at his “marvelous party”: George Bernard Shaw . . . T. E. Lawrence . . . Virginia Woolf . . . the Churchills . . . Daphne Du Maurier . . . Greta Garbo (she wrote asking him to marry her; he wrote back saying he almost accepted) . . . Ian Fleming . . . W. Somerset Maugham . . . Marlene Dietrich (he advised her, “To hell with God damned ‘L’Amour.’ It always causes far more trouble than it is worth”) . . . Tallulah Bankhead . . . Edith Sitwell . . . FDR . . . Gertrude Lawrence (in a cable about Private Lives: “Have written delightful new comedy stop good part for you stop wonderful one for me stop”), and many more.

There are letters about his productions of Bitter Sweet . . . Cavalcade . . . In Which We Serve . . . Brief Encounter . . . Private Lives, etc. . . . about his activities during World War II (he was a spy for the British government along with co-conspirator Cary Grant) . . . about the move to make him a knight that was endorsed in a personal letter from King George VI and blocked by Winston Churchill. Here are letters to and from his beloved mother, Violet . . . his longtime set and costume designer, Gladys Calthrop . . . his traveling companion from the 1930s on, Lord Amherst . . . and his business manager and onetime lover, Jack Wilson, in which he reveals his “secret heart.”

Profoundly savvy, witty, loving, bitchy, and often surprisingly moving, The Letters of Noël Coward gives us “Destiny’s Tot” at his crackling best. An irresistible portrait of a time, of the man himself, and of the world he lived in and enchanted.

Praise For…

Coward was a genius [and] as we see here, a letter writer extraordinaire…What we get is much more than Coward’s letters, however delectable…We also get letters to Coward, many of them as entertaining as [his] for he corresponded with many of the mightiest pens in literature and show business…The result is a first class biography.”

–John Simon, The New York Times Book Review

“Barry Day has done a superb job with the collection…it is a feast...”

– Edward Herrmann, The Wall Street Journal

“(It) glitters with the multi-gifted playwright’s claws-out bitchiness, tremendous charm, and creative genius…”

Vanity Fair

“Evocative…addressed to an astonishing array of people…”

– Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun-Times

“Delightful, absorbing, skillfully-shaped; this collection enables the reader to be part of Coward’s extended family.”

– Robert Kimball

“Thanks to Noel and Barry, ‘I feel I’ve been to a marvelous party.’ What a treat!”

– Rosemary Harris

 “The sheen of the Coward legacy is further polished with this fascinating document of an important era in our collective cultural history. Sir Noel continues to be impertinently pertinent!”

– Michael Feinstein

 “Noel Coward’s letters are everything one would expect: witty, sentimental, peevish, touching. They are wonderful to read. What astounds me, however, is Barry Day’s brilliant, imaginatively edited commentary. He sets the letters up with care and intelligence; Noel Coward comes to life because the letters have been placed in such an informed and vivid context.”

– Andre Bishop, Artistic Director, Lincoln Center Theater

“Noel Coward is my number one hero. As far as I’m concerned, the British have a monopoly on humor, and our beloved Noel has a monopoly within a monopoly.”

– Hugh Martin

“A sumptuous banquet! Bringing Coward’s world so vividly to life that I keep expecting him to walk through the door.”

– Lynn Redgrave

“So many letters from his friends makes the telling of Noel’s life so much deeper and well-rounded. All in all, a rich book with a remarkably protean hero who both shapes and reflects his times.”

– Margot Peters

“Master had a singular impact on so many of our lives and Barry Day’s perceptive analysis of his correspondence is both illuminating and irresistible. Noel’s renowned wit, his unfailing generosity, his acute sense of contemporary history is here for everyone to enjoy.”

– Richard Attenborough

“Precise, Witty, remarkably observed, and gloriously English.”

– Judi Dench

“Thirty years after his death, it seems increasingly obvious that Noël Coward is the most enduring English playwright of the mid twentieth century. This meticulously edited collection of his letters will excite and amuse anyone interested in him, the theatre and his staggeringly wide circle of correspondents.”

– Nicholas Hytner, Artistic Director at the National Theatre

“A uniquely charming and enticing journey through a remarkable life. Coward’s own record is made all the more delightful by the wise and helpful interpolations of Barry Day, the soundest authority on the Master that there is.”

– Stephen Fry

“Here you get the truly private Noël…what really matters is the insight we get from these letters into a far more complex, thoughtful and kindly figure than the one we thought we knew.”

– Sheridan Morley

Product Details
ISBN: 9780375423031
Publisher: Knopf
Publication Date: November 13th, 2007
Pages: 800