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Full text of "Elinor Glyn A Biograpahy"

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Elinor Glyn 



Elinor Glyni A Biography 



BY ANTHONY GLYN 



Doribleday & Company, Inc., Garden City, New York, 1955 



Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 55-5507 

Copyright , 1955, by Sir Geoffrey Davson, Baronet 
Copyright, 1955, by The Hearst Corporation 

All Rights Reserved 

Printed in the United States 

At the Country Life Press, Garden City, N.Y. 

First Edition 



Romance is a spiritual disguise created by 
the imagination to envelop material happen- 
ings and desires, so that they may be in 
greater harmony with the soul. 

From Elinor Glyris notebook. 



cmr csso.) PUBLIC LIBRART 

i'J'T.I f!SS 



Elinor GJyn 



We were having lunch at the Ritz. 

Lunch with Grandmamma was both a treat and an ordeal, 
an occasion of mingled affection and apprehension. One's ap- 
pearance was expected to he immaculate, one's manners flaw- 
less, one's deportment at once correct and nonchalant. In 
earlier days she had regularly sent her adolescent daughters 
out of the restaurant in the middle of a meal to fetch a wrap 
deliberately left behind, so that they might learn an easy and 
unaffected poise under public scrutiny. Such ordeals, how- 
ever, were not inflicted on schoolboy grandsons. To me she 
was less intimidating, if not less awe-inspiring. 

The sensation of walking along a knife-edge added con- 
siderably to the excitement and memorability of these occa- 
sions. But they were, even in their more alarming moments, 
extremely enjoyable. Grandmamma was a delightful and stim- 
ulating companion and she was always so genuinely pleased 
to see me. Lunch at the Ritz restaurant, an infrequent ex- 
perience anyway, was made all the more exciting by being the 
cynosure of all eyes. 

She had been lunching at the corner table of Ritz hotels all 
over the world for the last forty years and was quite accus- 
tomed to being covertly stared at from, behind menu cards. 
Even at seventy her great beauty, her erect carriage, her 
queenly presence, her imperious glance, her green eyes, red 



Foreword 

hair, and magnolia-white skin would have attracted attention 
without her fame and reputation. It was pleasant to bask for 
an hour or two in the reflection of her limelight. 

We ordered lobster thermidor. Another of the nice things 
about Grandmamma was that she always treated one as com- 
pletely grown-up. To her children of any age were merely 
small-scale adults and she expected them to have the same 
interests and tastes as adults. She gave her granddaughter a 
diamond wrist watch long before she learned to tell the time; 
she gave me for my fourth birthday a typewriter, a scarlet 
portable model, on which I am typing this. She never under- 
stood about toys. Similarly, we were expected to have an adult 
interest in our appearance and in the opposite sex, to enjoy 
adult food, to like conversing about Greek philosophy or Ren- 
aissance painting or Voltaire. It was a strain, but a very agree- 
able one. 

At the table next to ours were a father, mother, and daugh- 
ter who were taking a considerable interest in us. Grand- 
mamma told me that they were Americans, explaining the 
many points of manners, appearance, and speech in which 
Americans differed from the British, She went on to tell me 
about anyone in the restaurant whom she knew. Finally, as 
they brought our lobster, we started to play the game we al- 
ways played when we lunched together. 

We would discuss anyone in sight who looked interesting 
and whom she did not already know, indicating the person 
by pointing our knives lying on the table and staring in the 
opposite direction. After a suitable pause we would examine 
the person indicated and Grandmamma would describe what 
she imagined his character and life to be a vivid description 
which would have startled the person concerned considerably 
if he could have heard. Her judgement about people, however, 
was usually sound and it seems probable that she may often 
have been very close to the truth. Several of her friends have 



10 



Foreword 

since spoken of her ability to sum up with a good deal of ac- 
curacy people who were strangers to her. 

The American family were clearly fascinated by our con- 
versation and had by now given up all pretence of main- 
taining one of their own. Finally the father summoned the 
headwaiter and asked who Grandmamma was. On being told, 
he gazed at her more wide-eyed than ever. 

We had now finished our game and I launched, with ter- 
rifying precocity,, into a long exposition of the gold standard, 
a topic which was being widely discussed at that time. It was 
not a subject which appealed much to Grandmamma; money 
matters at any level were anathema to her. But she had much 
experience of lunching with politicians and it was unthink- 
able to show boredom while eating in a public restaurant with 
a young man, even a young man of eleven. 

She listened politely. The American, however, could bear 
it no longer. He stood up and addressed Grandmamma: 

"Pardon me, ma'am, but I guess these are your furs." 

He picked them off the floor and gave them to her. She 
thanked him politely and we waited for him to sit down again. 
But he, hoping for a rather more elaborate conversation with 
Elinor Glyn, continued to hover by our table. Finally he said: 

"The little boy's cute, isn't he." 

Grandmamma turned the emerald stare full on him and 
smiled sweetly. 

"He's my grandson/' she said. "He's going to be Prime 
Minister one day." 

She gave him a gracious nod of dismissal and we turned 
back to our lobster. The American sat down, openmouthed. 

It was all a very far cry from the backwoods of Canada, 
where the story really begins. 



ii 



BOOK ONE 

The Cynical Romantic 

1864-1892 



The Saunders family was a remarkable one. Colonel 
Thomas Saunders was half English, half French, his father 
being related to Admiral Saunders, who brought Wolfe's 
ships up the St. Lawrence to Quebec, and his mother a mem- 
ber of a French aristocratic family. Several of his mothers 
relatives had died under the guillotine and she herself had 
escaped by hiding in Abbeville all through the Terror. Thomas 
Saunders, who was born in 1795, was brought up in Paris, 
though how this was managed during the Napoleonic Wars 
is not known. After the battle of Waterloo he came to England 
and married an Irish girl, the daughter of Sir John Wilcocks 
of Dublin. 

The young couple went first to Pondicherry in India in 
search of their fortunes, but the heat and the life there did 
not appeal to them and they returned to Paris. Soon after- 
wards they immigrated to Canada, together with some other 
young impoverished couples, trying to build a new life in a 
new country. Thomas Saunders bought a tract of land called 
Woodlands, near Guelph in Ontario, and settled down to farm 
the virgin soil. It was a hard task, and of all the band of im- 
migrants who came with him he was virtually the only one 
to make good. He succeeded, after years of toil, in developing 



Elinor Glyn 

Woodlands into a fine agricultural estate, and when he came 
to sell it and retire, it was turned into an agricultural college. 

Guelph in 1830 consisted only of a few shanties and a 
store. It provided absolutely no amenities or luxuries. The 
Saunderses lived in a glorified log cabin under conditions of 
terrible hardship; even the elementary necessities of life such 
as soap and candles Mrs. Saunders had to make herself. It was 
difficult to get any help in the home, even during her con- 
finements; but nothing dismayed her, neither the long cold 
winters nor the primitive conditions, nor the toughness of the 
work itself. She bore eight daughters and one son, and they 
all survived. 

Mrs. Saunders' character must have been incredibly strong. 
It was not enough to survive, to make good in those conditions, 
to bring up nine children, to look after her domineering and 
much-loved husband. The children must be brought up to 
realise that they were by birth and breeding ladies and gen- 
tlemen, the descendants of nobility. They must be inculcated 
with the ideals and tenets of the aristocracy, its manners and 
code of behaviour, so that they would be fitted to take their 
place in society when the time came. Not for one moment did 
that indomitable woman assume that her children were going 
to spend all their lives farming in Ontario. 

She took as her model the eighteenth-century French aris- 
tocracy, which she greatly admired and to which her mother- 
in-law had belonged. The classes of society, she believed, were 
separated by virtually impassable chasms; entry into the upper 
class could be effected only by birth, for it required the in- 
herited traditions of hundreds of years of authority to produce 
a gentleman. But, having been born into that class, there were 
duties and obligations to be assumed as well as privileges. The 
greatest contempt she had was for gentlemen who disgraced 
their rank and brought opprobrium to their class. The guiding 
principle of her life, which she often quoted to her children, 
was noblesse oblige. 

16 



The Cynical Romantic 

Courage and honour were the chief qualities required. Gen- 
tlemen naturally did not show fear, nor did they break their 
word. But there were other things, too. They must not be 
overbearing or ostentatious, for those were the marks of an up- 
start. They must shun pretence and affectation. Above aU, 
they must have complete self-control; under no circumstances 
must they ever show any sort of emotion, even affection, in 
public. 

She was fond of describing to her children the dignified 
bearing of the French aristocrats on the steps of the guillotine, 
and contrasting with them Madame Du Barry, who, for all 
her years in court circles, was of plebeian descent and could 
not help making an exhibition of herself on the scaffold. Mrs. 
Saunders would challenge her children: how would they 
behave on the steps of the guillotine? 

She was, however, a devout Christian, and this served to 
modify some of the more inhuman aspects of her creed. Unlike 
most of the ancien regime, she believed in God, in marriages 
for love, in the sanctity of marriage vows, and in friendship 
and support for the middle and lower classes, which God has 
also created, though this did not extend to actual intermixing. 
One of her definitions of a gentlewoman was: "One who does 
not humiliate those she is paying and is not familiar with the 
wrong people." 

Even in the Canadian wilds gentle manners were essential. 
Departure from these standards "servants' behaviour" as Mrs. 
Saunders termed it could not be tolerated for an instant. Ev- 
ery night she and her husband would dress for dinner. After- 
wards they would sit in straight-backed chairs on either side of 
the fire, with the family grouped in a half circle between 
them. One of the children would read aloud from The Liizes 
of the Lord Chancellors of England, or other similarly austere 
works, being corrected for pronunciation. 

The children were taught, too, how to deal with servants- 
wot that there were any servants at Woodlands, apart from an 

17 



Elinor 



escaped coloured slave from Alabama who was employed later 
to help with the growing family. But the time would come 
when they would leave home and they must be fully prepared. 
Elinor Saunders, the youngest but one of the family, in an- 
other century and another hemisphere, would never pick up 
her own handkerchief or say "Please" or 'Thank you" to a 
servant, to the despair of her grandchildren. There was noth- 
ing of highhandedness in this; no one had a kinder or gentler 
heart But she had been taught by her mother eighty years be- 
fore that it was not ladylike to do so, and she remembered 
and obeyed. 

Mrs. Saunders did what she could for her children's more 
orthodox education. A decayed and rather drunken old scholar 
was engaged to teach the girls English grammar, arithmetic, 
history, and literature, and the boy Latin and Greek. A pov- 
erty-stricken Frenchman taught them French, music, dancing, 
and deportment. But this education could only continue in the 
long, dark winter; in the summer all hands were needed on 
the farm. 

It was a harsh, rigid, narrow life. Once a year, however, 
there was great rejoicing when le tonneau bienvenu arrived. 
This was a huge barrel sent by the French relations, contain- 
ing everything they imagined the exiled family in the Cana- 
dian wilds might lack silk stockings, Paris hats, yards of 
material, dresses, satin slippers, books, sweets, even wigs and 
false teeth in case either parent might now need them. 

A strange, ill-assorted existence. Yet there is a certain pa- 
thetic grandeur about their efforts in the middle of a heroic 
struggle for survival to maintain the standards which, far from 
appearing incongruous, seemed to them completely essential 
to life. The ideals and tenets in which they believed, and 
which they preached to their children, were already a hun- 
dred years out of date at that time. But the qualities they dis- 
playedcourage, fortitude, industry, refusal to compromise 
with what they felt wrong are timeless. 

18 



The Cynical Romantic 



2,. 

In 1715, Kenneth Sutherland, third Lord Duffus, followed 
the Old Pretender. He was attainted for his part in the rising, 
stripped of his title and estates, and was forced to flee to 
Sweden. Later he was given the chance to return, sue for 
pardon, and reclaim his estates, but by then he had fallen in 
love with a Swedish lady, Christina Sioblade, and was deter- 
mined to pursue his suit. He succeeded and married her, at 
the expense of forfeiting his title and estates; but he was quite 
happy about this, counting both rank and riches well lost 
for love. 

The title was, however, revived in 1826 by the House of 
Lords in favour of his grandson James, who became the fif th 
Lord Duffus. James, inheriting the family tendency to throw 
everything overboard for the sake of love, had earlier eloped 
with Lady Mary Hay, the daughter of the Earl of Enroll, 
Hereditary Lord High Constable of Scotland, and the wife of 
Major-General John Scott, to whom she had been married 
only a year. This ruined James's promising military career, 
but he was indifferent both to this and to the open scandal 
involved in living for fifty-six years with a lady whom he was 
never able to marry. They were a happy couple, but none 
of their ten children, all of whom were illegitimate, could in- 
herit the title and this passed to the son of his great-aunt 
Elizabeth, from whom the sixth and seventh Lords Duffus 
were descended. 

It is not clear exactly how David Sutherland, Laird of 
Cambusavie, was related to this family, but family tradition 
has it that he was the son of the third lord's younger brother 
Alexander, who took part in the Forty-five and is described in 
the Scottish Peerage as having died abroad without issue. 
David Sutherland's son, Andrew, fought in the American war 



Elinor Glyn 

of 1776; but he returned to meet financial disaster and he 
was forced to sell Cambusavie, "the Manor Place, the gardens, 
offices and houses thereof, also the said town and lands of 
Cambusavie, Cambusmore and Balvraid, with house and beg- 
gings, yards, tests, crofts, outsets, insets, mosses, muirs, com- 
monleys and common pasturages" to his distant kinsman, the 
Earl of Sutherland. 

His son, Captain Edward Sutherland of the p6th Regiment, 
was given a staff appointment in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and 
when he retired, he settled in Sydney, Nova Scotia, with his 
wife Christina and their four children, Douglas, John, Wil- 
liam, and Frances. 

Douglas Sutherland was born in Sydney in 1838 and chose 
to become a civil engineer. Nothing is known about his child- 
hood, but after he qualified, one of his first tasks took him to 
Guelph, and there he was entertained by the Saunders fam- 
ily, who were always glad to meet other people of good breed- 
ing. It was there that he fell in love with Elinor Saunders, a 
pretty girl with beautiful features and long mahogany-brown 
hair. He was then only twenty. She was sixteen. 



The Sutherland family viewed with some alarm their son 
saddling himself with a wife, a penniless girl, when he had 
yet hardly begun to make his career. Douglas, however, knew 
no such doubts; for him, as for his Duffus relations, love must 
always come first. But the Saunderses supported the Suther- 
lands in wishing the marriage delayed; Elinor, they felt, was 
still too young and they would prefer to see Douglas more 
firmly set in his career. 

His youth and inexperience were, however, the only factors 
against him as a son-in-law. Mrs. Saunders naturally appre- 
ciated his aristocratic descent and his noble cousins. His at- 



20 



The Cynical Romantic 

tftude towards the gentry was very similar to her own and he 
spoke with deep respect of his Scottish ancestors. His am- 
bition, when he had made his fortune, was to prove himself 
the rightful heir to the seventh Lord Duffus, who was an 
elderly bachelor, and on whose death the title would (and 
did) become extinct. Indeed, if Douglas were correct about 
his ancestry, he was already the rightful Lord Duffus. Mrs. 
Saunders thoroughly approved of his ambition, though obvi- 
ously, as the legal costs would be considerable and the upkeep 
of the title in the way they considered necessary even greater, 
it might have to wait a long time before it was fulfilled. 

Douglas Sutherland must have been a versatile young man, 
and it was undoubtedly from him that his two remarkable 
daughters inherited not only their romantic temperaments but 
their creative gifts. He was a brilliant engineer and held posts 
of considerable responsibility before he was twenty-five. He 
was also an artist, he played the violin and spoke several lan- 
guages. On top of all this he was a dashing, masterful lover. 

Elinor Saunders adored him. She was especially proud of a 
poem he wrote on her wedding day and which she copied into 
her bride's book. 

Give me a friend within whose well-poised mind 

Experience holds her seat; 
But let my lyride be innocent as flowers that fragrance shed, 

Yet know not they are sweet. 

While not showing any very great poetic gifts, the senti- 
ment expressed has a fine masculine arrogance and Elinor 
fully agreed with it. For all her eighteenth-century upbring- 
ing, her submissive attitude to marriage and the status of wives 
was as Victorian as his. 

After two years he could wait no longer and both families 
gave their consent. The marriage took place at Guelph in 
January 1 86 1 , in the heart of the northern winter. 



Elinor Glyn 



The young Sutherlands' married life was an Arcadian love 
idyll, punctuated by a series of personal disasters and ordeals. 
A few weeks after they were married, their home in Guelph 
caught fire. All the nearby water was frozen solid and the 
young bride had the experience of watching helplessly while 
her first married home, her trousseau, and almost all her hus- 
band's personal belongings went up in flames. 

In the spring Douglas Sutherland took a post which in- 
volved their moving to New York, and here at last Elinor 
found the leisured aristocratic society for which she had been 
trained. Life in America was far more luxurious than any- 
thing she had ever known, and she was much struck by the 
beauty of the women's clothes and the punctilious courtesy 
of the men. The Sutherlands were a popular pair and were 
warmly received by the members of the exclusive society. Eli- 
nor noted thankfully that, for all Mr. Lincoln's speeches about 
democracy, New York was quite as feudal as anywhere else. 

This impression was strengthened by their visits to the 
southern states, where they also had friends. The watering- 
places, in particular, with their fashionable ladies and hordes 
of coloured servants, delighted her, and she found the stately 
and ceremonious ways of the southerners even more appealing 
than those of the New Yorkers. 

The outbreak of the Civil War that year placed them in a 
dilemma. They had friends on both sides; where did their 
sympathies lie? Feelings were running high and they began to 
find their position a little difficult. At this moment Douglas 
was offered a job supervising the building of a railway in 
Brazil. It was a great opportunity and railways were his spe- 
cialty. He had little hesitation in accepting. 

All the shipping had been commandeered and they had 



22 



The Cynical Romantic 

great difficulty In finding passages. At last they got berths in 
a 250-ton schooner which was sailing direct from New York 
to Rio de Janeiro. The voyage was a terrible one and Elinor 
was to retain nightmare memories of it all her life. It was 
very rough and she was continually seasick. She longed for 
fresh water, but it was all brackish. The food was uneatable. 
The journey lasted no less than seven weeks and she was car- 
ried ashore on a stretcher, little more than a skeleton. 

The British Minister, Mr. Christie, and his wife were kind 
people and took charge of her while her husband went up- 
country to start work on his railway. She stayed at the Lega- 
tion, regaining her strength and enjoying the diplomatic 
society of Rio. An unpleasant memory of the period, though, 
was the monthly arrival of the slave ship from West Africa. 
The stench was so great that all the house windows had to be 
kept closed for the three days while the ship was being un- 
loaded. That and the sight of the Negroes battened down in 
their overcrowded holds decided once and for all her loyalties 
in the American Civil War. 

As soon as she was strong enough, she insisted on going 
upcountry to join her husband. The Christies tried to dis- 
suade her, explaining that it was no life for a woman. But 
Elinor was adamant; her place was at his side and they had 
already been parted too long. 

Reunited again, the couple lived at the railhead in con- 
ditions which made Guelph seem luxurious. At least Wood- 
lands had been clean. But here their house was an old 
Portuguese shack, infested with snakes, rats, and insects. The 
heat was terrific; there was no sanitation and almost no water. 
At night the rats ran up and down the posts of the ancient 
four-poster in which they slept, dropping off with a thud on 
to the pillows. On her first night Douglas grabbed the nearest 
garment, which happened to be his wife's white silk wedding 
shawl, from which she was never parted, and rigged it up as a 
protective canopy. The rats ate it during the night, and only 



Elinor Glyn 

a small remnant was found in a corner the next morning. 

The railway, however, made steady progress, and a year 
later they were able to leave Brazil They returned to New 
York and came on to England, which had always been Doug- 
las* goal. Their first child was born in London in July of the 
following year, 1863. & was a && an< ^ ^7 name d ^ er Lucy. 

While they lived in London, Douglas was working, in col- 
laboration with a fellow engineer, on an invention he had 
made. It was an ingenious device by which railway trucks 
and carriages could be coupled and uncoupled without a man 
having to stand dangerously between the buffers, and it 
worked on the principle of a door latch. The invention was 
duly patented and the royalties from it were expected to pro- 
vide, if not his fortune, at least a steady income for himself 
and, if anything should happen to him, for his widow. 

Early in 1864 ^ e was engaged to work on the building of 
the Mont Cenis Tunnel and he set off immediately for Turin. 
By this time Elinor was expecting another child, and he left 
her and Lucy in the care of a half-French aunt of hers, who 
was staying in Jersey. And it was in Jersey that their second 
daughter was born, on the seventeenth of October. 

Lucy had brown hair like her mother, but the new baby 
was a redhead. She was called Elinor after her mother. 



Mrs. Sutherland was delighted by her new baby, but her 
joy was short-lived. Six weeks later the news arrived that her 
husband was seriously ill with typhoid. Immediately she hur- 
ried to Turin, leaving Lucy and the baby with their great-aunt. 
Douglas was clearly terribly ill. She nursed him devotedly but 
he seemed to get worse rather than better. One can imagine 
her anguish; alone in a land whose language she did not speak, 
desperately anxious about her husband, separated from her 



Tine Cynical Romantic 

young children. Finally she made the decision. Somehow she 
must bring her husband back to England, where they had 
friends and where she could get help and good medical ad- 
vice. 

She never spolce afterwards of that journey home, but one 
can imagine it: the sick husband, the long cold hours in car- 
riages and on stations, the changes, the frontiers, the channel 
ports. They reached London and went at once to 64 Albany 
Street, near Regent's Park, where they had stayed before. 

It was all in vain. Douglas Sutherland died on the thirtieth 
of January, four years after his wedding, almost to the day. 
His lovely young wife was left heartbroken, penniless, and 
utterly alone. 

She wrote in her diary : 

This morning it has pleased God to take my darling hus- 
band Douglas Sutherland to Himself. After one month of 
illness. May He teach me to say "Thy Will be done/' 

Elinor Sutherland 

He was buried five days later in All Souls Cemetery, Kensal 
Green. 



6. 



Douglas Sutherland's last words to his wife were a wish that 
his children should be brought up in England, that they 
should be taught to revere their noble ancestors and never de- 
mean their gentle birth. Such a wish would always have been 
carefully regarded; from her dying husband it became for Mrs. 
Sutherland a divine command. 

But how was she to carry it out? She had no money and 
the invention was not being eagerly taken up by the railway 
companies. Such royalties as did come from it were appropri- 
ated by the engineer who had collaborated with her husband. 



Elinor Glyn 

How was she, without friends or family or income, to bring 
up her two daughters in England? 

Sadly she decided that it could not be done. For the mo- 
ment she must take them back to her parents in Canada. 
Perhaps someday the chance would occur for her to fulfil her 
husband's last command. 

She travelled to Jersey and brought her children to Lon- 
don. "The children were so good all the time I was away, 
though generally shy with strangers," she wrote. She was 
helped in London by a friend of her husband's, Bernard 
Beardmore, who arranged her passage home and accompanied 
her to Liverpool. 

On the tenth of August, 1 865, she 

Went on board the Steamer Belgian this morning with 
the dear children. Good-bye to dear England, where my 
happiest and most sorrowful days have been spent. That I 
may bring my dear children back there in a few years is my 
most earnest wish. 

She was then twenty-three. Lucy was a pretty little girl 
of two and Elinor a sturdy child of ten months, already able 
to walk. Her patent-leather shoes, just two inches long, she 
wore down on the Mel by much determined tramping up and 
down the steamer deck. ; 

They reached Toronto on the twenty-fifth of August. Mrs. 
Sutherland wrote in hex diary (the fifth and last entry she 
ever made): 

Arrived in Toronto at 9 A.M. Fanny and Bill Sutherland 
met us. Papa at the Queen's. Went up to Guelph by after- 
noon train. Tom and Jemima at station. Drove up to 
Fairview and met them all again. 

Her younger daughter, a more enthusiastic diarist, would 
not have dealt with such a moving reunion so laconically. 



2,6 



The Cynical Romantic 



The Saunderses had sold Woodlands and were living in re- 
tirement at a house called Summer Hill, a gracious colonial 
building with a columned portico, set in a pleasant park. Life 
here was a good deal easier than it had been at Woodlands, 
but the inflexible standards of behaviour, the rigid etiquette 
were maintained as severely as ever. Here the Sutherlands 
spent the next six years and the young Elinor came under the 
influence of Mrs. Saunders, with results that were to be last- 
ing. 

Mrs. Saunders was now in her sixties, a frightening woman, 
proud, aloof, autocratic, with dramatic manners and a wither- 
ing tongue. Every morning the two children were ushered 
into her presence and there they were made to sit without 
making a sound or movement for five long minutes. To Lucy, 
a restless, rebellious tomboy, this was sheer torture, but Elinor 
found it easy and indeed natural. At other times Mrs. Saun- 
ders would lecture them on noblesse oblige, the ideals and 
obligations of aristocracy, as she had done to her own children 
in earlier years. Lucy resisted violently but Elinor found her- 
self once again in complete sympathy. She both emulated 
and adored her fearsome grandmother, whose teachings she 
regarded as incontestable and almost divine. 

One of the earliest lessons given to the two children was, 
of course, the story of the French Revolution, the impeccable 
gayety of the French aristocracy under all conditions, and the 
tragic death of Marie Antoinette. This last affected the im- 
aginative Elinor till she could hardly bear even to look at a 
flower with its head cut off. Her imagination was further fed 
by a particularly brutal murder on the next estate, and she 
began to be afraid of the dark, afraid to go into the woods on 
the boundary of Summer Hill. 

27 



Elinor Glyn 

Mrs. Saunders heard of this and was very angry. No grand- 
daughter of hers might ever show fear, no matter what the 
circumstances. Elinor was disgracing her class, The icy re- 
bukes were effective, and Elinor changed almost overnight 
from a rather timid child to an apparently trave one, at least as 
far as outward appearances went. 

Elinor saw her grandmother only twice a day. For the rest 
of the time her chief companion was her aunt Henrietta, 
the only one of her mother's sisters not yet married, Henrietta 
was a delightful person and would read fairy stories and The 
Idylls of the King to the solemn child, both to amuse her and 
to comfort herself for a love affair which had come to nothing. 
Elinor certainly did not understand everything, especially the 
poetry, but one fact stood out for her. The heroes and heroines 
of all the stories were Kings and Queens, Princes and Prin- 
cesses. This was only to be expected, for they were also, on 
Mrs. Saunders' authority, the heroes of real life. This belief 
in aristocracy, by no means confined to the Saunders family, 
was to stay with Elinor for her whole life, though later, with 
an experience of the world a good deal wider than her grand- 
mother's, she came to realise that the gulfs between the classes 
were not so unbridgeable as Mrs. Saunders maintained.* 

When Aunt Henrietta was not available, Elinor would 
amuse herself. 

I wove fairy tales for myself about a blue Salvia Prince 
and a Fuchsia Princess, in the conservatory, which was my 
principal playground during the long cold winters. I lived 

*Of the heroines of Elinor Glyn's novels, two married Dukes, one 
the heir to a dukedom, one a Marquis, one an earl, three Barons, five 
baronets, one a Scottish Laird, three commoners of ancient stock, two 
Russian Princes, one a Hungarian Count, and three Americans, two 
of these being members of the First Families of Virginia and one 
having risen from the Bowery on the strength of his own personality. 
The heroines themselves were mostly well-born English and Amer- 
ican girls but they included a Balkan Queen, an Emperor's grand- 
daughter, a peeress in her own right, a chauffeur's daughter, and a 
butcher s granddaughter. 



The Cynical Romantic 

in a fairy Kingdom of my own, and fancied myself as its 
Queen. I used to drape a tablecloth round my shoulders, 
and march about with measured tread, my head held high 
beneath an imaginary crown. I never wanted to play much 
with my cousins, my mother's brother s children, because 
they seemed so robust and noisy. My sister was their leader 
in every prank, but when I could not be with my mother or 
Aunt Henrietta, I wanted to be alone with the flowers. Even 
then I must have been an odd, vain, imaginative child, liv- 
ing in a dream world.* 

Occasionally a clergyman would visit Summer Hill to teach 
Lucy and Elinor their catechism. He was not the most tactful 
of men and both children took a strong dislike to him. They 
rejected everything he tried to teach them, Lucy on principle, 
and Elinor because some of his arguments seemed illogical and 
against common sense; worse still, they were sometimes at 
variance with the sacred teachings of Grandmamma Saunders. 
The more Elinor tried to pick holes in his discourses, the more 
dogmatic and assertive the clergyman became. Since he re- 
ceived no great support in his proselytising from the other 
members of the household either, he finally discontinued his 
visits. 

Elinor, however, was no atheist. All her life she believed 
in a God, and she had a deep capacity and need for worship. 
For the moment Mrs. Saunders* tenets were a satisfactory re- 
placement for the Ten Commandments. But her rejection 
of orthodox Christian dogma left a vacuum into which a num- 
ber of strange beliefs were later to find their way. 

* Romantic Adventure. 



Elinor Glyn 



8. 

It was perhaps natural that under her mother's dominating 
influence Mrs. Sutherland should fade once more into the 
background. Her nature was always meek and docile and now 
she was overwhelmed with grief. She was always gentle and 
loving to her children but she played little part in their lives 
or upbringing. Any reference to her dead husband made her 
very unhappy and the children soon learnt not to intrude on 
her sorrow. 

She would sit, smiling sadly, staring into the fire, think- 
ing of her Douglas and reproaching herself for her complete 
failure to carry out his last commands. But she was utterly 
unable to devise any method of having her children brought 
up in England. She was still young and beautiful and sev- 
eral young men who had known her as a girl offered her mar- 
riage. But she rejected them all unhesitatingly because, 
though they might have brought consolation, and even in the 
end, happiness, they all meant settling permanently in Can- 
ada. 

Finally, in 1871, a Mr. David Kennedy, a well-to-do bach- 
elor, visited Summer Hill. Although he was over sixty, he was 
still handsome and well preserved. He had spent many years 
in China, but he belonged to an old Scottish family, the Ken- 
nedys of Knocknawlin. He was immediately attracted by the 
lovely young widow, and after a rapid courtship he proposed 
to her. She herself felt no more than a sort of fascinated re- 
spect for him, but he seemed fond of her and she forced her- 
self to accept, feeling that here at last was the opportunity she 
had been seeking. Further, his Scottish connections might 
well mean that the children would be brought up in Scot- 
tish society. 

They were married almost at once, and shortly afterwards 

30 



The Cynical Romantic 

they said good-bye for ever to the Saunderses and Summer 
Hill. As they sailed down the St. Lawrence, Elinor, already 
romantically perceptive of the beauties of life, crept out of her 
cabin early in the morning to see the Thousand Islands in 
the dawn. At Montreal she watched the great cathedral of 
Notre Dame in the sky above them and she wondered what 
sort of a life lay ahead of her on the other side of the Adantic 
and whether she would ever see the other and older Notre 
Dame on its island in the Seine. 



The journey to Europe was a most disagreeable one. Moun- 
tainous green waves seemed about to envelop the ship, and 
although Elinor had now learnt to suppress all signs of fear, 
for much of the voyage she was terrified. Mr. Kennedy's affec- 
tion for his wife had been short-lived and his true character 
had already appeared cruel, selfish, overbearing, mean. His 
bride, always the meekest and most submissive of wives, was 
cowed and terrified, grimly apprehensive of the life ahead of 
her and consoling herself with the thought that they were on 
their way to Scotland and that she was carrying out, no mat- 
ter at what sacrifice to herself, both the letter and the spirit of 
Douglas Sutherland's last commands. 

Lucy already loathed her stepfather and Elinor, withdrawn 
in a world of her own, consoled herself for the unpleasant 
present by the prospect of the castles and palaces that awaited 
them in Europe. 

On the voyage Mrs. Kennedy used to read to her children. 
The first book, Alice in Wonderland, was not a success. Its 
comedy did not appeal to the solemn Elinor, its burlesque of 
Kings and Queens seemed distasteful and Use-majeste. The 
next book, however, George Macdonald's The Princess and 
the Goblin, made a deep impression and later Elinor con- 

3* 



Elinor Glyn 

sidered it to be one of the turning-points of her life. A fairy 
tale with a charming Princess and a dominating grandmother 
naturally appealed to her. So did the emphasis on courage* 
What was new was the mystical atmosphere of the book, the 
gleam of the grandmother's lamp, guiding and inspiring the 
hero, Curdie, as he groped his way in the black mine. The 
idealistic and imaginative quality of the book, in a different 
class from the normal fairy stories with their materialistic suc- 
cess endings, fell on fertile ground. Her later interest in mys- 
ticism and the occult, her idealism, her belief that it was right 
and proper for women to inspire men to great causes she 
traced back to the influence of Macdonald's fairy story at this 
moment of her life. 

Much of the book took place in a dark mine, and this, too, 
struck her forcibly. All her life her greatest fear was to be of 
caves and tunnels. Even in her mature years it was a personal 
ordeal for her to travel through the Severn Tunnel and her 
grandchildren would watch with secret amusement her grim, 
set expression as she resolutely fought down the claustrophobia 
which she never mastered. 

To the expectant Elinor the first sight of Europe was a 
severe disappointment. Londonderry in the wet dawn, with 
its muddy, unpaved streets, was not what she had imagined. 
The hotel was unspeakable, with strips of wallpaper peeling 
from the walls and bugs crawling over the floor. They did not, 
however, remain long, and the next day they went on to 
stay with Mr. Kennedy's elder brother at Balgregan Castle in 
Galloway. 

The news of David Kennedy's marriage had come as a sur- 
prise to his family, for they had all regarded him as a set 
bachelor for life, and they were curious to see the presumably 
uncouth "colonial" girl who had captured him in such a short 
visit. They were even more surprised when they met her, sad, 
beautiful, dignified, with two impeccably mannered children. 
Elinor was overwhelmed with delight at Balgregan Castle. 

32- 



The Cynical Romantic 

With its great rooms, its liveried footmen, its suites of grand 
bedrooms, its strange staircases and turrets it was like the castle 
of every fairy story. It had, in fact, been a centre of Jacobite 
plotting, and there were several romantic legends about the 
place; Mrs. Kennedy told her children that it was quite prob- 
able that Lord Duffus himself had been there with the Old 
Pretender before the rising. 

There was a large house party assembled at the castle to 
welcome the Kennedys home, and never before had Elinor 
seen such splendour and such beautiful clothes and jewels. 
Peter Kennedy, genial where his brother was curmudgeonly, 
presided in a brown evening coat with a high stock. It was all 
almost too good to be true. A famous London beauty of that 
time, a Mrs. Bovill, took a fancy to the two small children and 
allowed them to come and play in her huge bedroom while 
she dressed. Elinor was fascinated by everythingthe innu- 
merable bottles and powder boxes on the dressing-table, the 
pink satin peignoir, the quilted slippers. One day, she prom- 
ised herself, she would be a society lady too, with hundreds of 
bottles on her dressing-table and pink quilted slippers. 

There was, however, a darker shadow even in the golden 
fairy-tale atmosphere of Balgregan Castle. Mrs. Kennedy, 
strangely neglectful of the children for whose future she had 
made such sacrifices, entrusted them completely to an English 
nurse who bullied them severely without anyone caring or 
noticing. The two small girls were locked for hours each day 
in a dark, cold billiard room, while the nurse herself enter- 
tained a good-looking young gamekeeper in the nursery. It was 
at this time that both children came to realise that they must 
rely on themselves and not on their mother for protection 
against the buffets of the harsh world. 

When they left Balgregan, the Kennedys went on to stay 
with some more relatives in Yorkshire. While there, Mr. 
Kennedy was taken ill with bronchitis, a complaint to which 
he was much addicted, and the doctor recommended that he 

33 



Elinor Glyn 

spend the rest of the winter in the milder climate of Jersey. 
They set off there as soon as he had recovered sufficiently, 
passing through London on the way. 

In Elinor's memoirs there is a vivid passage in which she 
described her first sight of London. 

My first glimpse of London was, I believe, the greatest 
disillusionment of my life. I had expected to find it the 
Meccas of my dreams, a town of stately palaces, and filled 
with delightful ladies like Mrs. Bovill. I had almost be- 
lieved that the streets would be paved with gold, or at least 
with marble. 

As we drove along the twisting lanes which led from 
King's Cross station, through St. Giles and Seven Dials, 
then the worst type of slum, to Waterloo, I gazed with 
sinking heart upon the dingy narrow streets, the pitiful 
mean houses, and the rain. The pinched pathetic faces of 
the ragged urchins who ran barefooted beside the cab, beg- 
ging for pennies with which to get some food, seemed to 
destroy all my most cherished hopes. There was no room 
for poverty within my fairy world, and least of all within 
the precincts of the celestial city which I had imagined 
London to represent. I felt cold doubts spring up as to the 
reality of all my dreams and I became silent and morose. 
The gulf which lies between the romantic and the sordid 
was never more clearly visible to me than on that day. 

They reached St. Helier on a winter's morning at the end 
of 1873, a melancholy quartet: Mr. Kennedy, tyrannous and 
harsh like the popular conception of Edward Moul ton-Bar- 
rett; Mrs. Kennedy, silent and terrified; Lucy, sullen and re- 
sentful; and Elinor, returning to the island of her birth, a 
sad, disillusioned little girl. 



34 



The Cynical Romantic 



10. 



Jersey In the 1870$ consisted, and still does, of two separate 
societies, with very few points of mutual contact. One society 
was indigenous: the local farmers occupied with their dairy 
and potato farming, still speaking Norman French, shrewd, 
suspicious, and contemptuous of more recent arrivals, cutting 
down their trees so as not to shade their grass, tethering all 
their beautiful cattle so that the fields might be evenly 
cropped, polishing cabbage stalks into walking sticks for 
souvenirs, gathering seaweed for manure, industrious, insani- 
tary, and tight-fisted. 

The other society consisted of refugees from cold winters 
and high taxation: retired army and naval officers, colonial 
administrators, men with small private means, eking out their 
pensions and incomes in an easier climate. It was, of course, 
to this latter society that the Kennedys belonged. 

The social life of the island was formal and strict, far more 
so than would have been found in a country town in England. 
A Lieutenant-Governor lived at Government House and a 
regiment was always stationed on the island for garrison 
duties. The elaborate fixed etiquette found favour with the 
retired stratum of Jersey society, in whom it aroused nostalgic 
memories of service life in India or one of the colonies. The 
indigenous part of the population naturally took no part in 
this social life beyond providing the various households with 
groceries. Except for the seigneurs of Rozel and St. Ouen 
practically none of the Jersey families were ever invited to 
Government House, 

Mr. Kennedy liked the island so much and found the warm 
winter so beneficial to his chest that he decided to settle there. 
He rented a furnished house called Richelieu outside St. 

35 



Elinor Glyn 

Helier on the road to St. Clement and it was here that the 
Kennedys settled down to family life. 

As might be expected, it was not a very happy household. 
Mr. Kennedy's selfish and domineering ways cast a deep cloud 
over everything. His ferocious temper reduced his wife to utter 
subjection. His meanness was extreme. Apart from some ten 
pounds a year of her own, his wife had nothing. She had to 
beg him at nicely chosen moments for money to meet the 
household bills and to clothe herself and her children, money 
which was always given only grudgingly and in part. Every 
night he forced his wife to play backgammon with him for 
three hours, an ordeal which almost drove her insane. How- 
ever, such was Mrs. Kennedy's mental attitude towards mar- 
riage that although she loved her children and feared and 
hated her husband, she nevertheless supported him absolutely 
against her children. 

Both Lucy and Elinor were, indeed, a serious disappoint- 
ment to her. In her scheme of things children were silent, 
dutiful, and obedient, and she had no idea how to deal with 
two such turbulent personalities, both of whose characters 
were so much stronger than her own. As at Balgregan she 
left them alone for most of the time, descending on them at 
intervals to lecture them on being seen and not heard, on 
implicit obedience, on not asking questions, on the absolute 
superiority and wisdom of their elders and betters in all things. 
The house was run with the remorseless impersonality of a 
machine and no allowance was ever made for either girl's 
predilections or idiosyncrasies. Lucy became perverse, rebel- 
lious, and defiant, Elinor vain and opinionated, driven more 
and more into a world of her own. Both children were united 
in their instinctive resistance to all instruction, an unfortunate 
but perhaps not illogical consequence of the way they were 
treated. At this moment in their lives both girls badly needed 
firm and sympathetic guidance. What in fact they received 
was an uneven mixture of neglect and nagging. 



The Cynical Romantic 

A series of governesses came to Richelieu but all, faced by 
the implacable resistance of two difficult children, gave up the 
task. Elinor could not imagine that such stupid women could 
have anything useful to teach her and she resolutely deter- 
mined not to learn the subjects upon which they concentrated 
arithmetic, geography, grammar, and spelling. The music 
master became so impatient of her that he made the great 
mistake of rapping her over the knuckles. Neither threats nor 
punishment ever persuaded her to touch the piano again. 

Despite her resistance to education and authority Elinor 
had a deep curiosity for life and an awareness that there was 
much that she needed to know over and above the official 
subjects of lessons. The house had a good library, which had 
been collected by its owner, Mrs. Combe. There were no 
library steps but Elinor read every book within her small 
reach, irrespective of subject translations of the Greek clas- 
sics, Scott, Agnes Strickland's Queens of England, Don 
Quixote in eighteenth-century French, an unexpurgated edi- 
tion of Pepys's Diary, the French classics, Lady Blessington's 
novels, the complete works of Byron, and some rather ribald 
French novels. There was no one to declare that some of 
these books were unsuitable for a child to read and she studied 
them all with the care and attention which she refused to 
give to arithmetic. 

One teacher alone earned her love and respect, Monsieur 
Cappe, "of the soiled linen, ridiculous moustache, and un- 
speakable scent of patchouli and stale tobacco." He seems to 
have understood how to handle difficult children and to have 
been able both to interest them and to get his ideas across. 
Under his tuition Elinor became virtually bilingual, though 
she successfully resisted his attempts, like all the others, to 
teach her spelling and grammar in either language. He en- 
couraged a literary bent which she was beginning to develop, 
and she wrote for him long essays in both languages. 

Her strange reading, alone in the library, had a great effect 

37 



Elinor Glyn 

on the dream world in which she lived for most of the day, 
The Princes and Princesses of the fairy world gave place to 
the gods and heroes of Greek mythology. Her thoughts and 
imagination revolved round characters from Scott and Don 
Quixote and Byron, the subjects of the portraits by Lawrence, 
Gainsborough, and Lely which Mrs. Combe had collected and 
which hung in the hall, the two Pretenders, and the Kings 
and Queens of England, especially, after reading Pepys, 
Charles IL 

She was always then, and later, a natural royalist, and 
Agnes Strickland's book had done nothing to diminish this. 
She believed implicitly all her life in the Divine Right of 
Kings. In her history book of this date she wrote under the 
picture of Charles II, "DEAR GOOD KING," and under Crom- 
well's, "NASTY OLD BEAST." 

But the book which made the greatest impression on her, 
and which was to be still seventy years later the most dearly 
loved of them all, was Kingsley's The Heroes, As she read 
it, something seemed to leap into flame in her mind. She be- 
came passionately absorbed not only in the heroes, heroines, 
and gods of Greek mythology but in Greek history, sculpture, 
and architecture, literature, philosophy, and ideas. She spent 
long hours poring over translations of Plato and Thucydides 
with the same engrossed fascination which she had had two 
years earlier for fairy tales. 



n. 



Elinor's religious ideas at this time were extremely confused. 
Following her rejection of orthodox Christian dogma in Can- 
ada a further effort was made to indoctrinate hex in Jersey, and 
this, too, was violently repelled. The Victorian version of the 
Christian ethic with which she was presented seemed full of 
inexplicable prohibitions and repressions. The idea of a puni- 

38 



The Cynical Romantic 

tive and angry God ordaining 'Thou shall not" was too like 
Mr. Kennedy to be acceptable. Nor could she take the sugges- 
tion that so many of the good things of life which had pre- 
sumably been put into the world for enjoyment (at this stage 
she meant raspberry nougat rather than love) were sinful. 
Her mind revolted against puritanism in any form; it seemed 
to her blasphemous. She accepted the existence of a supreme 
benevolent God; the rest she rejected completely. 

She also believed in all the Greek gods and goddesses whom 
she read about in Kingsley, and in Pan and his sprites, whose 
picture, in the Italian Renaissance style, hung in the hall. 
This order of gods was much more real and probable to her, 
and the religion it implied more congenial than the orthodoxy 
preached to her; there was no one at hand to explain to her 
that it was no longer valid or acceptable. She liked to think 
that Pallas Athene or Aphrodite or Psyche was with her, 
watching over her like a guardian angel, and if some of the 
behaviour of the gods seemed lamentably imperfect and well 
below the standards which Mrs. Saunders would have per- 
mitted, that was in tune with the mood of cynical disillusion 
induced by reading Cervantes and sophisticated French nov- 
els. 

Later, of course, she came to see the Greek mythology in 
a more normal light and relegated it with regret to her store- 
house of imaginative fairy tales. But its influence stayed with 
her always. In two of her novels the characters are affected 
and comforted by statues of Greek goddesses, which were re- 
garded with deep reverence. 



12. 



After about a year in Jersey the family returned to England 
for a brief visit to the Kennedy relations in Yorkshire, and it 
was on this occasion that Elinor had her first experience of 



Elinor Glyn 

physical danger. She and her mother were watching a local 
meet when the horses of the carriage in which they were 
sitting took fright and bolted. The coachman immediately 
dropped the reins and jumped from the carriage, and the 
horses stampeded down a narrow, twisting lane. 

It was a moment full of frightening sensations the sicken- 
ing lurches and jolts of the carriage, the frenzied thundering 
horses, the feeling of utter helplessness as they sat awaiting 
the inevitable crash. They were saved, in fact, by one of the 
huntsmen, who galloped across a field, jumped the hedge, and 
managed to stop and soothe the horses. Mrs. Kennedy and 
her daughter were duly grateful for the man's gallantry, but 
thinking the matter over later, Elinor was gratified to find 
that she had neither shown nor felt any fear. 

The incident did, however, give her a lasting hatred for all 
horses, which was further increased by the news later of her 
grandfather's death stopping a runaway horse. In her later 
life the dictates of pride, fashion, or society occasionally forced 
her to mount, without in the least diminishing her hippopho- 
bia, which extended itself to cover both polo and racing. It 
was only with the greatest difficulty that she could be per- 
suaded to watch either of these two sports. 

A further alarming experience took place in the winter of 
the following year, 1875, when Mrs. Kennedy and her two 
children were returning from another visit to relatives in Eng- 
land. The ship bringing them back to Jersey was wrecked 
on the notorious Casquet Rocks. It hung there for many hours, 
gradually breaking up with the pounding of enormous waves. 
No one knew if the distress rockets which had been sent up 
had been seen. Indeed, as the long hours passed by without 
any sign of rescue, it seemed only too probable that no one 
knew of their plight. 

I can still picture in my mind the gloomy scene; the dark 
and stormy sky, the cries of the seagulls as they circled 

40 



The Cynical Romantic 

above, and the thunder of the waves pounding mercilessly 
upon the slanting deck. My mother held us silently by the 
hand, too well-drilled by Grandmamma to show the slight- 
est fear, although several of the other passengers were 
screaming. She whispered to us that we must not forget 
Grandmamma's teachings and that this was an occasion for 
us to show that we understood them. 

My sister, who was always naturally brave, was not a 
bit afraid, and I believe she even thought it all a great 
adventure; but I was filled at first with a kind of super- 
stitious terror. In my pagan imagination, storms and disas- 
ters signified the anger of the gods and I did not believe 
we should be saved.* 

In the end they were rescued by a tug from Guernsey, just 
before the ship finally broke in half. Elinor, in the warmth 
and safety of her bed that night, recalled with some surprise 
that in those long hours of agony her prayers had been to the 
Christian God, and not to her normal, friendly guardian deity, 
Pallas Athene. 



The children's closest friend on the island was Ada Norcott, 
the daughter of the Lieutenant-Governor, Sir William Nor- 
cott. Several afternoons a week she would come and play at 
Richelieu or they would go up to Government House to be 
with her. They devised litde plays for puppets, which they 
made out of paper. Elinor, who was developing a talent for 
pen-and-ink sketches, drew the faces, Lucy designed and 
painted their clothes, and Ada acted as general factotum and 
manipulator. The plays themselves were made up by Elinor, 
her first attempts in public storytelling. 

* Romantic Adventure. 

4* 



Elinor Glyn 

The following autumn, 1876, Mr. and Mrs. Kennedy left 
the two children behind when they went to England on a 
visit and the two girls stayed with Ada Norcott at Govern- 
ment House. It was at this time that Lily Langtry, the famous 
society beauty nicknamed the "Jersey Lily" paid a visit to her 
home island. Her beauty, her royal friendships, and the rather 
spiteful gossip that she attracted wherever she went made her 
the chief topic of the day. There were rumours that she was 
going on the stage, which would, of course, put her beyond 
the social pale; but this had not yet happened and she was 
still received at Government House. 

The three children were thrilled by her arrival and hid 
under the dressing-table of the room where she was to leave 
her cloak, having cut little peepholes in the pink calico dress- 
ing-table curtains. An ill-timed giggle from Lucy, however, 
gave them away and they were hauled out. They could not 
take their eyes from the beautiful woman, splendidly dressed 
in white corded silk with a low, square, tight bodice and a 
bustle; she was the first woman they had ever seen who did 
not wear a chignon. She, for her part, was considerably flat- 
tered by the children's unconcealed adoration and she prom- 
ised not to give them away. She even managed to send them 
up some supper during the course of the evening. 

During the rest of their stay the children busied themselves 
with theatricals, which by this time had grown more elaborate, 
puppet shows giving way to actual performances or charades. 
Elinor was much mortified to find that she was never allotted 
the leading feminine role but made to put on a false nose and 
pad out her. figure for comic parts. But she soon came to have 
no illusions about why this was. In those days red hair was 
a terrible disfigurement and no one so monstrously ugly could 
possibly be given a romantic lead. 

Elinor's red hair was a sore point. Everyone condoled with 
her, or with her mother in her presence, on such a misfortune 
and openly compared her hair unfavourably with Lucy's 

42 



The Cynical Romantic 

brown or Ada Norcott's fair hair. People behaved as if Elinor 
were in some way almost to blame for it, and she derived a 
certain melancholy satisfaction from watching the same treat- 
ment meted out to another red-haired child, Ada Lloyd, the 
daughter of a naval captain. Mrs. Kennedy was advised by 
one well-meaning lady, again in Elinor's presence, to comb 
the child's hair with a leaden comb in the hope of darkening 
it. Only Sir William Norcott was kindly and expressed the 
view that she might not be too ugly when she grew up, as she 
had dark eyelashes. This conviction that she was ugly, labori- 
ously instilled into her by all her relatives and friends at an 
early and impressionable age, may perhaps lie behind her 
later preoccupation with her appearance, her insatiable desire 
to be told that she was beautiful, and to preserve that beauty 
unlined into the furthest extremities of old age. 



14. 

The Kennedys returned from England in due course and 
the tyranny at Richelieu started again. Now it was worse than 
before. Mr. Kennedy's health was deteriorating and he spent 
much of his time in bed, a crotchety, bad-tempered invalid, 
with his wife a slave to his every whim. His investments, too, 
were not prospering and he grudged every penny he had to 
pay for his wife or stepchildren. All three of them were forced 
to make their own clothes at home, even their "tailor-made" 
suits. Fortunately they were all excellent needlewomen, and 
Lucy in particular already showed an extraordinary flair for 
designing clothes; they were always able to appear present- 
able, even at Government House garden parties. 

By 1878 the position was intolerable. Lucy, almost sixteen, 
was on such bad terms with her stepfather that everyone 
agreed with relief to her suggestion that she should go and 
stay with her English and Scottish friends and relations. For 

43 



Elinor Glyn 

the next two years she was hardly in Jersey at all. The Nor- 
cotts, too, left the island at this time and Elinor said a sad 
farewell to her friend Ada. Finally, in a fit of temper one day, 
Mr. Kennedy dismissed the governess and decided that she 
should not be replaced. Mrs. Kennedy meekly acquiesced; it 
never seems to have occurred to her that the education of her 
fourteen-year-old daughter, now completed, lacked anything 
to he desired. Nor did she notice that her daughter was now 
completely alone, without sister, friend, or companion, shar- 
ing her solitude only with her collie, Roy. 

The lease of Richelieu expired at this time and the Ken- 
nedys moved to a new house in St. Helier, No. 55 Colomberie, 
a pleasant stone house with oak panelling. There was no li- 
brary in the new house but Mr. Kennedy sent to Scotland for 
his books. For Elinor their arrival was the happiest moment 
of the next two years. Mr. Kennedy was too ill to arrange them 
himself and they were dumped, still in their packing-cases, 
in a litde room on the ground floor. Elinor had plenty of 
opportunity to read them in the two years that followed and 
she would pore over them most of the day and far into the 
night 

As at Richelieu it was a strange, rather unsuitable collec- 
tion for a young girl to base her entire education upon, and 
once again there was no one to advise her or guide her reading. 
There were whole sets of Dickens and Thackeray, rebound 
during Mr. Kennedy's stay in Pekin in old Chinese silk; 
eleven volumes of the memoirs of the Due de Saint-Simon; a 
complete Gibbon; Sterne's Sentimental Journey; Voltaire's 
Zadig; Chesterfield's Letters to His Son; La Rochefoucauld's 
Maxims. These last four became like Bibles to Elinor. They 
were always beside her bed and, having a remarkable mem- 
ory, she soon knew them almost by heart. 

The Saint-Simon memoirs linked themselves naturally with 
what Mrs. Saunders had taught her about eighteenth-century 
France and Elinor saturated herself in the history and customs 

44 



The Cynical Romantic 

of the Bourbon court. The Decline and Fall of the Roman 
Empire, which she read from beginning to end, awoke an in- 
terest in Roman history to supplement her already consider- 
able knowledge of Greek history, but without noticeable effect 
upon her later prose style. 

When she had exhausted the books or wished for further 
information on a subject, the only course open to her was to 
walk to the St. Helier public library, some way away, and 
look it up in an encyclopaedia. She did this many times in 
her determined but rather pathetic efforts to provide herself 
with the education that she felt was necessary. One cannot 
but admire her doggedness, her energy, and her devotion to 
the cause of knowledge, but the effect of such haphazard read- 
ing was never altogether overcome in later life. The subjects 
which she knew and where her sympathies lay she knew in 
astonishing detail, which increased as the years went by; the 
eighteenth century in France was of course pre-eminent by 
the end of her life she had an intricate knowledge of the 
literature, customs, clothes, furniture, art, architecture, and 
history (but not music) of the period. She could date a pic- 
ture to within a few years from the fashions or the furniture. 
The seeds had been planted if they were not already there 
in her Saunders blood by reading Saint-Simon at the age of 
fourteen. The Italian Renaissance was another of her periods, 
born of an early study of John Addington Symonds. But be- 
tween these overgrown islands of knowledge there were deso- 
late gulfs of ignorance, of which she herself was always sadly 
aware and which she spent much care and effort in conceal- 
ing. 

The effect on her character was even more fundamental. 
The division between the two sides of her personality was 
already clearly discernible at this time. On one side there was 
the romantic Sutherland streak, nourished by fairy stories, by 
Balgregan Castle and the Thousand Islands in the dawn, by 
the Stuarts and Jacobites, by Byron and Scott, and from which 

45 



Elinor Glyn 

she derived her conviction that the beautiful things of life 
were there to be enjoyed by all who had the eyes to see them. 
From it too came her optimism, her steadfast conviction that 
in the end everything would always be well. 

On the other side was the French eighteenth-century back- 
ground, growing out of her Saunders blood, cynical, worldly, 
disillusioned, melancholy, pessimistic, concerned with the out- 
ward form rather than the inner spirit; encouraged by the 
sight of Londonderry and Seven Dials in the rain; nurtured 
by Cervantes and Thucydides at an early age, and now ferti- 
lised by Saint-Simon, Sterne, La Rochefoucauld, and Chester- 
field. These two warring sides of her character she was never 
able to reconcile and they may be held to explain the several 
contradictions in her views and her behaviour. It may be 
thought, too, that their clash provides the motive power for 
her almost inexhaustible creative energy. 



It was about this time that Elinor started to write stories, 
romantic subjective efforts, carefully copied into penny note- 
books. The earliest one, "Valerie Charteris," delightfully fore- 
shadows the romances to come. 

"By Jove! What a pair of eyes! Who is she, Clifford?" 
said Guy Elmhurst as the dog-cart with the two men in it 
swept rapidly past a girl walking along the road. 

"Don't know," answered the individual addressed, 
"Never saw her before, could hardly get a glimpse then," 
and he turned his head over his shoulder, but they were 
twenty yards past her by this time. "Hardly fast enough 
looking for one of Lady Di's friends," he laughed, 

A few pages later they met again in a post office : 

46 



The Cynical Romantic 

"Oh! I am in no hurry/* he answered, "Pray serve this 
lady first." 

Of course he was in no hurry. What idle man would be 
when he had the gratification of looking at anything so 
sweet and fresh and fair as Valerie. She blushed as he 
spoke. Of course it was very silly of her, a thing no "well 
brought-up young lady*' would have done. But then Valerie 
was only a little country girl who had spent most of her 
life in a French convent and who had never before seen a 
handsome well-dressed man of the world. 

"I want a shilling's worth of penny stamps/' she said 
shyly, "and our paper/* 

All this time Guy Elmhurst for it was he had never 
taken his eyes off her face. 

"By Jove!" he soliloquised, "what a sweet little wild rose. 
How I should like to make love to her.'* 

The start of another one, "A Gawky Schoolgirl!" reveals, 
rather pathetically, the longings of her heart. 

I am very pretty with straight features, big grey eyes and 
curly golden hair. I am seventeen and have or will have 
on my eighteenth birthday five thousand a year (I dare say, 
dear reader, you are saying to yourself, how vain!) but I 
am not. I have been pretty ever since I was born and have 
known it ever since I could understand what the word 
pretty meant so I have given up all vanity on the subject. 
I am possessed of abundant spirits and a hot temper and 
my name is Kate Brandon. 

Already a conscientious craftsman, she was dissatisfied with 
this and rewrote it in a milder version with a characteristic 
little bitter touch at the end. 

I believe I am rather pretty with straight features, big 
grey eyes and curly bright golden hair. I am seventeen and 
have or wiU have on my eighteenth birthday five thou- 

47 



Elinor Glyn 

sand a year. Perhaps that accounts for people thinking me 
pretty! 

The time was to come when she would have far more than 
five thousand a year and when she would not exchange her 
red hair and green eyes for anything in the world. 

The following year, 1879, saw the first volume of The Diary 
of Miss Nellie Sutherland she was always called Nellie at 
home which she was to keep intermittently for the rest of 
her life. Later it was to be written in thick uniform volumes, 
bound in purple velvet and fastened with Bramah locks, but 
at this stage it was kept, like the stories, in a penny notebook. 
The diary reveals only too clearly the drab, monotonous life 
she was leading. 

Morning sewed. Afternoon called at Government House 
but saw no one. Evening can't remember. 

The longest entry she made at this time was devoted to 
the prediction of a fortune teller, which she wrote down with 
a touching faith and excitement. (In this one instance the 
spelling is left uncorrected.) 

I have been very happy but am going to have some vexa- 
tion and trouble. There is a dark gentelman who loves me 
and will make a settlemet At some amusement at our house 
I will be very vexed and troubled at somthing I here or 
that hapens. I will quarell with my fiance and we are to be 
seperated for a time but am to be eventually happy. Am to 
be marrade at either 19, 20 or 21. My husband is to be rich. 

As a forecast it was singularly wide of the mark. 

16. 

That summer the world suddenly brightened for Elinor. 
An eighteen-year-old Eton boy came to spend his holidays on 

4* 



The Cynical Romantic 

the island, and, red hair or no red hair, he was immediately 
attracted by Elinor. Several other young men were also ap- 
parently interested in her, as the following extract from her 
diary shows: 

Friday 3rd September. 

Morning go to Macs to clear their floor, make it up with 
Duncan, have great fun. Moss comes to dinner. Afternoon 
do my dress. Evening Duncan brings me flowers for to- 
night. Evening the Macs dance, have splendid fun, dance 
five times with Herbert and sit out four! ! ! In nice, nicer, 
nicest dance seven times with -Duncan. They have a scrim- 
mage for the end dance and I give it to Percy. Great fun al- 
together. Duncan jealous, Herbert triumphant. 

She was already learning woman's wiles, discovering how to 
arouse the innate masculine hunting instinct. 

However, she rapidly became very fond of the Etonian (it 
is never quite clear whether he was Duncan or Herbert) and 
recorded obliquely in her diary the diffident joys and despair- 
ing heartaches of first love. But the cynical side of her nature 
refused to let her believe that it was anything more than a 
holiday flirtation. She could not help counting the days that 
were left "only three more days together" but she had been 
well schooled in the control of her emotions and she saw him 
off on his return to Eton dry-eyed and smiling. Mrs. Saunders, 
had she been there, would have approved and might not have 
noticed the lump in her granddaughter's throat. 

The episode with the Eton boy did two things for Elinor. 
It gave her a deathless admiration for the methods and tradi- 
tions of Eton College; and, more important, it restored a good 
deal of her self-confidence. A good-looking young man of eight- 
een had found her attractive; perhaps she was not so ugly 
after all. 

She was also reminded, before it was too late, that the 
spirit of romance, in spite of its sadnesses and disappointments, 

49 



Elinor Glyn 

was far more enjoyable than a dry, aloof mood of cynicism. 

Elinor's second romance took place about six months later, 
and this was a far more adult and dangerous affair. A French 
lady, Mademoiselle Duret, who was staying in Jersey, invited 
Elinor to return to Paris with her on a week's visit. Mrs. Ken- 
nedy, only too glad to get Elinor out of the house for a few 
days, agreed, and so it came about that in the spring of 1880 
Elinor saw Paris for the first time. 

It was a delight and an enchantment to her. She felt, she 
wrote later, as if she were returning to some place which she 
had known well long ago. All Elinor's own French relations 
were out of Paris and Mademoiselle Duret's family seemed 
rather old and uninteresting to the youthful and ardent girl. 
But as a treat and because Mademoiselle Duret felt that Elinor 
ought to see the great actress, she was taken to see Sarah 
Bernhardt in Theodora, Mademoiselle Duret believing erro- 
neously that Elinor's French was not sufficiently fluent to 
allow her to understand much of the story. Thirty years later 
when Elinor actually met Sarah Bernhardt, she recalled in 
her diary her memory of that performance of Theodora. 

It made an immense effect upon me, as she moved and 
undulated over her lover. Strange thrills rushed through 
me. Although I analysed nothing in those days I know now 
I had suddenly found my groupthe group of the Sirens, 
the weird fierce passionate caressing and cruel group. I re- 
member long sentences of her love words to Andreas. I 
used to say them to myself and act the scene before the 
dim glass in the little back room in the Rue de la Borde. 
I had no idea of anything sensual it was merely a sudden 
flint touching steel which had ignited the tinder. I remem- 
ber letting down my hair as a cloak and covering this 
imaginary lover with its copper waves. He had no personal- 
ityhe was not Andreas. He was something for the rousing 
of the soul of me. The old lady who took me to the theatre 

50 



The Cynical Romantic 

believed that a child of fifteen would notice nothing, would 
not understand the French, would take it as a pantomime! 
I remember trembling in my bed the whole night through. 
This was a sudden awakening to the possibilities of life. 

The following day, while Elinor was still in a romantic 
daze over the love of Andreas and Theodora, a good-looking 
young Frenchman who had visited the Kennedys in Jersey a 
month earlier came to call at Mademoiselle Duret's fiat, bring- 
ing an invitation that they should visit his own family. He 
contrived to spend the next three days in Elinor's company, 
and although they were naturally never left alone together, 
he managed to make passionate love to her in English, which 
Mademoiselle Duret understood imperfecdy. The three of 
them visited the Paris Zoo and it was there that Elinor saw her 
first tiger skin. As she stared, fascinated, through the bars of 
the cage, the young Frenchman kept whispering "Belle 
tigressel" into her ear. Coming directly on top of Theodora, 
this made Elinor intoxicated with romance. She went about 
in a starry-eyed dream, murmuring "Andreas, je t'aime . . " 
to herself. 

However, the cynical side of her nature stood her in good 
stead and she declined the Frenchman's invitation to fly with 
him. She returned to Jersey a few days later with a new copy 
of La Rochefoucauld, a present from the Frenchman, and the 
firm conviction that the world was, after all, an exciting place, 
that she herself was both beautiful and attractive to men, and 
that what she had so far experienced was only a foretaste of 
the raptures to come. 



17. 

In 1880, Lucy, now a lovely girl of seventeen, returned for 
a while to Jersey and Elinor once more had a companion. 

5* 



Elinor Glyn 

They both went out a good deal. Lucy, in particular, was very 
much in demand at parties. Many of the young officers in the 
regiment stationed there were in love with her and she her- 
self was very fond of one of them, a particularly charming 
young man, from all accounts. Elinor felt no jealousy of her 
sister's success and romantic preoccupations. Her week in 
Paris had completely restored her self-confidence. She, too, 
was beautiful; her own time would come. 

In the meantime, between social events, she lived in her 
dream world, imagining her lover to be now like the Etonian, 
now like the Frenchman. He would be handsome, well born, 
rich, utterly eligible. She would be his passionate, devoted 
bride and they would live happily ever after. Her cynical 
thoughts, it will be seen, were for the moment firmly shelved. 

By the following year Lucy and her young man were com- 
pletely devoted to each other and Mrs. Kennedy was begin- 
ning to congratulate herself that one of her daughters would 
soon be off her hands. At this point, however, the young pair 
had an unfortunate quarrel. It would undoubtedly have been 
completely forgotten in a day or so but Lucy, in a fit of pique, 
went straight to England before any apologies could be said. 

She stayed there at an old house called Kings Walden in 
Hertfordshire and there she met James Wallace, a dissolute 
bachelor, more than twenty years older than she was. He was 
entranced by her youth and charm and asked her to marry 
him. She accepted without hesitation. 

Mrs. Kennedy was appalled when she heard the news. She 
knew of Wallace's reputation for loose living. He had very 
little money; Lucy had known him only a few days; the young 
officer in Jersey was only too anxious to make up the quarrel. 
Would not Lucy reconsider her decision? 

But Lucy, perverse and headstrong as always, was adamant. 
The more they argued with her, the more stubborn she be- 
came. It was plain to all that the marriage could end only in 
disaster, but Mrs. Kennedy saw that nothing would change 



The Cynical Romantic 

her daughter's mind and reluctantly she withdrew her opposi- 
tion. 

The wedding took place soon afterwards, very quietly. 



18. 



After their marriage Lucy and James Wallace went to live 
in a little house in the grounds of Cranford Park, near 
Hounslow, which was owned by Lord Fitzharding, a friend of 
James Wallace's father. Elinor went to stay with them each 
year and the place became a second home to hernot a very 
happy home because Lucy and her husband were already be- 
ginning to quarrel, but at least it was a pied-a-terre in Eng- 
land away from that suffocating island with its unhappy as- 
sociations. 

Lady Fitzharding, a corpulent but kindly lady, took a fancy 
to Elinor and constantly invited her up to Cranford Park and, 
on occasion, to stay in London. It was under Lady Fitzhard- 
ing's aegis that Elinor was launched in society and started 
her first English season. 

Cranford Park was a gay place at that time. Its house 
parties were large and fasionable; numbers of notable people 
came down every Sunday from London and the house was 
usually thronged with young officers from the cavalry barracks 
in Windsor. The food at Cranford was Lucullan and the chef, 
Frangois, a master of his craft. His speciality was poulard 
celeste, which Elinor was able to describe so accurately in 
her first novel, The Visits of Elizabeth, that Escoffier of the 
Carlton was able to imitate it exactly for the celebration lunch 
on publication day. Frangois, however, was dismissed by Lord 
Fitzharding, soon after Elinor's first visit, as he refused to 
manage on less than two thousand eggs a week, and his lord- 
ship thought that excessive. 

Lord Fitzharding himself was a delightful person, with a 

53 



Elinor Glyn 

kind heart, a neat wit, and a minute stature, causing him to 
be known, with relentless British humour, as "Giant." He 
was much entertained by Elinor's gifts as a lightning artist 
and especially proud of a sketch she did of him in his tall 
cap covered with hedgehog quills. He encouraged her to 
sketch the other members of his parties, and this little talent 
helped her to become a noticed and, unless the caricature was 
too mordant, a popular member of his circle. 

At Cranford she received invitations to other house parties 
all over the country, and soon she was "visiting" like the most 
established members of society, an elegant girl with a haughty 
poise, no money, a courtly manner, and homemade clothes. 
On the surface she was a young lady of gentle birth, taking 
her rightful place in society though some hints in her novels 
and the general contempt in which "colonials" were held in- 
dicate that her path was not always smooth enjoying the 
pleasures of the idle rich, the companionship of good friends 
of both sexes, staying at great houses, relishing the unsur- 
passed amenities of life. But underneath her romantic heart 
was searching for her dream lover, for Andreas. 

Her search was not altogether in vain. Several charming 
young men were strongly attracted to her, but they were all 
virtually penniless and Elinor, her cynical side for the moment 
uppermost, held her emotions in stern check. She knew that 
her mother would be deeply disappointed if she, too, married 
badly and her own studies in eighteenth-century thought had. 
taught her that the success or failure of a young girl's life was 
measured entirely by whether she made a rich or a poor mar- 
riage. Even in Victorian times this view had not entirely been 
abandoned. Elinor herself had had enough of poverty under 
Mr. Kennedy's regime and prospects of a lifetime of love im 
a cottage held no attractions for her. The whole point of 
Cinderella was that she ended by living in the palace; if after 
her marriage she were to continue having to sweep out the 

54 



The Cynical Romantic 

kitchen, with or without Prince Charming to help her, the 
story would have lost all its appeal. 

In her first two seasons at Cranford no less than three men 
proposed to her, all of whom were rich and influential enough 
to satisfy all her worldly desires. But all three were very far 
from heing the dream lover for whom her romantic heart 
yearned. She had already twice tasted the heaven-sent de- 
lights of young love; she could not bear to throw away so 
soon all the bright dreams of her adolescence. 

All her three suitors were elderly and they were all physi- 
cally very unattractive. The first, a bibulous peer with a 
walrus moustache, disgusted her by spluttering over her as he 
proposed. The second was the Duke of Newcastle, and Elinor 
would have given a very great deal to have been a Duchess. 
But as she wrote later : 

He was absorbingly interested in the details of ecclesi- 
astical apparel and this subject was so far removed from 
my ideas as to the things that matter most in life that I 
wonder that I appealed to him sufficiently for him to pay me 
such a compliment. 

The third was a millionaire, but he was vulgar and ostenta- 
tious, with a common voice and unfastidious manners. Mrs. 
Saunders would not have permitted him inside the house, and 
all Elinor's childhood training revolted at the thought of 
marrying such a man. On top of everything else he had a 
beard. James Wallace, however, pressed her strongly to accept 
him and all four of them went on a yachting trip on the mil- 
lionaire's yacht in August when the season was over. Elinor 
firmly refused the proposal when at last it came. James 
Wallace was furious and sent her home to Jersey in disgrace. 

In 1887 she paid her first visit to Hillersdon in Devon, 
which was owned by Mr. W. J. Grant, himself to be one of 
her gayest and most steadfast friends. More than twenty years 

55 



Elinor Glyn 

later when she was again at Hillersdon, she tried in her diary 
to describe herself as she had been on that first visit. 

Twenty-three years ago since I first floated on this lake. 
I remember I was unhappy even in those days. Always some 
sword of Damocles hanging over me. First cantankerous 
step-father. Then an unspeakable brother-in-law making 
home impossible. There were long visits to French relations, 
rich and prosperous, and returning laden with exquisite 
clothes, flung at me as a parting gift, galling always. Then 
there were those visits for the autumn balls, and the women 
hated me. Why, I wonder? My old friend (Billy Grant) 
said because I was so white and slim and red-haired and 
could dance and speak French and had not red arms and 
carried my head very highly and wore Doucet ball dresses 
and when one has no connections even in England, surely 
these were causes enough in all conscience! An upstart, 
half-foreign person! who dared to sail into the sacred pre- 
cincts and cause havoc among the young country squires 
and especially ensnare the heart of the great catch of the 
neighbourhood and then not marry him! 

A girl with such an appearance must be bad! Red hair 
and black eyelashes and green eyes! ! No really nice woman 
creature could have colouring like that! She must be stoned! 

But I had my triumphs in those days. Now that I look 
back upon it all, there was something a little pitiful about 
it. A poor little lonely girl hiding many troubles under a 
haughtily set head, longing to be protected and loved. 
Timid really and very tender hearted and always antag- 
onously treated by women for no fault except nature's 
bizarre choice of red, white and green. Always the centre 
of the passionate love of men always proud always alone. 
Ah me! how I remember when I decided to marry. I thought 
I would choose some good Englishman who would be kind 
to me, where I could shelter from the turmoil and have 

56 



The Cynical Romantic 

some domestic happiness and peace and above all a home! 
Ah me! 

We must make allowances for the mood of disillusion in 
which that was written and for the spirit of self-pity engen- 
dered so often by writing a diary. She was undoubtedly hap- 
pier in those days than she remembered. She had forgotten 
her youth, her romantic ardour, her delight in the society 
world in which she now found herself, her thankfulness at 
her release from the long years of imprisonment in Jersey. 

But there was a grain of truth in it, all the same. Her 
haughty bearing, her arrogance, her icy courtliness, her in- 
tolerance must have often repelled many who would have 
liked to have befriended the young girl. Men were drawn to 
her like moths to a candle. It was her own sex that looked at 
her askance. 



19. 

In 1888, Elinor's French cousins, the Fouquet Lemaitres, 
invited her to spend the season in France and she, hoping 
perhaps to find there the dream lover whom she had so far 
failed to find in England, accepted gladly. 

The Fouquet Lemaitres were an affluent aristocratic family 
with a beautiful chateau near Bolbec in Normandy and a town 
house in the Champs Elysees. Elinor found herself very much 
at home in that milieu; her command of the language, her 
miscroscopic knowledge of certain aspects of French life and 
culture stood her in good stead, though in a young republic 
they were a little surprised by the vehemence of her royalism, 
about which she seems to have expressed herself with force 
and frequency . 

On this visit she saw for the first time the palace of 
Versailles, the place which was to mean more to her than any- 

57 



Elinor Glyn 

where else on earth and which she ever after regarded as her 
spiritual home. To her earth had not anything to show fairer 
than the great facade of the palace seen from the steps above 
the tapis vert. She both amused and shocked her companion, 
the Comte de Segur, by declining to waste her time looking 
for a portrait of his ancestor, a Napoleonic general, as she 
was not interested in cette canaille-Id. 

Although they were living in the progressive, industrious 
world of the Third Republic, the Fouquet Lemaitres and their 
circle still conducted themselves according to the ethics and 
manners of the ancien regime, and Elinor regarded them with 
warm approval. The approval was mutual when they saw 
her own manners, her knowledge of French history and art, 
her undisguised admiration for France. Clearly she had been 
very well brought up. 

They were very kind to her, loading her with presents of 
clothes, which she, remembering her own scanty wardrobe, 
accepted with mingled gratitude and humiliation. It was a gay 
and enjoyable summer and she did all the things that fash- 
ionable girls in Paris were expected to do. She made trips on 
the Seine short ones in Mr. Gordon Bennett's fast yacht, the 
wash of which half drowned the washerwomen on the bank 
and the longer excursion with the whole Fouquet Lemaitres 
family to Rouen. This, judging from the description of it in 
The Visits of Elizabeth, must have been a farcical riot from 
beginning to end. She played tennis at Puteaux. She stayed 
at Bolbec. She took part in the cotillons. She even forced her- 
self to ride in the Bois, where she hoped that her beautiful 
figure with its seventeen-inch waist would distract attention 
from her shocking seat on a horse. 

She was overjoyed to find that the French considered her a 
beauty. Monsieur Marcel, the famous hairdresser, kept two 
distinguished clients waiting the whole afternoon so that he 
might have the pleasure of doing her lovely hair himself. 
Wearing a brand-new white tulle ball dress (a present from 

5* 



The Cynical Romantic 

her cousins), she was taken to a ball at the American Embassy 
the same night. Feeling exactly like Cinderella, she was be- 
yond doubt the belle of the evening. Handsome men crowded 
round her, she danced every dance. 

Unlike Cinderella's, her beautiful new ball dress did not 
turn back into rags at midnight but there was no Prince 
Charming either. Gradually she came to realise that though 
she might easily find romance in France, she would never find 
a husband. She had no dowry. 



20. 

The following year, 1889, Mr. Kennedy died and his wife's 
long years of servitude were over at last. She sold 55 
Colomberie and moved to London, where she took a little 
house in Davies Street, Mayf air. 

A new trouble immediately appeared for the poor woman. 
Lucy was by now very unhappy with her husband, whose 
drinking habits were making life impossible at home. Her 
four-year-old daughter Esme was sent to live at Davies Street 
to be away from her father and to be cared for by her grand- 
mother. Lucy, who for all her faults was a courageous girl, 
made a last effort to save her marriage. 

It had, however, deteriorated past repair, and finally Lucy 
was forced to admit that there was no course left except to 
end it. Divorce in those days was a costly matter and the legal 
expenses absorbed the bulk of the estate which Mr. Kennedy 
had left. Mrs. Kennedy found herself almost back at the point 
where she had been twenty-four years before, with almost no 
money, two unmarried daughters, and now a small grand- 
daughter to support as well. 

Elinor was now twenty-five and her failure to find a hus- 
band was glaring. She wondered many times whether she had 

59 



Elinor Glyn 

not been selfish in refusing the Duke or the bearded million- 
aire. 

Mrs, Kennedy decided, after much serious thought, to use 
the rest of Mr. Kennedy's estate in starting Lucy in a small 
dressmaking business on the ground floor of the Davies Street 
house. It was registered as Lucile's, Ltd., and Mrs. Kennedy 
herself helped with the cutting-up and sewing in the back 
room. The history of that venture, romantic though it is in its 
growth from one room in Davies Street to the foremost cou- 
turier business of the time, Lucile's of Hanover Square, Paris, 
New York and Chicago, lies outside the scope of this book. 

Elinor, meanwhile, continued the social round, now becom- 
ing desperate with the passing of time and the lack of money. 
She visited her French cousins again in the summer of that 
year and the following one, 1890, That winter she went once 
more to stay with Billy Grant at Hillersdon, and here an in- 
cident took place which was to alter her life entirely. 

A large house party was assembled for the duck-shooting 
and the Exeter Ball, and at the latter event Elinor was once 
again in the centre of all attention, to such effect that four 
men of the Hillersdon party, who had been competing for her 
favours all the evening, threw each other into the lake on 
their return to Hillersdon. They then pulled off their sodden 
evening clothes and took baths in their host's best champagne 
to ward off the chills of midwinter bathing. That episode was 
remarkable even for the Naughty Nineties and news of it 
travelled fast through the social world. It reached amongst 
others some friends of Elinor's, the Chisenhale-Marshes of 
Gaynes Park, Essex, and they retailed the story to a neighbour 
of theirs, Clayton Glyn, a wealthy landowner who for twenty 
years had saddened the hearts of society mothers by firmly 
remaining a bachelor. He was intrigued by the story, knowing 
the four men concerned. Any girl who could persuade four 
such stolid types to jump into a lake at three o'clock on a 
winter's morning must be worth looking at, and he suggested 

60 



The Cynical Romantic 

to the Chisenhale-Marshes that next time they invited Elinor 
to stay, they should ask him, too. 

The invitation materialised that autumn, Elinor having duly 
been told about the man who was showing such a gratifying 
interest in her. 

"Clayton Glyn," she wrote later, "was in his ways and 
thoughts always instinctively and naturally the most perfect 
grand seigneur that I have ever met, and one of the kindest 
of men, generous in everything and incapable of meanness of 
any kind/* In appearance he was striking, tall, broad-shoul- 
dered, with a dignified carriage, a good-looking face with china- 
blue eyes, perfect teeth and unexpectedly thick wavy silver 
hair, the consequence of a gas explosion when he was a child. 
He was a descendant of Sir Richard Carr Glyn, the banker 
and Lord Mayor of London, but Clayton Glyn had no busi- 
ness interests, his life being centred round his house, Durring- 
ton, and his surrounding estates. He was a fine sportsman, a 
magnificent shot, a connoisseur of food and wine, a great trav- 
eller, known with respect and affection by almost every head- 
waiter and wine waiter in Europe and the Near East. He 
had a dry, caustic but strong sense of humour and a merry 
smile. 

He was obviously very far from being disappointed with 
Elinor when they were finally introduced. A great part of his 
attraction for her, she later confessed, was his mastery of the 
situation from the very first moment. He took it completely 
for granted that she would consent to marry him. 

Elinor herself was excited and bewildered. The mental pic- 
ture she had always had of her future husband was under- 
going drastic changes in her mind. Clayton Glyn was very 
different, both in appearance and in manner from the young 
Frenchman who had captivated her eleven years before. He 
did not make love to her, as she expected or hoped. He did 
not whisper passionate words in her ear. Indeed, he had at 
all times an innate distrust of the sentimental, the dramatic, 

61 



Elinor Glyn 

and the highfalutin. Elinor was a little disappointed but she 
managed to persuade herself quite easily that romance did not 
consist only in ardent phrases. And there was so much that 
was attractive about Clayton his smile, his blue eyes, his 
grand manner, above all his hair. It was like a powdered wig. 
He might have been a Marquis at the Bourbon court or 
Prince Charming stepped out of an illustration of "Cinder- 
ella." 



21. 



In February of the following year, 1892, Elinor and her 
mother went to Monte Carlo. Clayton Glyn, still like Prince 
Charming, pursued them, and there beside the blue Mediter- 
ranean he asked her to marry him. She accepted gayly and 
he promptly bought her a large diamond ring at Carrier's. It 
was decided that they should be married in London at the 
end of April. Then, unlike Prince Charming, he abandoned 
his fiancee of a few hours and returned home to see how the 
young pheasants were getting on. As he was a poor corre- 
spondent, Elinor neither saw him nor heard from him again 
till immediately before the wedding. If she could have seen it, 
in that moment of casual neglect on his part lay the seeds of 
much future disillusionment, and of more than twenty ro- 
mantic novels. 

Nothing, however, could shake Elinor's happiness at that 
time. She and her mother came slowly back, stopping in Paris 
to do a little shopping for Elinor's trousseau, the bulk of 
which, of course, was to come from Lucile's. The Fouquet 
Lemaitres were astounded by the news they had never ex- 
pected their impoverished cousin to marry. Clayton Glyn, they 
felt, must indeed be in love with her; but in which case why 
was he not now by her side? Elinor laughed but did not care, 
In less than two months she was going to be married. 

62 



The Cynical Romantic 



2,2. 

Clayton Glyn and Elinor Sutherland were married on the 
twenty-seventh of April, 1892, at St. George's, Hanover 
Square, the parish church of Mrs. Kennedy's house in Davies 
Street. They must have been a striking couple, the tall, dis- 
tinguished, silver-haired bridegroom and the slim, beautiful, 
red-haired bride. 

It was the first fashionable wedding that Lucile's had 
dressed and Lucy had done her sister proud, with a beautiful 
full-skirted gown of white brocade and a veil of Brussels lace 
held in place by a diamond tiara, a present from the bride- 
groom, who insisted that a wreath of orange blossoms, then the 
usual headdress, was not fine enough for his dazzling bride. 
She looked, he told her, just like a fairy queen. 

They spent their honeymoon at Brighton. Clayton observed 
that it was sad to have married the Lorelei and then give her 
no opportunity of displaying her charms. So he hired the pub- 
lic baths for two days so that she might swim up and down 
alone, naked, her long red hair, which when uncoiled reached 
her knees, trailing in the water behind her. It was a romantic, 
costly, and rather uncharacteristic gesture which completely 
won his bride's heart 

After the honeymoon they returned to Durrington in tri- 
umph. At long last the squire was bringing home a bride. 
They drove in their carriage through cheering crowds of vil- 
kgers to the main gate, where the horses were taken out of 
the shafts and the farmers themselves, In Newgate-frill 
beards and wearing their Sunday best, drew the carriage up 
the drive, under the evergreen triumphal arches with floating 
tanners and mottoes of "God Bless the Bride and Bridegroom." 
At the end of the drive was the fine Palladian fagade of Dur- 
rington House, no mean threshold over which to be carried. 



Elinor Glyn 

That night there was a banquet for the tenants, with un- 
limited punch and long laborious speeches full of hearty 
references to the possibility of an heir. Outside there were fire- 
works. It was a magnificent home-coming. Elinor was trium- 
phant and radiant. At long last, after all those interminable 
years of waiting, her dreams had come true. Cinderella had 
married her Prince Charming. She had everything in the 
world she craved. She had romance and she had riches. 

The tragedy was that in fact she had neither. 



64 



BOOK TWO 



The Best-Selling Novelist 

1892-1907 



Clayton Glyn was very much the country gentleman, in- 
terested in his land and his farms, discussing the prospects of 
pheasants with his head gamekeeper. He was a Justice of the 
Peace, the squire of the neighbouring village, Sheering; the 
villagers pulled their forelocks or curtseyed as he passed 
through. For much of the time, of course, he was away from 
Essex, at other houses or travelling abroad, but when he was 
at home, his villagers and tenants regarded their lord of the 
manor in a suitably feudal and respectful way. 

He went to church every Sunday, wearing a top hat, for it 
would, in his opinion, have been extremely disrespectful to 
God to have called on Him less formally attired. On the other 
hand, he was invariably six minutes late in case the vicar might 
get uppish and it was very many years before his children 
discovered exactly what happened at the beginning of Morn- 
ing Prayer. 

Into his country life Elinor fitted a little awkwardly. She 
had no experience of its special pleasures and duties and she 
tended to regard it all as rather provincial and dull. She had 
been sufficiently long in Paris to have acquired some of the 
urban condescension with which the Parisian loeau monde of 
that date looked down upon their country cousins. In ap- 

67 



Elinor Glyn 

pearance, too, site was rather un-English. She had only one 
tweed suit and did not care greatly for it. With the smart 
fashions that her cousins had pressed on her and her elegant 
Lucile clothes, her high heels, and polished nails, she was a 
conspicuous figure in Essex County society and regarded with 
a certain amount of suspicion. Among her neighbours she 
made few friends. 

There was, however, one notable exception. The Countess 
of Warwick, one of the most beautiful, gracious, and resplend- 
ent hostesses of that period, lived at Easton Lodge, some ten 
miles from Durrington, and she took the young and inex- 
perienced bride under her wing. No one was a more capable 
or energetic Lady Bountiful than Lady Warwick, but though 
Elinor tried hard to emulate her, she found she had little 
vocation for the task. She did not enjoy taking port and jellies 
to sickly villagers and sitting with them while they told her 
all about their tedious illnesses and families. They, in their 
turn, did not altogether relish the patronage of someone so 
bizarre and outre. No county in England is more insular than 
Essex and they never carne to regard Elinor as anything else 
but a "foreigner." 

Lady Warwick was, however, more successful in instructing 
her in her social duties, for, though Elinor had often been to 
the great houses of England in the Cranford days, being a 
hostess was a new experience for her. Army or naval officers, 
diplomats or clergymen, it was explained, might be invited to 
luncheon or dinner. The vicar might be invited regularly to 
Sunday lunch or supper, if he was a gentleman. Doctors and 
solicitors might be invited to garden parties, though never, 
of course, to lunch or dinner. Anyone engaged in the arts, the 
stage, trade or commerce, no matter how well connected, 
could not be asked to the house at all. 

Elinor had much cause to be grateful to Lady Warwick. 
For years she was her closest friend. She supported the young 
bride and championed her when others in the county were 

68 



The Best-Selling Novelist 

distant and cool. The hospitality of Easton Lodge and War- 
wick Castle, two of the greatest centres of society at that date, 
was always open to her. But though Lady Warwick's friend- 
ship was undoubtedly a great help and consolation to Elinor 
in those first difficult years, we may doubt whether it was a 
benefit in the long run, tending as it did to bring out and 
emphasise Elinor's less lovable qualities, her class-conscious- 
ness and her arrogance* 



2. 



Married life with Clayton was also not quite easy. The 
divergence in their tastes and interests and in their attitude 
towards life became more marked now that they were living 
together. The episode of the swimming-bath at Brighton 
seemed to have been his last romantic gesture. Back at Dur- 
rington he picked up the threads of his normal life and he 
expected his wife to take her rightful place. 

She, still a little bewildered at finding herself so suddenly 
the wife of a country squire, would watch him covertly from 
the far end of their long dining-room table and try to suppress 
her growing doubts about him. 

An incident which occurred shortly after their wedding 
typified the situation between them at this time, although she 
recorded it much later in her diary. 

Oh my heart! This evening I have been in a wood! A 
wood! which for eighteen years I have longed to enter, but 
it has been defendu. 'Women must not walk there, they 
will disturb the pheasants, only the feet of the keepers must 
tread these sacred paths." And so it has remained a place 
of mystery. I first saw it at exactly this time of year, when 
bluebells were blooming and the larks singing and all na- 
ture talking of love and hope. I was very young and had 

69 



Elinor Glyn 

been married about a fortnight. We walked there and I re- 
member how the beauty of It came upon me and with a 
foolish little cry I rushed forward to pick the bluebells 
and it was then it was explained to me the impossibility of 
an entrance. Bluebells! ridiculous! Did I not know at that 
time of the year the mischief going into a wood caused! And 
so we walked on round it and my pleasure in the day was 
gone. And in the years that followed it always hurt when 
I remembered and I never tried to penetrate among the 
trees even in winter. Indeed as long as pheasants lasted it 
was ever defendu, a forbidden corner, an unexplored land. 

Once again we must discount the tone of self-pity, but in 
that incident we find a microcosm of their contrasted attitudes 
toward life: the ardent, passionate girl, tending to dramatise 
herself, longing to enjoy the more romantic aspects of nature 
in springtime; and the quizzical ex-bachelor, afraid for his 
young pheasants and unable to understand why his wife 
should want to run about in bluebell woods. 

It would, however, be a mistake to regard Elinor as an un- 
happy bride. Like every other newly married couple she and 
Clayton had many mutual adjustments to make. The fact 
that they both declined to make these adjustments did not 
affect the marriage till later. In the meantime there was much 
that was new and exciting. Above all, there were the house 
parties. She and Clayton were never happier together than 
when they were sitting in their brougham behind their two 
horses, Pair and Impair (named in memory of Monte Carlo), 
driving over to Easton. 



Country house parties played an important part in the social 
life of the time and formed the background of Elinor's first 



The Best-Setting Novelist 

four novels; so it is perhaps worth while to examine them a 
little more closely and see just what they involved. 

The guests might number anything from twenty to forty, 
the creme de la creme of society peers, senior Tory politi- 
cians, Ambassadors, sportsmen, perhaps even the Prince of 
Wales. They came with their valets or ladies' maids, driving 
up to the front door in their broughams and landaus, there to 
be welcomed by the groom of the chambers, that immensely 
competent and discreet factotum who organised the entire 
household. They were then ushered into one of the drawing- 
rooms, where their hostess was waiting to welcome them with 
afternoon tea. No introductions were ever made and it was 
tacitly assumed that everyone present already knew everyone 
else, an assumption which made things a little difficult for 
young men and girls in their first season and for brides like 
Elinor. 

The whole house, with perhaps the exception of the host- 
ess^ private wing, was open to the guests. They were free to 
wander through the many rooms and galleries, admiring the 
furniture, the family pictures, or the rich tapestries. The effect 
was lush and magnificent, though by modern standards every 
room would have been thought overfilled with sofas, tables, 
and china cabinets. The walls of the front hall were invari- 
ably covered with heads which the host had brought back 
from his several big-game expeditions. Upstairs the bedrooms 
were no less luxurious than the drawing-rooms, with silk bed 
curtains, huge armchairs and sofas, innumerable soft cushions, 
and a white bear hearthrug. A dozen of the newest novels, 
biographies, and travel books stood on the bed table. The writ- 
ing tables were equipped with every imaginable gadget from 
Asprey's or Webster's and every variety of stamp or writing- 
paper. Flowers were placed on the dressing-table every eve- 
ning for the guest to wear at dinner, carnations or gardenias 
lor the men, great sprays of stephanotis or orchids for the 
women. There were, of course, no bathrooms, but each bed- 

7* 



Elinor Glyn 

room contained a metal tub, painted to match the curtains, 
tipped up against the wall behind a screen. This was laid 
out, filled, and emptied by toiling housemaids with huge cans 
of hot water every evening. 

The rooms were usually warm in winter, with big fires in 
the grates, but the passages were normally cold and draughty. 
As evening cloaks or scarves were not fashionable, ladies 
would scurry down them with chattering teeth. Easton Lodge 
was an exception in having warm passages. 

The clothes to be worn at these visits were formal and pic- 
turesque. In the daytime the guests would wear whatever was 
suitable for the time of year and the particular sport of the 
moment. It was not, however, correct to lunch in tweeds and 
ladies were expected to change into frocks. After lunch they 
changed back again into tweeds if it was a shooting party, or 
put on full-length sealskin coats if they were to go motoring. 
For tea they changed again into tea gowns, seductive, diaph- 
anous affairs with low-cut bodices, while the men wore brightly 
coloured velvet smoking suits; Clayton's was sapphire blue, 
and other popular colours were emerald green and crimson. 
For dinner the guests wore full evening dress, the men in 
white ties and tails and the women in dresses with trains, 
carrying ostrich feather fans. Evening bags were never used, 
as cosmetics were at that time almost unknown in society cir- 
cles and could be bought only at a theatrical costumiers. 

The food at these parties was equally sumptuous. Breakfast 
could be taken either in bed or downstairs from a row of silver 
chafing-dishes on the sideboard, the men sitting grumpily apart 
at their own table. Lunch was a lengthy but informal meal; 
often it took place out of doors at the shooting-stand, or in the 
lunch tent at the cricket match or the race meeting. Tea, in 
the drawing-room, varied from the thin bread and butter of- 
fered at some houses to the comprehensive farmhouse tea 
muffins, honey, and Devonshire creamprovided by Lady 
Warwick at Easton. 

72 



The Best-Selling Novelist 

But It was dinner that was the great moment of the day. 
The guests were paired off in the drawing-room and went in, 
arm in arm, in order of precedence. There were usually nine 
or ten courses to be got through, each with a different wine, 
and the meal naturally took a very long time. Polished tables 
were not then in fashion and the table was covered with a 
white damask tablecloth. Great bowls of flowers stood in the 
centre of the table and elsewhere in the room, and these were 
changed for each meal. 

After dinner the gentlemen drank port while the ladies re- 
tired to the drawing-room. When they rejoined the ladies they 
would all split into pairs or groups for conversation. Good con- 
versation at that time was not a way of passing odd moments 
but an end in itself. It was one of the objects of the assembly 
to hear and to practise witty, rapid, devastating, profound, or 
cynical repartee, especially if some notable figure or wit was 
present. For those few who did not care for conversation there 
was always the billiard room or the card room for bezique or 
whist. In certain houses, Shipley and Titchborne for instance, 
but not Easton, baccarat was permitted. 

The object of these elaborate and costly house parties was 
threefold. The first was the enjoyment of the good things of 
life; good living, good food, good company; the exercising of 
the privileges of a highly exclusive society, membership 
of which could be attained virtually only by birth. 

The second object was sport. Most of the large parties cen- 
tred round a big shoot or meet in the winter, a race meeting, 
a cricket or a yachting-week in the summer. The men would 
participate, the women would listen sympathetically, watch as 
much as they could bear, and hope that it would soon be over. 

The third object was philandering. If the etiquette was 
strict, the morals were light. Any husband or wife, however 
newly married, was fair game and large house parties were an 
admirable cover for clandestine love affairs. Gentlemen could 
whisper to ladies as they lit their candles for them at night, 

73 



Elinor Glyn 

notes could be brought on die breakfast trays, arranging ac- 
cidental meetings or rendezvous. No hostess was so expert as 
Lady Warwick in summing up at a glance just how alone a 
couple wished to be and detaching any tactless and unwanted 
third. There were so many places the happy pair could go to 
portraits of ancestors to be seen in a gallery, books of en- 
gravings to be turned over in some small library. They could 
take walks through the woods to a belvedere or viewpoint. In 
the grounds of Easton, within comfortable walking distance, 
there was a small pleasure house, with the Love Lyrics of 
Laurence Hope already lying conveniently on the table in case 
the cavalier should become suddenly tongue-tied. 

The essence of all these affairs was absolute secrecy. Every- 
body, in fact, knew who at the moment was interested in 
whom, but it was never admitted, even tacitly. In the com- 
pany even of their closest friends, who knew all about the 
affair, lovers would remain friendly but distant. To have be- 
trayed any sign would have been "frightfully bad form/' Just 
as a stranger, joining one of these parties for the first time, 
would have found it difficult to discover who was whose hus- 
band or wife, so he would, without enlightenment, have found 
it impossible to know who was whose lover or mistress unless, 
that is, he was sufficiently misguided as to wander about the 
passages at night, 

They asked me why I was so sleepy, and I said because 
I had not slept well the last night and that I was sure 
the house was haunted. And so they all screamed at me, 
*Why?" and so I told them, what was really true, that in 
the night I heard a noise of stealthy footsteps, and as I 
was not frightened I determined to see what it was, so I got 
up Agnes sleeps in the dressing-room, but, of course, she 
never wakes--I opened the door and peeped out into the 
corridor. There are only two rooms beyond mine towards 
the end, round the corner, and it is dimly lit all night. Well, 

74 



The Best-Selling Novelist 

I distinctly saw a very tall grey figure disappear round the 
bend of the hall! When I got thus far every one dropped 
their books and listened with rapt attention, and I could see 
them exchanging looks, so I am sure they know it is 
haunted, and were trying to keep it from me, I asked Mrs. 
Smith if she had seen or heard anything because she sleeps 
in one of those rooms. She looked perfectly green but she 
said she had not heard a sound, and had slept like a top, 
and that I must have dreamt it. 

Then Lady Doraine and every one talked at once, and 
Lord Valmond asked did anyone know if the London eve- 
ning papers had come. But I was not going to be put off like 
that, so I just said, "I know you all know it is haunted and 
are putting me off because you think I'll be frightened; 
I am going to rush out and see the ghost close.** 

Then everyone looked simply ahuri. Mrs. Smith looked 
at me as if she wanted to poison me, and I can't think why 
specially, can you? 5 '' 

After a week or so the house party would disperse, to re- 
assemble again shortly afterwards, in almost the same form, at 
another stately home. It was this society which Elinor entered 
in full flower as a bride. She had tasted it before in her Cran- 
ford days, but it had not formed so continuously a part of her 
life as it did now. Yet, though she was an accepted part of it, 
intermingling freely and naturally, she always remained dis- 
tinct, watching it objectively and curiously, a little critical, a 
little puzzled. She relished its splendours but she recorded 
its shortcomings caustically in her diaries and in her novels. 
It was not its exclusiveness that worried her; she had as little 
sympathy as any other member of it for upstarts and parvenus 
and "colonials/' But she was concerned about its ineffective- 
ness, its uselessness and, within the closed circle, its unkind- 
ness. The great personalities, the great hostesses she admired 

* The Visit* of Elizabeth. 

75 



Elinor Glyn 

warmly. She was less impressed by the spitefulness and the 
time-tilling inactivity of the lesser fry. 



In August 1892 the Glyns went to St. Fillan's in Perth- 
shire for the grouse-shooting, which was not only the re- 
quired activity for August but also Clayton's favourite sport. 
Elinor soon discovered that it was very far from being her 
favourite pastime. With her high heels, her long skirts, her 
long gloves, her big hat and veil, her parasol she found walking 
across the heather a hot, tiring, and uninteresting occupation. 
She resented, too, the somewhat ignominious position to 
which women were relegated at shooting-parties; she dis- 
liked having to play second fiddle to mere birds. "Men," she 
wrote in Letters to Caroline, "are always hunters at heart, 
jealous, primitive darlings!" and it was only natural for them 
to be primarily interested in sport. But that was no reason why 
their womenfolk should have to be present on these occasions 
and Elinor determined that in future years she would leave 
Clayton in Scotland in August and go herself to visit her 
French relations. It was a further divergence of their ways. 

From St. Fillan's the Glyns went on to a number of shoot- 
ing-parties, ending up at Shipley Hall in Derbyshire, where 
Elinor took part in some tableaux vivants. These amateur 
theatricals were a popular country-house amusement at the 
time, usually put on in aid of some charity in which the hostess 
was interested. Elinor enjoyed them very much, throwing her- 
self on this occasion into the part of Mary Queen of Scots 
with gusto and complete lack of self-consciousness. 

That autumn and winter Elinor and Clayton spent at Dur- 
rington, and here there was no escape from shooting-parties* 
Though she detested walking round the covers on a cold day 
or tramping across muddy fields, she accepted it meekly. Her 

7 6 



The Best-Selling Novelist 

shooting manners were, of course, perfect; in her books it is 
only the upstarts or the villainesses who wear bright yellow 
at the stands or talk as the birds come over. 

After a few months, however, she discovered to her joy 
that she was expecting a child and she was able to give up for 
the time the more strenuous aspects of shooting-parties and 
spend long hours lying on the sofa, sewing or reading. The 
child, a daughter, was born in June of the following year. 
Clayton was clearly a little disappointed that it was not a son, 
but Elinor was delighted. She called the child Margot after 
her cousin Margot Fouquet Lemaitre, who was to be a god- 
mother. 

In her book of essays, Three Things, Elinor differentiated 
sharply between what she termed "animal mothers'* and 
"spiritual mothers/' Spiritual mothers, into which category 
Elinor enrolled herself, were interested in the child's charac- 
ter, thoughts, ideals, tastes, manners, and general behaviour. 
Animal mothers, on the other hand, were concerned almost 
exclusively with the child's physical welfare, with mothering 
its small body. For this form of motherhood Elinor had neither 
sympathy nor inclination. She regarded it as a regrettable 
form of self-indulgence on the part of the mother and she 
handed over the physical care of her own child altogether to a 
nanny, dissociating herself completely from that side of family 
life. The nanny was, fortunately, both kind and competent. 

Clayton, for once, fully shared his wife's views in the matter. 
Small children did not appeal to him and he would not even 
travel on the same train as his daughters until they were 
grown-up. Special arrangements at Durrington had to be made 
to keep all nursery sounds and smells away from his notice. 



After a year of married life Elinor was reasonably happy 
and contented, especially when she compared it with what 

77 



Elinor Olyn 

had Been two years or ten years before. She had come to terms 
with life in the country and was able, within limits, to live 
in her own sophisticated urban way. She was able to condemn 
most of her future heroines to a rural life without a qualm 
when they married their heroes and began to live happily 
ever after. 

The principal disappointment was Clayton. She had always 
known in her heart that he was not the lover about whom she 
had dreamed for so many years, but she could not prevent her- 
self still wishing that he was, still hoping that one day he 
might become so. In fact, however, he seemed to be growing 
progressively less ardent as the weeks went by. To counter 
her disappointment she reminded herself often of his many 
good qualities, his kindness, his sympathy, his good humour, 
his grand-seigneur manner, his generosity, the way he paid 
her huge Lucile bills without even reading them through. 

He took her to Paris two or three times a year so that she 
might shake the country earth off her high heels, meet her 
cousins, and buy even more clothes. In the coldest of winter 
months they, like the rest of fashionable English society, went 
to the Mediterranean. 

It was at Hyeres in January 1894 t ^ iat Elinor caught typhoid 
and was seriously ill. She seems to have suffered from a series 
of misfortunes at this time, for no sooner had she recovered 
from typhoid than she had a concussion of the brain, the 
consequence of a fall while taking part in some amateur the- 
atricals at Lord Rosslyn's house near Edinburgh. 

As a consequence of her continued illnesses she gave up, 
with Clayton's approval, and probably at his suggestion, her 
losing struggle to take her full part in rural activities. Hence- 
forward she confined herself to the house and the garden, 
and put her tweed suit away in moth balls. A girl who had 
been one of Elinor's bridesmaids came to stay at Durrington 
at this time and Elinor was grateful to her for taking over some 
of her own rustic chores; the girl, a healthy, open-air type, 

7* 



The Best-Selling Novelist 

seemed actually to like washing dogs, nibbing down horses, 
and going for long walks in the rain, all the things that her 
hostess loathed so much, and Elinor was glad that Clayton 
should have her companionship on his rounds of the estate. 
It was not until later that she came to suspect that the as- 
sociation might not be entirely innocent. 

The extent to which Clayton was losing interest in his 
wife was brought home to her forcibly by an incident which 
occurred that summer. A large house party was gathered at 
Warwick Casde and Lord Warwick himself took Elinor round 
the rose garden in the late afternoon of the second day of 
her stay. There he began to make love to her, saying that 
she was the fairest rose in the whole garden and that he had 
fallen deeply in love with her. He then kissed her. 

Elinor was outraged. She drew herself up haughtily and 
tried to freeze him off. At that moment other guests arrived 
on the scene and caused a diversion. But Elinor was consider- 
ably concerned in her own mind whether she should tell Clay- 
ton or not. She half feared to do so, half hoped that the 
knowledge of the incident, the realisation that other men 
found her desirable might stir him out of his own apathy to- 
wards her. 

She told him that evening after she had finished dressing 
for dinner. He was in his dressing-room next door, in his shirt 
sleeves, tying his white tie in the looking-glass, the moment 
of the day when he always seemed especially glamorous to 
her. His valet, Billingham, discreetly left the room and Elinor 
related the incident, both fearing and hoping for an explosion 
of jealous rage. 

He caught her eye in the looking-glass and grinned at her. 
"No! Did he?" he said. "Good old Brookief And he went on 
tying his tie imperturbably. 

"You see, Paul," said the lady in Three Weeks, "a man can 
always keep a woman loving him if he kiss her enough and 
make her feel that there is no use struggling because he is too 

79 



Elinor Glyn 

strong to resist A woman will stand almost anything from a 
passionate lover. He may beat her and pain her soft flesh; he 
may shut her up and deprive her of all other friends while 
the motive is raging love and interest in herself on his part 
it only makes her love him the more." 

Bayard Delaval in The Great Moment said, "A woman 
would have to he utterly mine in word and thought and look. 
Fd never stand any other fellow hanging around. If I gave her 
the whole of my heart, Yd want the whole of hers." 

"Yes, I could be cruel, I expect," said Prince Gritzko in 
His Hour, "I could be even brutal if I were jealous or the 
woman I loved played me false ... If ever she became my 
Princess she shall be entirely for me. I will not let her have a 
look or thought for any other man. All must be mine unshared 
and then she shall be my Queen." 

But Clayton Glyn, learning that his wife had been kissed 
by another man, only laughed and said, "Good old BrookieF 

It was a bitter blow and she took it very hard. Her romance 
was already over after only two years. Was this what she had 
dreamed about? Would her passionate Frenchman have been 
so apathetic? 



6. 

It is difficult at this stage to be sure just why Clayton 
Glyn's affections towards his wife should have cooled so soon 
and so completely. Perhaps his love would have cooled equally 
rapidly towards any wife. He had had twenty years of aloof, 
self-contained bachelordom, to be betrayed for a time first by 
curiosity and then by infatuation; but in the end his own es- 
sential character must have reasserted itself. 

Or perhaps there may have been some failure, some in- 
adequacy on Elinor's part. In her books The Philosophy of 
Love and This Passion Called Love, and in many of her un- 

80 



The Best-Selling Novelist 

collected articles, she reiterates her belief that love could not 
be commanded at will. A man could not guarantee to love 
one woman all Ms life any more than he could promise to 
keep the wind in the south. It was up to the wife to attract 
and retain her husband's love, and vice versa. By admitting 
this Elinor tacitly placed the failure of her own marriage fairly 
and squarely on her own shoulders. 

She was undoubtedly a difficult person to live with, though 
he must have known when he married her that he was ac- 
quiring no ordinary bride. At times, of course, he was extremely 
proud of her, of her beauty, her composure, and presence in 
social gatherings. When she was in a cynical or mischievous 
mood, they were very close together. But at other times, her 
passionate enthusiasms, her lush romanticism, her originality, 
her self-dramatisation, her partiality for "scenes" must have 
jarred on his dry, quizzical temperament. He must have 
been saddened by her inability to share fully in his own pur- 
suits and interests. 

Elinor firmly believed all her life in the universality and 
infallibility of the masculine hunting instinct. Man, she as- 
serted, was always basically a hunter. It was the elusiveness 
of his lady and the uncertainty of his final success which in- 
trigued him and challenged him during his courtship. But 
after marriage that was gone and "no man likes shooting tame 
rabbits*" A wife, therefore, should be elusive, mysterious, un- 
predictable, so that her husband's hunting instinct would 
never be lulled to sleep, later to be reawakened by some new 
quarry. 



In August of that year, 1894, Clayton went, as usual, to 
his Scottish grouse moor while Elinor took her year-old baby 
Margot to meet her French godmother at Dieppe, then a f ash- 

81 



Elinor Glyn 

ionable watering-place. The astringent atmosphere of French 
society was a welcome change after Essex and consoled Eli- 
nor a good deal for the frustrations of her private life. 

She was almost thirty and in the full noonday glory of 
her beauty. She was also, it appears, in good spirits, despite 
the shortcomings of her husband as a lover, if we are to judge 
from two portraits of her which Jacques Blanche painted on 
this visit. One of them was a formal portrait of great beauty; 
despite the colour of her hair the artist gave her a pink bow. 
Fifteen years later this was repainted blue at the insistence 
of Lord Curzon of Kedleston, who could not bear the clash 
of colour. The other picture, Le Chat Nelly, is a delightful 
and witty exposition of her feline character, painted forty years 
before her own interest and pleasure in the company of mar- 
malade-coloured cats. 

She returned to Durrington in the autumn, and for the 
next year continued the social round to which she was now 
accustomed; visits all over England and Scotland, the South of 
France in January, Paris at Easter, the London season in May 
and June, Cowes in July, Dieppe once again in August. In 
the autumn they went to Italy, and Elinor saw Venice for the 
first time. It made a great impression on her; no other place 
she had yet seen was so romantic. She ached for her dream 
lover, for the ardent Frenchman whose memory was still with 
her, for someone who would whisper words of passion and 
adoration in her ear as they stood in the loggia of their palazzo 
or floated down the Grand Canal in a gondola, 

But Clayton had never been given to things like that, now 
less so than ever. He insisted on Elinor's maid, Williams, go- 
ing with them in the gondola so that she, too, might have the 
pleasure of seeing the Grand Canal by moonlight. Elinor was 
utterly frustrated,, but she gained a litde introverted satisfac- 
tion from dashing off passionate love scenes between herself 
and an imaginary lover in her diary. 



The Best-Selling Novelist 



8. 

It was during this year, 1895, that Clayton decided that 
Durrington was too large, expensive, and inconvenient a house 
for them and suggested that they should move to Sheering 
Hall, a three-hundred-year-old farmhouse about a mile away. 
Elinor never questioned her husband's decision on matters of 
this sort and she set herself to make Sheering as comfortable 
as possible. Amongst other alterations a new wing had to be 
built on for the nursery, so that it might be kept far away from 
Clayton. 

The actual move into Sheering Hall took place early in 
1896 and with it a new life seemed to begin for Elinor. The 
ill-health and emotional frustration which had dogged her for 
the past two years seemed to slip away. Clayton, too, seemed 
to rediscover that he had a passionate and beautiful wife. 

They took a small flat in Sloane Street for the season and 
Elinor threw herself once more into the delights of social Lon- 
don. In May she took part in a masked ball at Covent Gar- 
den dressed, with Lady Rosslyn, as les chauves-souris. A few 
days later she was presented at court for the first time. This 
was long overdue but a combination of illness and other cir- 
cumstances had prevented its taking place before. 

It was the first time she had ever been to a court function 
and she wrote in her diary afterwards pages of glowing de- 
scription of the splendid scenes in the throne room and the 
anterooms. She herself, looking radiantly beautiful, made her 
six curtseys faultlessly to the Princess of Wales (who was 
deputising for Queen Victoria) despite a train four yards long. 
She was, however, less impressed by the other ladies at the 
court. She wrote in her diary : 

There were numbers of hideous women there, with Ye 
Gods! what skins! Brown or pimply or red and coarse! One 



Elinor Glyn 

could count on one's fingers the women who could stand 
king viewed in full regalia in the sunlight with impunity. 

Mrs. Kennedy had by this time given up the Davies Street 
house to Lucy and her daughter and Clayton now installed 
her in a cottage near Sheering called Lamberts. Though it had 
recently been pebble-fronted, Lamberts was old and spacious, 
but further enlargements and modernisations were required 
before it was ready for Mrs. Kennedy. 

In January 1897 the whole family, Clayton, Elinor, three- 
and-a-half-year-old Margot, Mrs. Kennedy, and retainers went 
to Italy to escape the cold months, the first of many large- 
scale family excursions. They went first to Rome, where they 
had many friends at the various embassies. Later they went 
on to San Remo to stay with Sir William Walrond (later Lord 
Waleran) who had often entertained them at duck-shooting 
parties in England. Sir William Walrond was at the time Gov- 
ernment Chief Whip, but such was the tempo of the age that 
he was able to conduct the bulk of his parliamentary duties 
perfectly satisfactorily from his villa in Italy. 

The rest of the year they divided between Sheering and 
Sloane Street, On Sunday nights they would often dine at the 
Savoy at a window table, looking out over the embankment. 
These were some of the happiest hours of Elinor's whole life. 

One of the consequences of her amateur theatricals in Scot- 
land, her close knowledge of Paris f ashiojis, and her own beau- 
tiful clothes was her first journalistic commission. The editor 
of the magazine Scottish Life invited her to write a series of 
fashion articles, to take the form of a weekly open letter 
from Suzon to Grizelda and to contain not only a description 
of the latest clothes and hats but also general advice on beauty. 

The first instalment of Les Coulisses de VEleganceloy Mrs. 
Glyn, as the series was called, appeared on May 14, 1898, 
and ran all through the summer and autumn. Elinor began a 
little diffidently: 

84 



The Best-Selling Novelist 

I am sure you will be nice to me, Grizelda, and won't 
write back and tell me that from a literary point of view 
my letter is all wrong, my grammar horrid and my sentences 
not properly formed, because I confess to you I have never 
written a letter to be printed in my life though upon the 
subject of frocks and chiffons I do claim to know a good 
deal. 

But she soon gained her self-confidence. 

I hear, Grizelda, that you are tall and lovely, but also that 
you stoop. I shall have to give you a tremendous lecture 
about this because it is of the first importance. No one, how- 
ever beautiful, looks distinguished with round shoulders; I 
don't believe any woman (except Miss Hardcastle) ever yet 
stooped and conquered. 

There we have in one paragraph the three principal in- 
gredients of an Elinor Glyn article; the emphasis on poise and 
deportment, the admonitory tone and the crisp phrase, which 
were to remain unaltered throughout the hundreds of articles 
she was to write during the next forty years. 

Les Coulisses de I'Elegance, however, caused no great stir 
and she herself seems to have forgotten in her later life that 
they were in fact her first published works. 



Elinor's second daughter, Juliet, was born in December of 
that year. It was a hard, exhausting birth, and it was feared 
for a time that Elinor herself might not survive it. However, 
she recovered slowly, nursed by her mother. Clayton was bit- 
terly disappointed at being presented with a second daughter. 
He waited long enough to be sure that his prostrate and ex- 
hausted wife was not going to die and then he went off by 
himself to try to forget his sorrows at Monte Carlo. 



Elinor Glyn 

He was a born gambler and believed in backing against the 
ran of the cards or the wheel and in staking heavily to re- 
cover earlier losses. On this occasion he lost more than ten 
thousand pounds and he returned to Sheering in a gloomy 
frame of mind. Fortunately for her health Elinor did not learn 
about these losses till later. 

Quite apart from this financial setback the birth of a sec- 
ond daughter had a deep and far-reaching effect upon the 
marriage and upon Clayton's own attitude towards life just 
how far-reaching and drastic Elinor did not discover for an- 
other ten years. The immediate consequence, as far as she was 
concerned, was that a deathblow had been dealt to his in- 
terest in her, only so recently reawakened. Henceforward his 
attitude towards her was affectionate, considerate, and avun- 
cular. 



10. 



During that winter a governess, Miss Mary Dixon, was en- 
gaged to give Margot her first lessons. This was a happy and 
auspicious event; Dixie, as she was always known, came to 
be dearly loved and depended upon, not only by the two chil- 
dren but by the whole family. She remained with them for 
the next thirteen years, and after that was, and still is, a close 
and valued friend. At first she bicycled out daily from Harlow, 
but later as her responsibilities increased, she lived in with the 
family. 

Shortly after she was up and about again, Elinor was caught 
in a heavy rainstorm at a shooting-lunch which she had been 
unwisely persuaded to attend, and she developed rheumatic 
fever. Once again she was seriously ill and both Clayton and 
Mrs. Kennedy were deeply anxious about her. For a time Eli- 
nor herself was convinced that she was going to die and felt 
vaguely that it would be romantic and beautiful to die so young 

S6 



The Best-Selling Novelist 

and that die world had little left to offer her. However, as 
she recovered her strength, her natural buoyancy and resili- 
ence came to her aid and to amuse the beginning of her con- 
valescence she asked her mother to get out some of the diaries 
which she had written at the time of her first country-house 
visits, and her journal of her first French season with the 
Fouquet Lemaitres. This journal had been in fact written in 
the form of letters to her mother but had not been posted; her 
mother was shown it at a later date. 

Reading them through again now, Elinor was much amused, 
and the idea came to her to rewrite them in the form of a book. 
Everyone was considerably surprised by her plans, but the 
invalid had to be humoured. Apart from the fashion articles 
and her diary, the creative urge had lain dormant inside her 
for fifteen years and there was no holding it now. Lying out in 
a deck chair in the warm spring sunshine, too weak to be 
able to cross or uncross her own legs, Elinor began to write 
The Visits of Elizabeth. She wrote fast, in her fine handwrit- 
ing and her incredible spelling, correcting, revising, recopying 
pages, drawing on incidents and characters both from the 
Cranford days and from her more recent experiences, shaping 
the raw material into a polished, rounded whole, a witty, 
sparkling, shrewdly observed, sometimes malicious description 
of society* 

The work was cast in the form of letters from Elizabeth to 
her mother, and when it was finished Clayton took it up to 
London and showed it over lunch at the Garrick Club to Sam- 
uel Jeyes, then assistant editor of the Standard. To have 
a wife who had written a book was at that time and in that 
society a matter more for shame than for anything else, but 
Clayton was concerned for his wife and thought that a friendly 
comment from an established literary man would be a nice 
surprise for the convalescent 

Mr. Jeyes read the book and was sufficiently amused to read 
some of it aloud that evening in the club, to the accompani- 

87 



Elinor Glyn 

merit of guffaws from other members. He declined to say who 
the author was and it was assumed that he had in fact writ- 
ten it himself. The following day, Elinor, who was beginning 
to hobble about on two sticks, was astonished and delighted 
to receive a telegram from Jeyes: "Elizabeth will do. May I 
come and see you." 

He came the following Sunday and told Elinor, now im- 
proving rapidly with the excitement, that the editor of the 
World had agreed to buy the serial rights. She asked Jeyes to 
make all the arrangements for her and it was decided that the 
book should be published anonymously. 

The first instalment of The Visits of Elizabeth appeared 
in the World on Wednesday, August 9, 1899, and as the weeks 
went by, the letters caused something of a sensation. All fash- 
ionable society read the World and there was little difficulty 
in recognising most of the characters and the places described. 
There was a good deal of speculation about the author's iden- 
tity; it was obviously someone who knew society very well. 
But Jeyes kept the secret well and Elinor believed that even 
the editor of the World himself did not know. One lady com- 
ing to visit the Glyns at Sheering brought a copy with her to 
aniuse Elinor and speculated at length about who the author 
might be. Finally Elinor admitted responsibility, but the guest 
remained unconvinced. 

"But, Nellie darling, it can't possibly be you!" she exclaimed. 
"A really clever person must have written these letters." 

Society, on the whole, was much amused by it. One or two 
people were rather shocked and wrote letters to the paper call- 
ing it "disgraceful" and a "melange of vulgarity, nastiness, and 
unclean stupidity and dullness"; but the book was vigorously 
defended in reply by an anonymous admirer calling himself 
Toby Belch, and Elinor was most gratified. 



88 



The Best-Setting Novelist 



II. 



Under the stimulus of the success of her book, Elinor's 
health improved rapidly, and by the late summer she was able 
to resume her normal place in society. In May of the follow- 
ing year, 1900, she took part in a matinee at Her Majesty's 
Theatre arranged by Lady Arthur Paget in aid of a South 
African war charity. She appeared with four other red-haired 
society ladies, Baroness d'Erlanger, Lady St. Oswald, Mrs. 
Curzon, and Lady Mary Sackville, in a tableau vivant of an 
imaginary Titian picture, The Five Senses. To make the eff ect 
even more striking Beerbohm Tree, who was the producer, 
made them sprinkle copper dust on their hair. In a few hours 
it turned bright green and proved extremely difficult to get 
out. 

For the coining winter Clayton decided that his wife would 
benefit from a stay in a still warmer and more dependable 
climate than even the South of France provided and he pro- 
posed that they should go to Egypt. The children were to be 
left with their grandmother at Lamberts, and in anticipation 
of this plans were put in hand for extensions to be built on to 
the old cottage, a nursery wing and a servants' wing to house 
the additional staff which would now be required there. Mrs. 
Kennedy was delighted at the prospect. 

During the summer Samuel Jeyes met Gerald Duckworth, 
who had recently started a publishing house and was looking 
for new authors for his list. Jeyes, remembering with some 
pride the success which The Visits of Elizabeth had had as a 
serial, suggested that the letters would probably be well re- 
ceived in book form and sent him a copy. Duckworth's reply 
was received on the eighteenth of August. 

89 



Elinor Glyn 

Mydearjeyes, 

I like very much The Visits of Elizabeth and think in 
volume form they should sell well. Will you put me into 
communication with the authoress? I should suggest a 15% 
royalty, 

I am ordered to Aix-Ies-bains for haths and leave London 
on the 28th* Can it be done before this date so that I may 
put things "en train"? 

Yours ever, 
Gerald Duckworth 

Jeyes accordingly came down to Sheering once more, bring- 
ing the good news, which thrilled Elinor. The letters, he 
explained, would need to be considerably lengthened for pub- 
lication in book form. When he had gone, Elinor got out again 
her French journal and interposed the whole of the French 
section of the book, the part which may be thought to contain 
some of the best scenes and characters. The revised manu- 
script was sent off to Duckworth, and Elinor sat back with 
a delightful feeling of achievement and expectation, very dif- 
ferent from the melancholy gloom of eighteen months earlier. 

There was a certain amount of discussion as to whether 
the complete book should also be published anonymously and 
if not what name should be chosen. Elinor herself favoured 
her normal signature; since most of her friends now knew that 
she was the author, there was little point in concealing her 
identity any longer. She consulted Lady Warwick, who agreed 
with her, adding,, "Elinor Glyn sounds like a nom de plume, 
anyway.* 



12. 



The Visits of Elizabeth was published in November 1900, 
price six shillings, an apple-green volume with a flat back, 



The Best-Selling Novelist 

white label, and gold lettering, a form of binding which, in 
varying colours, Duckworth was to use for all her books and 
which provided a uniform edition from the very beginning. It 
was very well received by the critics and seemed to appear 
overnight in stacks on every bookstall. It was all very surprising 
and unexpected for a lady of fashion. 

The world of high society which Elinor Glyn satirised in 
her first novel has long since passed away but the gayety and 
the wit of The Visits of Elizabeth is still as fresh as ever. 
There is practically no plot and very little romance. Harry, 
Marquis of Valmond, is forward enough to kiss Elizabeth un- 
der the ear at an early stage and gets his face sharply slapped 
for his impertinence. He annoys her by repeatedly forcing his 
charming and, of course, irresistible presence upon her. 

And we made up our quarrel, and he kissed me again 
and I hope you won't be very cross, Mamma; but somehow 
I did not feel at all angry this time. And I thought he was 
fond of Mrs. Smith; but it isn't, it's Me! And we are en- 
gaged. And Octavia is writing to you. And I hope you won't 
mind. And the post is off , so no more. 

The bulk of the book consists of Elizabeth's descriptions 
and experiences of her first season, recorded with neat and 
ingenuous frankness. 

What do you think has happened? Sir Dennis sat beside 
me on the sofa just as he did last night and well, he said 
I was a perfect darling, but that he never could get a 
chance to say a word to me alone, but that if I would only 
drop my glove outside my door it would be all right; and 
I thought that such a ridiculous thing to say that I couldn't 
help laughing, and Lady Cecilia happened to be passing, 
and so she asked me what I was laughing at, and so I told 
her what he said, and asked why? There happened to be 
pause just then and, as one has to speak rather loud to Lady 

9* 



Elinor Glyn 

Cecilia to attract her attention, everyone heard, and they 
all looked flabergasted; and then all shrieked with laughter, 
and Sir Dennis said so crossly, "Little fool!" and Lady Des- 
mond simply glared at me, and Lady Cecilia said, "Really, 
Elizabeth!" and Sir Dennis got purple in the face and Jane 
Roose whispered, "How could you dare with his wife lis- 
tening!" and everyone talked and chaffed. It was too stupid 
about nothing; but the astonishing part is, that funny old 
thing I thought was the mother turns out to be his wife! 

Elinor herself maintained later that the character of Eliza- 
beth had been partly inspired by Lady Angela St. Clair- 
Erskine, who had been something of an enfant terrible at some 
house parties. But in fact the character of Elizabeth is a por- 
trait in a mirror not a complete portrait, but a demonstration 
of some of her most lovable qualities, her gayety and her mis- 
chievous sense of fun (the book was written in a moment of 
painful illness and emotional depression), her ability to com- 
bine shrewd satire with gentle warmheartedness, her ob- 
servant eye and light pen, her ability to laugh at others and 
at herself simultaneously. 

The comedy of manners, of which, of course, Jane Austen 
is the supreme exponent, is one of the principal currents in 
the great river of English fiction; and in this current The 
Visits of Elizabeth was a highly popular and not insignificant 
landmark. 



In January 1901, Queen Victoria died, and Elinor, staying 
the night before with Lucy in Davies Street, watched with 
deep emotion the funeral procession from the windows of the 
Berkeley. Soon afterwards, with the children safely installed 
with Mrs. Kennedy at Lamberts, the Glyns sailed for Egypt. 



The Best-Selling Novelist 

Travelling with Clayton was always a pleasure automat- 
ically to have the best cabin, the most comfortable compart- 
ment, smiling managers, head stewards, headwaiters to greet 
her at every stage, specially attentive service, every plan dove- 
tailed and smooth and effortless. This was due not only to his 
careful planning and generous but not excessive tipping, but 
also to his obvious appreciation of the finer points of service, 
food, and wine. Even in places which he had not visited be- 
fore, his fame as a connoisseur of good living had gone before 
him, passed from one restaurateur to another, so that the same 
cordial welcome awaited him as if he had been a visitor all his 
life. 

This was especially so in the case of these visits to Egypt, 
the longest journeys which he and Elinor ever made together. 
For Elinor this particular voyage was made especially pleasant 
from seeing the number of people on board who were reading 
The Visits of Elizabeth. 

She was delighted by Egypt and rhapsodised in her diary 
about the beauty and the colour of everything, the sapphire- 
blue sky, the brilliant green rice fields, the picturesque build- 
ings, the domes and minarets, the camels, the desert, the 
sense of endless space and endless time. 

They stayed at the Savoy Hotel, and soon found themselves 
participating in the social life of Cairo, led by Lady Cromer, 
the wife of the High Commissioner, and Lady Talbot, the wife 
of the General Officer Commanding. The social life was quite 
as gay and select as in London but with fewer vices, since most 
of the men were usefully employed. 

A pleasing incident occurred after they had been there 
about a fortnight. One of the pashas had been eyeing Elinor 
with a good deal of interest; he now approached Clayton 
through an intermediary and asked whether Clayton would 
be willing to sell the pasha his wife. Perhaps the English 
gentleman would be tired of his wife by now, it was explained; 
one tired quickly of redheads. Both Clayton and Elinor were 

93 



Elinor Glyn 

delighted by the story, but the intermediary swore solemnly 
that it was a perfectly serious offer. Clayton often teased his 
wife in later years, threatening that he would sell her into a 
harem if she became tiresome; but Elinor, whenever she told 
the story, always left out the part about tiring quickly of red- 
heads. It was too near the truth for joking. 

On this visit they spent only a few weeks in Cairo and re- 
turned to England in March, staying in Naples and Rome 
on the way. Back at Sheering they threw themselves once 
more into fie English social season. 



14. 

It was now that the inevitable happened the consequence 
of a romantic temperament, an uninterested husband, and a 
gay, leisured social world. Indeed, one can only wonder that it 
Bad not happened earlier. Elinor fell, deeply, passionately, 
desperately in love. 

Major Seymour Wynne Finch was a Guards officer whom 
she had met many times at parties. Even in that brilliant, 
fashionable throng he was a person of unusual charm and 
distinction. He was very handsome and his appearance was 
especially elegant; his smoking suit was made of Paisley shawl 
with black silk facings. He had a gay and ready wit: on hear- 
ing that a certain lady treated her husband 'like furniture," 
he asked without a moment's hesitation, "Drawing-room or 
bedroom? It does make such a difference." He had a warm 
and sympathetic personality; he himself was deeply in love 
with Elinor. 

One can imagine the happiness and the distress that must 
have been going on simultaneously inside her; torn not only 
by the unavoidable conflict of conscience and desire but by 
the two different halves of her own temperament. The ap- 
proved solution of the time would undoubtedly have been a 

94 



The Best-Selling Novelist 

discreet love affair, such as most of her friends indulged in. 
Clayton himself might well have countenanced it, provided 
that it was carried out without any scandal, the sine qua non 
of all such affairs. Elinor's own cynical side, her eighteenth- 
century training, the Due de Saint-Simon himself, would have 
found no fault in it. In The Reflections of Anibrosine, the 
French Marquis who had been the lover of Ambrosine's grand- 
mother says, <f The only vows which a lady or gentleman may 
break without dishonour are the marriage vows. w 

But the romantic side of Elinor's personality rebelled 
against such a thought. Even Mrs. Saunders had believed 
firmly in the sanctity of marriage vows and Elinor herself had 
not yet entirely despaired of her marriage. The correct ending 
for the fairy story was for Prince Charming and Cinderella 
to live happily ever after; not, after a few years, to go their 
own ways with mistresses and lovers. She placed several of 
the heroines of her novels in precisely the same predicament, 
and it is significant that (excepting Three Weeks, which is a 
special case) it is not until she reached The Sequence in 1912 
that she allowed one of them to yield. 

She said a sad farewell to Seymour Wynne Finch and never 
saw him again. 



The visit to Egypt had been such a success that it was de- 
cided to take out the whole family that winter, including the 
children, Mrs. Kennedy, a French governess, Mademoiselle 
Courtellement, and Williams. This time they remained in 
Cairo the whole winter and the social life seemed more spar- 
kling than it had been before, Elinor even allowing herself to 
be persuaded by Lady Newtown-Butler, the leader of the 
"Kasr-el-Dubara" set and later the Duchess of Sutherland, to 
watch the nth Hussars playing polo at the Gezireh Club. 

95 



Elinor Glyn 

Cairo at that time was full of interesting people. Cecil 
Rhodes and Dr. Jameson passed through and Elinor wrote 
in her diary: 

Rhodes and Jameson and those other three men were 
sitting together at dinner and five more ill-shapen creatures 
I have never seen. Dr. Jameson's hack view is like that of 
an old rat with pink ears and a bald head! 

Sir Ernest Cassel was also there and became friendly with the 
Glyns. 

The inevitable tableau vivant for charity was organised and 
Elinor took part as the Lorelei, clad only in tights, yards of 
green gauze, and her hair, which she combed out to its full 
length. She must have been a wonderful sight. She went 
shopping in the mouski for rahat lakoum and for cheap flawed 
pale green emeralds to match her eyes. The High Commis- 
sioner gave a children's fancy-dress party at the Residency to 
which the eight-year-old Margot and the three-year-old Juliet 
went, looking like china dolls in hooped skirts and powdered 
hair. 

This particular party, however, ended in wails of misery. 
The balloons which the children were given were filled with 
gas and, once lost hold of, rose rapidly to the ceiling, where 
they bobbed about tantalisingly. Lady Cromer had to promise 
to have long ladders brought and to send the balloons round 
to the children the next day at their own homes. At another 
fancy-dress ball, this time for grownups, a set of Lancers was 
arranged by Lady Talbot: eight ladies, including Elinor,, 
dressed as Romney portraits and eight officers of the nth 
Hussars in full levee dress. 

The great ball of the winter was the Khedive's Ball. At 
this time the Grand Duke Boris of Russia was in Cairo and 
one of his suite was Prince Gritzko Wittgenstein, a young 
daredevil whose exploits and wildness were notorious even out- 
side Russia. He was immensely good-looking. "I think/' wrote 

9 6 



The Best-Selling Novelist 

Elinor, "that he was the most physically attractive creature 
that I have ever seen. 1 * The tales of his wickedness were end- 
less; of his orgies in his palaces; of how he would fight duels 
in darkened rooms over a lady; of how he would ride his 
favourite Arab horse up and down the stairs till its legs were 
broken; of how, when a gipsy girl defied him, he stripped her 
naked and dropped her over the balcony of the restaurant 
where they were dining into the soup tureen of the unsuspect- 
ing dinner party below. He was not formally presented to Eli- 
nor, but she noticed him watching her as she talked to the 
Grand Duke Boris. He was a striking figure in his full-skirted 
scarlet Cossack uniform. 

Later he came and, still unintroduced, asked her to dance. 
Before she could wither him for his impertinence, he swept 
her on to the floor in a waltz, pressing her so tightly that the 
cartridges in his crossbelts left red weals on her white chest. 
Manoeuvring her skilfully into a corner, he suddenly bent 
and kissed her on the throat and then abruptly turned and left 
her blazing with cold fire, speechless with outraged haughti- 
ness. She was to make good use of this scene later. 

But the most memorable incident of the visit was an ex- 
pedition to the Sphinx by moonlight on a camel. At that time 
the Sphinx was not surrounded by shacks and advertisement 
hoardings, and the beauty and mystery of the scene, the play 
of moonlight and sand, the aloof, brooding agelessness of the 
Sphinx itself touched some chord in Elinor's mind. She was 
deeply moved and she determined that her children, too, must 
have this wonderful experience. 

A few days later, to their intense delight and excitement, 
she mounted them on camels and led them out into the 
moonlit desert. The other ladies in Cairo thought it very odd 
of her and it was long past the children's bedtime. But Elinor 
was indifferent to the views of such animal mothers. It was 
her duty to teach her children to appreciate the fine things 

97 



Elinor Glyn 

in life, and the Sphinx by moonlight was certainly one of 

them. It was never too early to begin. 



16. 



The illness which dogged so much of the early part of her 
life descended on her again now in the form of painful at- 
tacks of gallstones. It would come upon her in waves of agony 
and she had several times to be given morphia. She lost weight, 
and both Clayton and her mother became once more very 
anxious over her, 

As she got slowly better, Prince Hussein, later the King of 
Egypt, gave her permission to sit in his garden at Gezireh 
Palace. This was a remarkable place, situated on a small is- 
land; but it was so cunningly contrived with vistas and arti- 
ficial mounds that it seemed to stretch for miles. It was filled 
with flowers, giant violets, roses, lilies of the valley; bougain- 
villea and clematis hung from the tree trunks. There was 
never any sign of a dead or dying plant, the gardeners work- 
ing by night, digging up every wilting bloom and replacing it 
with a fresh one. 

In this exotic atmosphere Elinor's spirits and health revived 
rapidly and, as before, her return to convalescence was marked 
by a desire to write a book. She lay there in the garden, 
wondering what would have happened if she had married the 
bearded millionaire eighteen years earlier. How would she 
have endured life, supposing she had later met and fallen in 
love with Seymour Wynne Finch? In the Gezireh garden, 
with that central situation in her mind, she began her second 
novel, The Chronicle ofAmbrosine. 

She did not, however, get very far with it before the mo- 
ment came to leave for home. Clayton and Elinor were once 
again to travel back through Italy while the rest of the party 
went home by sea. Their arrival at Naples was marked by a 

98 



The Best-Selling Novelist 

scene of utter farce ? the sort of third-rate bedroom comedy, 
which Elinor, to her, great amusement, seemed fated to un- 
dergo periodically. 

A liner had been delayed leaving Naples and their reserved 
bedrooms had not been vacated. The valet of Mr. Van Allen, a 
distinguished American diplomat, who had been friendly with 
the Glyns on board, succeeded in finding a bedroom with two 
single brass beds in it and it was proposed that all five should 
share this for the night. Elinor and Williams were to have 
one bed, Mr. Van Allen the other, Clayton was to be on the 
sofa and Mr. Van Allen's valet on a chair. 

Williams was appalled at the presumption of sharing a bed 
with her mistress and slept on the very edge. Clayton and Mr. 
Van Allen undressed with difficulty behind a small screen; the 
valet did not even unfasten his collar. It was a disturbed 
night. The valet sat bolt upright on a small gilt chair, his 
mouth wide open, snoring hard, while his master occasionally 
shouted at him. At intervals Williams fell out of bed. The 
lamplight poured into the room through the Venetian blinds 
and every time Elinor sat up in bed to get a breath of air, she 
noticed Mr. Van Allen propped on one elbow, staring at her, 
murmuring, "God! what a formP Whenever she woke up dur- 
ing the night, he was still sitting gazing at her, muttering pas- 
sionately to himself* 

"Old fool!" said Clayton the next day, who was not amused 
by the breakdown in his travelling arrangements. "Bothering 
about women when we were all so tired." 

Clayton seems to have been in a testy mood all that spring, 
for when they reached Rome, Elinor began rhapsodising about 
the beauties of art and architecture and he would exclaim, 'Tor 
goodness* sake go and get your ebullitions over while I order 
lunch." 

In Rome they attended a large wedding between an Aus- 
trian Prince and an Italian Princess and went on motoring 
expeditions in the American Ambassador's new Packard to 

99 



Elinor Glyn 

Viterbo, Orvieto, and Villa d'Este. Italian peasants shook their 
fists at the strange new machine, with its weirdly garbed oc- 
cupants, trundling slowly along. Elinor struck up a firm friend- 
ship with Lord Grey, who took her sight-seeing and tried to 
fill the gaps in her Roman history which Gibbon had left. A 
young attache at the French Embassy fell passionately in love 
with her and confided to Clayton during a picnic at Villa 
d'Este that it made him furious to see Elinor going about so 
much with Lord Grey. Clayton tried to reassure him: "Don't 
worry, my dear fellow. He's only one of Elinor's antiques." 

While in Rome they went to many large parties in the 
palaces of Italian nobles, but she also had a recurrence of 
pain and Clayton took her to see Dr. Axel Munthe, at that 
time famous only as a physician. She was immensely struck 
by his almost hypnotic personality and by his uncanny appear- 
ancethe soft, closely cut beard and spectacles so thick that it 
was impossible to see his eyes. He was also apparently much 
struck by Elinor, and he told her later that he had described 
her in his casebook by the single word "siren." He was openly 
contemptuous of the smart Italian ladies who flocked to see 
him, but he was kind and sympathetic to Elinor and the 
treatment he prescribed proved effective. 

From Rome they went on to Lucerne. Elinor had never 
seen Switzerland before and was quite overcome by the beauty 
of the Alps and the Lake of Lucerne itself. It was springtime, 
the time of year when she, in common with most of the world, 
always felt especially romantic. She longed once again for an 
ardent and passionate lover and turned to Clayton in hope and 
desperation. But he was no longer able even to conceal his 
boredom at his wife's continual ecstasies, and in deep disap- 
pointment she turned, as she had done in Venice, to her 
diary, where she wrote long, passionate, imaginary love scenes. 

In a fur shop near the Hotel National was a magnificent 
tiger skin and Elinor was fascinated by it. She stared at it 
longingly, and finally she asked Clayton to buy it for her. In 



The Best-Selling Novelist 

his disgruntled mood he flatly refused; his wife was already 
sufficiently tigerish without that. In frustrated silence they 
walked back to their hotel through the rain. 

There she found a letter from Duckworth enclosing a large 
cheque on account of royalties from The Visits of Elizabeth, 
which was still selling very well. After lunch she crept out, 
cashed the cheque, and bought the tiger skin, paying in her 
eagerness about double its proper price. It was, however, a 
splendid beast. I have it still; even after fifty years, its hair 
is hardly worn. 

It was brought up to their sitting-room that afternoon, and 
when Clayton came in later, he found his wife reclining on 
the floor on the tiger, stroking its fur, quivering with emotion, 
staring at him with smouldering, romantic eyes; looking, in 
fact, very like the later popular idea of herself.* 

It was the last straw! It was bad enough having a siren 
wife who wandered round Europe in a starry-eyed dream, 
rhapsodising about the beauties of art and nature, with thirty- 
seven new dresses, a train of antique admirers, and a maid 
who fell out of bed and now a tiger skin, for which a large 
special trunk had to be bought the following day. 



In July the pain returned and on Axel Munthe's advice 
Elinor went to Carlsbad to try a cure there. She liked the 
place, and even more she liked the intimate group of English 
people who gathered there every summer. Two of them, Sir 
Francis Jeune (later Lord St. Helier) and his wife were to 
become her most dearly loved friends. Jeune, besides being 
a High Court judge, was also a fine classical scholar and he 

* In her autobiography Elinor explained that she did this mainly in 
order to tease her too, too solid hushand. 



zoi 



Elinor Glyn 

reawoke in Elinor all her Greek enthusiasms and aspirations, 
which had now been dormant for some years. 

They would take their slow prescribed walks through the 
Carlsbad woods, discussing Greek art and Greek philosophy. 
From him she was able to fill in some of the gaps in her hap- 
hazard education, to evolve a critical standard, and to weld 
the isolated items in her already comprehensive knowledge of 
classical art and history into a proportioned and homogenous 
whole. 

Her favourite authors . were Plato, Aristotle, Herodotus, 
Thucydides, Aristophanes, and Lucian. She read the tragedies 
but they seem to have meant less to her. One surprising omis- 
sion was Homer, for one would have thought that both the 
Iliad and the Odyssey, with their noble, fearless heroes and 
their beautiful women, enslaving the men's devotion or in- 
spiring them to greater deeds of glory, would have been ex- 
actly to her taste. 

As her health improved with the cure, she took up again 
the manuscript of The Chronicle of Ambrosine and she fin- 
ished it on August 20. For the next ten days she revised and 
expanded it, and a fortnight later she changed its title to The 
Reflections of Ambrosine. Sir Francis Jeune read it in manu- 
script, liked it very much, and urged her to continue to write 
what she wanted to write, irrespective of what her friends or 
the critics might think. She followed this advice faithfully; in 
fact, she rarely read reviews of her own books and she did 
not subscribe to a press-cutting agency until she went to Amer- 
ica after the First World War. 

Jeune also suggested that she should write more slowly, 
taking more pains over her style and her English, her grammar 
and spelling, even when she had cast the book in the form of 
a diary or letters. Sir Gilbert Parker, the novelist, who was 
also in Carlsbad, read the manuscript and gave her the same 
advice, as many of her other friends were to do in the years 
to come. 



102 



The Best-Selling Novelist 

It was, of course, sound and well-tried advice, but one may 
wonder now whether It was right for Elinor Glyn. For her 
composition was a spontaneous effort of creation. She medi- 
tated on an idea for a long time, but when the moment came, 
she thought and wrote fast. She was usually prepared to alter 
and revise her manuscripts and to accept, though often with 
considerable reluctance, the criticisms and suggestions of 
others. The more flagrant errors of grammar or spelling she 
was content to leave to the printer or her friends to put right. 
But it may be thought that her best books are the ones which 
she wrote fast; the ones over which she laboured were less 
successful. 



18. 



The Reflections of Ambrosine* was published in December 
1902 and, like its predecessor, was very well received both 
by the public and by the critics. Now, fifty-two years later, 
it is of all her books the most disagreeable to read a heavy- 
handed, long-winded sermon on the theme that Norman blood 
and the distant shadow of a coronet are worth far more than a 
kind heart. 

Ambrosine Athelstan, a haughty, blue-blooded girl whose 
ancestor died under the guillotine, had been brought up in 
proud poverty by her grandmother (a ferocious portrait of Mrs. 
Saunders). The landlord of their cottage, a wealthy, amiable 
young man called Augustus Gurrage, was much attracted by 
Ambrosine. He used phrases like "snug little crib/' "beastly 
hard luck/' and "jolly fellows/ 1 and she regarded him as un- 
speakably common. The grandmother had a heart attack and 
learned that she had not long to live; and she ordered her 
granddaughter to accept Augustus' proposal, if and when it 
should materialise; otherwise she would starve. It would be 

* Published in America under the title The Seventh Commandment. 

103 



Elinor Glyn 

distasteful to Ambrosine, but she would bear it with die forti- 
tude and control which she had been trained to show. "The 
great honour you will do him by marrying him removes from 
you all sense of obligation in receiving the riches he will be- 
stow on you.** 

Ambrosine could have screamed with horror at the order, 
but she obediently accepted Augustus' proposal. 

"Darling," he said, and kissed me deliberately. Oh! the 
horror of it. I shut my eyes, and in the emotion of the mo- 
ment I bent the clasp on the top of the frame of Ambrosine 
Eustasie. 

Then dragging myself from his embrace and stuttering 
with rage: 

"How dare you/* I gasped, "how dare you!" 

He looked sulky and offended. 

"You said you would marry me what is a fellow to un- 
derstand?" 

"You are to understand that I will not be mauled and 
kissed like Hephzibah at the back door," I said with freez- 
ing dignity, my head in air. 

"Hoity-toity!" (hideous expression!), "what airs you give 
yourself! but you look so deuced pretty when you are an- 
gry l n I did not melt, but stood on the defensive. 

He became supplicating again. 

"Ambrosine, I love you don't be cross with me, I won't 
make you angry again until you are used to me. Ambrosine, 
say you forgive me," He took my hand his hands are hor- 
rid to touch, coarse and damp I shuddered involuntarily. 

He looked pained at that; a dark red flush came over all 
his face; he squared his shoulders and got over the window- 
sill again, 

"You cold statue," he said spitefully, "I will leave you." 

"Go," was all I said; and I did not move an inch. 

He stood looking at me for a few moments; then with 

104 



The Best-Selling Novelist 

one bound he was in the room again and had seized me in 
his arms. 

"No, I shan't!" he exclaimed. "You have promised and 
I don't care what you say or do, I wiU keep you to your 
word/* 

Mercifully at that moment Hephzihah opened the door, 
and in the confusion her entrance caused him, he let me 
go. I simply flew from the room and up to my own; and 
there, I am ashamed to say, I cried sat on the floor and 
cried like a gutter child. Oh! if Grandmamma could have 
seen me, how angry she would have been. I have never 
been allowed to cry a relaxation for the lower classes, she 
has always told me. 

My face burnt all the botdes of lubin in Grandmamma's 
cupboard would not wash off the stain of that kiss I felt. 
I scrubbed my face until it was crimson. 

It is the character of Ambrosine herself that sticks in our 
throats. Elinor, naturally, could not have detected the dif- 
ference between Elizabeth and Ambrosine for they were both 
based on different facets of her own many-sided personality. 
It is, however, surprising that the critics should have been 
equally unable to notice the difference. "Mrs. Glyn's new 
book is very much like the letters of Elizabeth," wrote the 
Spectator. "Ambrosine is Elizabeth over again.** 

But Ambrosine was a very different person. For one thing 
she had no sense of humour. 



19. 

The book is worth considering for a moment here however, 
primarily because of the character of Sir Antony Thornhirst, 
the book's hero, for he appears under different names in a 
great number of Elinor Glyn's novels. "The 'beau ided of a 

105 



Elinor Glyn 

cynical gentleman, cultured, a viveur, gallant and brave and 
gentle/ he was the dream hero not only to his author but to 
many maidens of the time. Handsome, well born, rich, elegant, 
a fine shot, a good man to hounds but otherwise completely 
idle, he was typical of his age. There were dozens of men 
like him at every house party, and no one thought it odd that 
they should have no interest in life except sport. It is only 
since 1939 that we have come to regard wealth and leisure 
with suspicion. 

Naturally, many young men of the time and the class did 
have a profession. They were soldiers, sailors, politicians, bar- 
risters, or diplomats, and it is to be noted that Elinor's own 
closest friends were drawn from this group. Her "antiques" 
were men who had had distinguished careers in their various 
professions; the most cherished of her younger friends were 
regular soldiers. But, curiously, she never put them into her 
books. Her imaginary heroes joined the Army in time of war, 
and were sometimes killed gallantly in action, but they were 
never in the regular army. Out of her first fourteen novels 
the heroes of twelve have no peacetime occupation at alL 

They were in theory landowners, and various hints are 
dropped through the books about the duties involved in this. 
One cannot, however, take this very seriously. None of the 
gentlemen are ever prevented from going to a house party or 
London or Cowes or abroad by pressure of work on their es- 
tates. Two of them, indeed, go off at short notice to Tibet or 
Alaska for several years to shoot bears and ease their broken 
hearts, without noticeably inconveniencing their tenants. In 
The Sequence, Sir Hugh Dremont comes to visit his beloved 
Guinevere on the pretext of seeing some new stable drains 
that her husband has just put in. This deceives no one, for 
though he is a model landowner, he has never been known 
to take any interest in stable drainage before. Many land- 
owners, including Clayton, took a pride in not understanding 

i 06 



The Best-Selling No^ 7 el^st 

the business of their estates and in leaving everything to the 
agent. 

It was their position and thek right, as it had been their 
fathers', and they accepted it unquestioningly and unques- 
tioned. But Elinorand here she was in advance of the gen- 
eral spirit of her time did not accept it. Almost every one of 
her heroines chides the hero for his self-indulgent idleness 
and urges him not to waste all his life and his great opportuni- 
ties in shooting. She did not mean that he was to go and 
increase his already great wealth in some money-grubbing 
middle-class profession, but that he should do something great 
for his country. Elinor's heroes usually responded by throwing 
themselves vigorously into politics; most of them were already 
members of the House of Lords. 

In this we may see the pattern, not only of the time, but 
of Elinor's own attitude to life and to the role of women In it. 
The men were brave, noble, cultured, gentle, and honourable; 
but they were "sound asleep to the fine" In life, to their po- 
tentialities and responsibilities. It was the duty of women 
to awaken them, to inspire them with noble ideals, to urge 
them on to great deeds and great causes. In the words of 
her favourite quotation from Kingsley's The Heroes: 

I am Pallas Athene, and I know the thoughts of all 
men's hearts and discern their manhood or their baseness. 
And from the soul of clay I turn away; and they are blest, 
but not by me. They fatten at ease like sheep in the pas- 
ture, and eat what they did not sow, like oxen in the stall 
. . . But to the souls of fire I give more fire, and to those 
who are manful I give a might more than man's. These are 
the heroes, the sons of the Immortals who are blest, but 
not like the souls of clay, for I drive them forth by strange 
paths, Perseus, that they may fight the Titans and monsters, 
the enemies of gods and men. Through doubt and need and 
danger and battle I drive them, and some of them are slain 

107 



Elinor Glyn 

in the flower of youth, no man knows when or where, and 
some of them win noble names and a fair and green old 
age. 

She allotted the role of Pallas Athene to the heroines of 
her English novels, and to herself in real life, not seeing the 
essential conflict between this and her other role, that of siren. 
It was to her no contradiction to seek to be at once a driving- 
force and a magnet. 



20. 



On the eleventh of June, 1903, the King and Queen of 
Serbia were assassinated. The whole world was shocked, none 
more so than Elinor, for whom regicide was the vilest of all 
crimes. The thought of the death of Queen Draga upset her 
particularly; it was the first time since Marie Antoinette that 
a Queen had died by violence. She brooded long over it, with 
results that will be seen later. 

She had benefited so much from her cure at Carlsbad the 
year before that she determined to return there again this 
year and, accordingly, she left London as soon as the season 
was over in company with Lady Arthur Paget. 

Once again there was pleasant company assembled at the 
spa, amongst them Lord Milner, resting after his arduous 
and prolonged efforts in South Africa. Elinor and he took to 
each other at once and their friendship was cemented by a 
common love of Greek writing and philosophy. Once again 
she took the measured walks through the pine forests, dis- 
cussing the Greek contribution to art and knowledge and, 
once again, with enormous benefit to her own critical stand- 
ards. She was deeply impressed by Milner. "I always thought/' 
she wrote, "that he must be the reincarnation of Socrates." 

On the terrace in the evening he would read Plato aloud. 

108 



The Best-Setting Novelist 

To the end of her life Elinor never ceased to be surprised by 
the number of eminent men who chose to express their friend- 
ship and pleasure in her company by reading Plato and Aris- 
tode aloud to her. It was a curious tribute to one who was so 
often regarded, not without reason, as a siren. But it should 
be remembered, when we consider her vanities and egotism, 
her follies and foibles, her astonishing financial incapacity, 
that her closest and most faithful friends were the ablest men 
of her generation and they regarded her as being in her own 
way their intellectual equal. Two of them, Lord Curzon and 
Lord Milner, were never men to suffer fools gladly. 



21. 

Elinor, Lady Arthur Paget, and Milner returned to Eng- 
land together, stopping for a while in Nuremberg to see the 
sights. As a farewell present Milner gave Elinor an inscribed 
copy of Henley's poems. 

Back in Essex she found that Clayton was proposing to 
move house once again. He had never been very happy at 
Sheering Hall and he thought it was too near the river to 
be good for his wife's health. Ever since their return from 
Egypt the children had spent most of their time at Lamberts 
with their grandmother, who adored them and who was al- 
ways at hand to give them the motherly care she had withheld 
from her own daughters. Clayton's idea was that he and Eli- 
nor should move in to Lamberts, too, thereby reuniting the 
whole family under one roof . 

Elinor, as always in matters of that sort, acquiesced without 
argument. For her Sheering Hall was associated with pain and 
illness and she would be glad to leave it. There was room in 
the actual cottage itself for Clayton's bedroom and study but 
a new annex would have to be built on for Elinor's rooms. 



Elinor Glyn 

Work on this was begun the same autumn and the house 
began to resemble in plan a game of dominoes. 

Elinor's annex was joined to the main house by only a glass- 
roofed passage. The rooms were for herself alone and she was 
able to give her artistic taste full rein in their decoration. Out- 
side the annex's appearance was unprepossessing, but inside 
she decorated it to resemble Marie Antoinette's rooms in the 
Petit Trianon at Versailles. Her drawing-room was filled with 
French furniture, with cushions and beautiful stuffs and bro- 
cades. She would rearrange it in different colours to suit her 
mood or the mood of the book she was writing. Her bedroom 
was filled with hundreds of pink silk roses, on the canopy of 
her bed, on the bed curtains, on the bed ends, on the covers 
and bedspreads; they were sewn indefatigably by Elinor her- 
self, with considerable assistance from Margot, Dixie, her 
maid, and anyone else who might be induced to lend a hand. 
In her bathroom next door she decided, rather surprisingly, 
to put in a sunken Roman bath. It is still there, a monument 
to the originality and unpredictability of her tastes. 

The whole annex she called her Pavilion in the Garden, or, 
more usually, her Trianon; and here she could retire when 
she wanted peace or privacy. 

At this time she was almost always writing novels, diaries, 
journals, notebooks, commonplace books, letters, anything 
which would provide an outlet for her boundless creative en- 
ergy. She did not in any sense regard herself as a professional 
author and in her diary she always differentiated between 
"working" and "writing." 'Working" to her meant sewing. 
She was merely a society lady who wrote books to amuse 
herself. Apart from Duckworth and Jeyes, and a slight ac- 
quaintance with Sir Gilbert Parker, she knew no one at all 
in the world of letters. She was a complete amateur whose 
books people happened to enjoy. 

She wrote always with a stylo pen, either in her "rose-bed," 
as she termed it, or curled up on a sofa with a lot of cushions. 



no 



Tine Best-Selling Novelist 

In the summer she liked to write out in die garden. In the 
middle of the lawn there was a large old apple tree. She had a 
seat and a platform built up in the tree, and there, with rugs, 
cushions, and her block, she would retire on a summer after- 
noon and be undisturbed by the vicar, if he should call. An- 
other hide-out was in the ha-ha, where the trees met overhead, 
forming a cool green tunnel. Here she had a bench put and 
commanded Monk the gardener to grow flowers all about so 
that she might see them as she wrote. He, however, said there 
was too little sun for flowers and he felt, in any event, dis- 
inclined to co-operate with such idiosyncrasies. 

When her novels were finished, she would take them up 
herself to Gerald Duckworth at 3 Henrietta Street, Covent 
Garden. She was by this time on extremely cordial terms with 
her publisher and he encouraged her to read her books, or 
large portions of them, aloud to him. Her books, she main- 
tained, were intended to be read aloud and lost their proper 
effect if they were read in silence. She herself was extremely 
proud of her reading voice; she would read slowly, with long 
dramatic pauses, and Duckworth would meekly put aside all 
other work and listen, while Margot often waited patiently 
in the hansom outside. 

When Duckworth had had enough, he would take her to 
lunch at the Savoy, where they would eat steak, fried on- 
ions, and boiled lettuce, before returning to the office and a 
further instalment of the work. Sometimes he would come 
down to Lamberts for a Saturday-to-Monday (it was never 
called a week end in that society) and would retire with 
her to the house in the tree or the Trianon to hear the new 
book. He was, it will be seen, prepared to give a great deal 
of time and, trouble to the books of Elinor Glyn not only be- 
cause they were proving extremely profitable, but because he 
was also personally fascinated by their author. 



Elinor Glyn 



22, 



Elinor's next novel, The Vicissitudes of Evangeline* was 
published in March 1906. After the sour tone of her last two 
books, it is a relief to find that in the new one she is back 
again in her happiest mood. Evangeline herself is the most 
enchanting of all her heroines, even including Elizabeth a 
merry girl of twenty with red hair, green eyes, and long black 
eyelashes, from under which she gazes at young men to see 
what the effect will be. It is invariably devastating. 

The book starts splendidly: 

I wonder so much if it is amusing to be an adventuress, 
because that is evidendy what I shall become now. I read 
in a book all about it; it is being nice-looking and having 
nothing to live on, and getting a pleasant time out of life 
and I intend to do that! I have certainly nothing to live on, 
for one cannot count 300. a year and I am extremely 
pretty, and I know it quite well, and how to do my hair, 
and put on my hats, and those things, so, of course, I am 
an adventuress! 

Unfortunately for her chosen career, she has a warm heart 
and rapidly falls in love with Lord Robert Vavasour. "He has 
great big sleepy eyes of blue and rather a plaintive expression 
and a little fairish moustache turned up at the corners and the 
nicest mouth one ever saw. And when you see him moving 
and the back of his head, it makes you think all the time of 
a beautifully groomed thoroughbred horse/' She is persuaded 
not to go and stay at Claridge's all alone, (the only hotel she 
knows of) as she at first intended, but to visit some relatives 
of hers for a while until something more permanent can be 
arranged. 

* Published in America under the title Red Hair. 



112. 



The Best-Selling Novelist 
The relatives are rather shocked by her. 

Lady Katherine and Mrs. Mackintosh came into my room 
on the way up to bed. She Lady Katherine wanted to 
show Mary how beautifully they had had it done up, it 
used to be hers before she married. They looked all round 
at the dead-daffodil-coloured cretonne and things, and at 
last I could see their eyes often straying to my nightgown 
laid out on a chair beside the fire. 

"I do not think such a nightgown is suitable for a girl,** 
said Lady Katherine in a grave duty voice. 

"Ohf but I am very strong," I said. "I never catch cold/' 

Mary Mackintosh held it up with a face of stern disap- 
proval. Of course it has short sleeves ruffled with Valen- 
ciennes and is fine linen cambric nicely embroidered. Mrs. 
Carruthers was always very particular about them and chose 
them herself at Doucet's. She said one never could know 
when places might catch on fire. 

"Evangeline, dear, you are very young," Mary said, "but 
I consider this garment not in any way fit for a girl or for 
any good woman either. Mother, I hope my sisters have not 
seen it!" 

I looked so puzzled. 

She examined the stuff, one could see the chair through 
it beyond. 

"What would Alexander say if I were to wear such a 
thing!" 

The thought seemed to suffocate them both. 

"Of course it would be too tight for you/' I said humbly, 
"but otherwise it is a very good pattern and does not tear 
when one puts up one's arms/* 

"I hope, Evangeline, you have sufficient sense to under- 
stand now for yourself that such a a garment is not at 
all seemly/ 1 

"But why not, dear Lady Katherine?'* I said. "You don't 
know how becoming it is/' 



Elinor Glyn 

"Becoming!" almost screamed Mary Mackintosh. "But no 

nice woman wants things to look becoming in bed!" 

The whole matter appeared so painful to them I covered 
up the offending nightie with my dressing-gown and 
coughed. It made a break and they went away, saying good- 
night frigidly. 

And now I am alone. But I do wonder why it is wrong 
to look pretty in bed considering nobody sees one too! 

Evangeline is, however, befriended by a Lady Verningham, 
who loves her ingenuousness, the only snag being the discov- 
ery that Lord Robert is Lady Ver's "special friend/' which, of 
course, puts him out of Evangeline's reach for ever. Lord Rob- 
ert encounters Evangeline sobbing on a bench in a fog in 
Hyde Park (she cannot help such a vulgar exhibition since 
one of her grandmothers was, regrettably, a housemaid, and 
breeding will tell). There is a charming love scene; she ex- 
plains why she has been freezing him off and he tries to 
reassure her. But there is a further difficulty. He is heir to his 
half brother's dukedom and fortune and the Duke would never 
tolerate Evangeline, because of the housemaid's blood. Evange- 
line, however, takes the bull by the horns and succeeds in 
persuading the Duke that she will herself, in due course, make 
an admirable Duchess. All ends happily, Evangeline snug- 
gled against her Robert, Robert bewitched by the amount of 
red hair he has suddenly acquired, and only Evangeline's 
maid a little sad that she will not be able to embroider coronets 
on her mistress's lingerie just yet. 

It is a light, frothy souffle of a book, to be read at a sitting 
and not be taken too seriously . 

It is both a beguiling entertainment and another self-portrait 
of the authoress in her gay, mischievous mood. Indeed, the 
miniature of Evangeline which forms the frontispiece to the 
book was a portrait of Elinor, painted by Miss May Dixon, 
Dixie's sister, to Elinor's exact specification of expression. The 

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The Best-Selling Novelist 

novel was dedicated, affectionately and triumphantly, a to the 
women with red hair." 



23. 

The Vicissitudes of Evangeline marks the definite end of 
the first stage of Elinor Glyn's literary progress. The Sphere 
wrote at this time: "She is, at this moment, our leading novel- 
ist of modern manners/' She was still very far from heing the 
Queen of Passion or the High Priestess of Romance, as she 
was later termed, and for which she is now chiefly remem- 
bered. 

But she was already moving in that direction. Robert's and 
Evangeline's love scene was handled with more warmth and 
tenderness than anything in her first two novels. In her next 
book, Beyond the Rocks, she took a long stride forward to- 
wards romance. Her cynical vein, for the moment, had worked 
itself out; her innate romanticism was beginning to take hold. 
One may detect the change in the new form of title and in the 
fact that she took the precaution of calling her new book *A 
Love-Story/' It was the first time, too, that she wrote in the 
third person. 

She started with the same situation she had already ex- 
plored in The Reflections of Ambrosine, the situation which 
was so close to her own predicament, and which held at this 
time a special fascination for her. Theodora Fitzgerald, blonde, 
blue-eyed, and sweet, marries a rich Australian to save her 
charming ne'er-do-well aristocratic father's broken fortunes. 
But the characters this time are entirely different. Josiah 
Brown, the Australian, though vulgar, is elderly and ailing 
and Theodora loyally does her best to be a good wife to him. 
However, she meets Lord Bracondale, a handsome, well-bred, 
elegant man of her own class, and falls in love with him. 
They have many pleasant but innocent meetings at Versailles, 

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Elinor Glyn 

where the first half of the book takes place. Later the scene 
moves to the familiar house parties of England. Finally The- 
odora decides that she and Lord Bracondale must part. Hap- 
pening to be alone at a house party for the moment, she writes 
a long, passionate letter of farewell to him and a short note 
to Josiah about her return to London. Her enemy, Morella 
Winmarlelgh, who is jealous of Theodora's success with Lord 
Bracondale, changes the letters over and Josiah learns that 
his wife's affections belong elsewhere. He behaves with great 
dignity at this moment; Lord Bracondale goes off to Alaska 
to shoot bears, consoled with a bust of Psyche, and Josiah 
slowly dies of a broken heart. 

Beyond the Rocks is a sentimental little story, too slight 
in plot for its length, but it has some charming moments, es- 
pecially the love scenes and the day in the woods at Ver- 
sailles when Lord Bracondale tells Theodora a fairy story. The 
effect on his worldly, sophisticated attitude of the girl's in- 
nocence and purity is skilfully touched in; the social back- 
ground, the balls and house parties, are drawn with greater 
mordancy than usual, almost with venom; there is hardly a 
character who is not immoral or spiteful or vindictive, and 
there is a terrible picture of everyone closing ranks to exclude 
and humiliate Josiah and Theodora. 

But despite this Beyond the Rocks is a minor work of Eli- 
nor's, remarkable mainly because it provides the bridge be- 
tween her comedies of manners and her romances. There is 
none of the wit of Elizabeth or Evangeline but, equally, there 
is none of the sour self-pity of Ambrosine. 



24. 

Seymour Wynne Finch's place in Elinor's affections had by 
now been taken by Lord Alastair Innes-Ker, Royal Horse 
Guards. He, too, was charming, elegant, and amusing, a per- 

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The Best-Selling Novelist 

feet specimen of the breed. He was often at Lamberts, and 
both Clayton and Mrs, Kennedy were much attached to him. 

Margot was due to go to school in France that autumn and 
the whole family, including Innes-Ker, went to Paris that 
September for a holiday and to see Margot installed (together 
with a copy of The Reflections of Ambrosine, which she was 
enjoined to keep in a locked box beside her bed, a circum- 
stance which the school regarded with the gravest suspicion). 
Before the family returned, Elinor took Innes-Ker out to Ver- 
sailles. She made him walk with his eyes shut across the great 
terrace, so that his first sight should be the full facade of the 
palace stretched out in its splendour. When they reached the 
top of the steps, above the tapis vert, she said, "Now! Turn 
round and look.* 

His immediate comment "Gosh! what a lot of lightning 
conductors!" deflated her completely. Later she would tell the 
story as an illustration of how completely the young gentle- 
men of her generation were sound asleep to die fine things 
of life. But in fact it seems more likely that he was teasing 
her for her dramatic gesture. 

Even after this episode Elinor remained very fond of him. 
When he went away to India the following year, he gave 
her a copy of Laurence Hope's Love Lyrics from India as a 
farewell present, and Clayton, a typical Edwardian husband, 
told his children to be specially kind to their mother. 



25. 

In August 1906 the Glyns went to stay with Lord Kintore 
near Glamis. The focus of this particular house party was 
fishing, and Elinor spent one uncongenial day sitting beside 
the river in the pouring rain, watching the male members of 
the party failing to catch salmon. At teatime they abandoned 
the sport and went home to bath and change. After tea they 

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Elinor Glyn 

sat round the fire, Elinor idly watching a young man, a mem- 
ber of the party, lying on the hearthrug in his velvet smoking 
suit, playing with his rough-haired terrier. He was yet an- 
other perfect specimen of the breed, well born, educated at 
Eton and Oxford, handsome, virile, a sportsman, "intellectu- 
ally and emotionally sound asleep/' Elinor wondered vaguely 
what would happen if he were suddenly awakened to life, if 
he were to meet and fall in love with some intense, passionate 
woman, someone like Sarah Bernhardt in Theodora. 

A picture seemed suddenly to form inside Elinor's brain. 
A number of unconnected impressions and longings of the 
past dropped into place like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle her im- 
aginary love scenes in Lucerne and Venice, the murder of 
Queen Draga of Serbia, the tiger skin, the handsome boy 
lying on the hearthrug, Andreas and Theodora, Lancelot and 
Guinevere, Tristram and Yseult. 

Someone suggested that Elinor, the storyteller, should 
amuse them as they sat there; and she complied by telling 
them the story of her new novel, which had been born that 
moment in her brain. It was a very different affair from the 
stories of country-house philandering which had previously 
occupied her. 

The moment the party dispersed she hurried back to Essex 
and there, in her Trianon, she began to write the novel which 
was to send her fame ringing round the world. Her inspiration 
was white-hot. "It seemed as though some spirit from beyond 
was guiding me/* she wrote in a later article, "I wrote breath- 
lessly for hours and hours on end, hardly conscious at times 
of the words which were pouring into my brain, until I carne 
to read over the chapters and found that what I had written 
was exactly what I had hoped and meant to say. The original 
manuscript shows this, it flows on with hardly a correction or 
alteration .* 

She felt intensely as she wrote; often she was in tears. 
The two warring elements inside her had clashed and ex- 

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The Best-Selling Novelist 

ploded; her ardent romanticism had burst Into flame, break- 
ing through the barriers of self-control and repression that 
Mrs. Saunders and Elinor herself had so carefully built up 
in the earlier years. All the time she was writing her new 
book she lived as one who had seen a vision. She saw again 
Lucerne In springtime, the palazzi of Venice by moonlight, 
Sarah Bernhardt caressing her lover. In a little over six weeks 
the book was finished. 



26. 



The story of Three Weeks is simple and dramatic. Paul 
Verdayne, the handsome and athletic son of Sir Charles and 
Lady Henrietta Verdayne, broke his collarbone In a hunting- 
fall and was looked after by Isabella Waring, the parson's 
daughter, who washed his dog Pike and read the sporting 
papers aloud to him. She had large red hands and was fond 
of hockey and running with the hounds. One regrettable 
afternoon Paul kissed her large, pale lips just as his mother 
came into the room. 

It was a most unfortunate entanglement. As soon as he 
recovered he was sent abroad so that he might forget Isabella. 
Paul went grumpily sight-seeing in France, decided Versailles 
and Fontainebleau were "beastly rot," and longed to break 
his promise and write passionate love letters to Isabella, from 
whom he was being so cruelly parted. In a furious temper he 
reached Lucerne in the pouring rain. He cursed the waiters 
for the smoking fire and resented the elaborate attention 
which the hotel staff were bestowing on a lady at the next 
table. He drank four glasses of port and stared at her with 
hostility. 

He fancied he smelt tuberoses and perceived a knot of 
them tucked into the front of her bodice. 



Elinor Glyn 

A woman to order dinner for herself beforehand, to have 
special wine and special roses and special attention too! 
It was simply disgusting! 

An elderly dignified servant in black livery stood behind 
her chair. She herself was all in black and her hat cast a 
shadow over her eyes. Her face was white, he saw that 
plainly enough, stardingly white, like a magnolia bloom, 
and contained no marked features. Yes he was wrong, she 
had certainly a mouth worth looking at again. It was so red. 
Not large and pink and laughingly open like Isabella's, but 
straight and chiselled and red, red, red. 

The white lids with their heavy lashes began to irritate 
him. What colour could they be? those eyes underneath. 
They were not very large, that was certain probably black 
too, like her hair. 

He could not say why he felt she must be well over 
thirty. There was not a line or wrinkle on her face not 
even the slightest nip in under the chin, or the telltale 
strain beside the ears. 

After dinner he sat on the terrace and smoked a cigar. 

A vague feeling of oppression and coming calamity 
passed through him. The woman and her sinuous and 
sensous black shape filled the space of his mental vision. 
Black hair, black hat, black dress and of course black eyes. 
Ah! if he could only know their colour really. 

He started violently, and brusquely turned and looked 
up. Almost indistinguishable in the deep shadow he saw 
the woman's face. And looking down into his were a pair 
of eyes a pair of eyes. They seemed to draw, him draw 
something out of him intoxicate him paralyse him. Were 
they black, or blue, or grey, or green? He did not know, he 
could not think only they were eyes eyes eyes. 

The lady did not come into lunch the next day but he 
encountered her unexpectedly that afternoon on the Burgen- 



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The Best-Selling Novelist 

stock; almost immediately she disappeared again. He returned 
to his hotel, baffled, and found a letter from Isabella all about 
his horse and his dog, which thrilled him less than it ought 
to have done. The lady was again at the next table at dinner, 
and afterwards, as he sat on the terrace, he saw her go across 
to a little gate, a private entrance to her suite. He waited for 
a while, and just as he despaired of seeing her again, there 
above the ivy he saw her face looking down upon him. 

He jumped on to the bench. Now he was almost level 
with her face. Was he dreaming or did she whisper some- 
thing? He stretched out his arms to her in the darkness, 
pulling himself by the ivy nearer still. And this time there 
was no mistake: 

"Come, Paul/ she said. 

The apartments of the lady (she is anonymous through- 
out) were presumably the best suite of the hotel, but they had 
been transformed by her. There were masses of flowers, roses, 
tuberoses, lilies of the valley. The lights were low and a great 
couch covered with a tiger skin filled one side of the room. 
It was piled with pillows of all shades of rich purple velvet 
and silk. She reclined on it and teased Paul, in a voice which 
was like rich music, about why he was so upset and drank so 
much port. 

Suddenly she sprang up, one of those fine movements 
of hers full of catlike grace. 

"Paul," she said, "listen/ and she spoke rather fast. "You 
are so young, so young and I shall hurt you probably . 
Won't you go now while there is yet time? Anywhere away 
from me/ 

She put her hand on his arm and looked up into his 
eyes. And there were tears in hers. And now he saw they 
were grey. 

He was moved as never yet in all his life. 



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Elinor Glyn 

"I will not!" he said. "I may be young, but tonight I 

know I want to live! And I will chance the hurt because 

I know that only you can teach me just how " 

Then his voice broke and he bent down and covered 

her hand with kisses. 

The next day they went on the lake together and talked 
of many things, and in the evening he forced himself to write 
a farewell letter to Isabella. As he walked through the streets 
of Lucerne, he saw a tiger skin in a shop window and he 
bought it for the lady. That evening he was again admitted 
to her sitting-room. 

A bright fire burnt in the grate, and some palest orchid- 
mauve silk curtains were drawn in the lady's room when 
Paul entered from the terrace. And loveliest sight of all, in 
front of the fire, stretched at full length, was his tiger 
and on him also at full length reclined the lady, garbed 
in some strange clinging garment of heavy purple crepe, 
one white arm resting on the beast's head, her back sup- 
ported by a pile of the velvet cushions, and a heap of rarely 
bound books at her side, while between her red lips was a 
rose not redder than they an almost scarlet rose. 

Paul bounded forward but she raised one hand to stop 
him. 

"No! you must not come near me, Paul. I am not safe 
today. Not yet. You bought me the tiger, Paul! Ah! that 
was good! My beautiful tiger!" And she gave a movement 
like a snake, of joy to feel its fur under her, while she 
stretched out her hands and caressed the creature where 
the hair turned white and black at the side and was deep 
and soft, 

"Beautiful one! beautiful one!" she purred. "And I know 
all your feelings and your passions, and now I have got 
your skin for the joy of my skin!" And she quivered again 
with the movements of a snake. 



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The Best-Selling Novelist 

"Qhl Good God! If you knew how you are making me 
feel lying there wasting your caresses upon it.* 

She tossed the scarlet rose over to him it hit his mouth. 

"I am not wasting them," she said, the Innocence of a 
kitten in her strange eyes. "Indeed not, Paul! He was my 
lover in another life perhaps who knows?" 

"But I," said Paul, who was now quite mad ? "want to 
be your lover in this!** 

Then he gasped at his own boldness. 

With a lightning movement she lay on her face, raised 
her elbows on the tiger's head, and supported her hands. 

"Paul what do you know of lovers or love?" she said. 
"My baby Paul!" 

A rage of passion was racing through Paul, his incoherent 
thoughts were that he did not want to talk only to kiss 
her to devour her to strangle her with love if necessary. 

He bit the rose. 

She talked to him about love, which must be paid for in 
tears and cold steel and blood. Then she read to him Apuleius 
in Latin, and finally she sang to him to a guitar. 

"You mustn't be teased. My God! it is you who are mad- 
dening me!" he cried, his voice hoarse with emotion. "Da 
you think I am inanimate like that tiger there? I am not, 
I tell you!" and he seized her in his arms, raining kisses 
upon her which, whatever they lacked in subtlety, made 
up for in their passion and strength. "Some day some man 
will kill you, I suppose, but I shall be your lover first!" 

The lady gasped. She looked up at him in bewildered 
surprise, as a child might do who sets light to a whole box 
of matches in play. What a naughty, naughty toy to burn 
so quickly for such a little strike! 

But Paul's young strong arms, held her close, she could 
not struggle or move. Then she laughed a laugh of pure 
glad joy. 

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Elinor Glyn 

"Beautiful savage Paul/' she whispered. "Do you love 
me? Tell me that/' 

"Love you!" he said. "Good God! Love you! Madly, and 
you know it, darling Queen/* 

"Then/' said the lady in a voice in which all the caresses 
of the world seemed melted, "then, sweet Paul, I shall 
teach you many things, and among them I shall teach you 
how~to-LIVE." ' 

They went to stay across the lake on the Burgenstock, 
where they could be alone. Everything was discreetly ar- 
ranged by the lady's servants, Dmitry and Anna. There their 
honeymoon began. 

"Oh! darling, do not speak of it/' cried Paul. "I wor- 
ship, I adore youyou are just my life, my darling one, my 
Queen!" 

"Sweet Paul!" she whispered, "oh! so good, so good is 
love, keep me loving you, my beautiful one keep my desire 
long to be your Queen." 

And after this they melted into one another's arms, and 
cooed and kissed, and they were foolish and incoherent, 
as lovers always are and have been from the beginning of 
time. 

The spirit of two natures vibrating as One. 

At the first glow of dawn, he awoke, a strange sensation 
almost of strangling and suffocation upon him. There bend- 
ing over, framed in a mist of blue-black waves, he saw 
his lady's face. Its milky whiteness lit by her strange eyes 
green as cat's they seemed and blazing with the fiercest 
passion of love while twisted round his throat he felt a 
great strand of her splendid hair. The wildest thrill that yet 
his life had known then came to Paul, he clasped her in 
his arms with a frenzy of mad, passionate joy. 

Her voice grew faint and far away, like the echo of some 

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The Eest-Selling Novelist 

exquisite song and the lids closed over Paul's blue eyes and 
he slept. 

The light of all the love in the world seemed to flood 
the lady's face. She bent over and Idssed him, and smoothed 
his cheek with her velvet cheek, she moved so that his 
curly lashes might touch her bare neck, and at last she 
slipped from under him and laid his head gently down upon 
the pillows. 

Then a madness of tender caressing seized her. She 
purred as a tiger might have done, while she undulated 
like a snake. She touched him with her finger-tips, she 
kissed his throat, his wrists, the palms of his hands, his 
eyelids, his hair. Strange subtle kisses, unlike the kisses of 
women. And often, between her purrings she murmured 
love-words in some fierce language of her own, brushing his 
ears and his eyes with her lips the while. 

And through it all Paul slept on, the Eastern perfume 
in the air drugging his senses. 

Paul had now gathered that his lady was a Balkan Queen 
and he was considerably disturbed when Dmitry asked him 
to carry a pistol the whole time. Gradually he learned about 
her husband. 

Then at last she looked up at him and her eyes were 
black with hate. "I would like to kill one man on earth a 
useless vicious weakling, too feeble to deserve a fine death 
a rotting carrion spoiling God's world and encumbering 
my path! I would kill him if I could." 

"Oh! my Queen, my Queen!" said Paul, distressed. 
"Don't say such things * 

Later they moved on to Venice, the lady, Dmitry, and Anna 
going on ahead to make the arrangements. Here their honey- 
moon reached a new phase. 

Her expression too was altered. A new mood shone there; 

125 



Elinor Glyn 

and later, when Paul learnt the history of the wonderful 
women of cinquecento Venice, it seemed as if something 
of their exotic voluptuous spirit now lived in her. 

This was a new Queen to worship and die for, if nec- 
essary. He dimly felt, even in these first moments, that 
here he would drink still deeper of the mysteries of life and 
passionate love. 

'"Beztzenny-moi," she said, "my priceless one. Ah! I must 
know it is really you, my Paul!" 

They were sitting on the tiger by now, and she undulated 
round and all over him, feeling his coat, and his face, and 
his hair, as a blind person might, till at last it seemed as if 
she were twined about him like a serpent. And every now 
and then a narrow shaft of glorious dying sunlight would 
strike the great emerald on her forehead, and give forth 
sparks of vivid green which appeared reflected again in her 
eyes. Paul's head swam, he felt intoxicated with bliss. 

"This Venice is for you and me, my Paul/' she said. 
'The air is full of love and dreams; we have left the slender 
moon behind us in Switzerland; here she is nearing her 
full the spring of our love has passed. We will drink deep 
of the cup of delight, my lover, and bathe in the wine of 
the gods. We shall feast on the tongues of nightingales and 
rest on couches of flowers. And thou shalt cede me thy 
soul, beloved, and I will give thee mine " 

But the rest was lost in the meeting of their lips. 

As they travelled about Venice in their gondola, they be- 
came aware that they were being followed, and presently an- 
other of the lady's servants, Vasili, arrived to say that the 
Imperatorskoye was in danger. 

"Shall I kill the miserable spy? Vasili would do it this 
night," she hissed between her clenched teeth. "But to what 
end?" 

A tumult of emotion was dominating Paul. He under- 

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The Best-Selling Novelist 

stood now that danger was near he guessed they were be- 
ing watched but by whom? By the orders of her 
husband? Ah! that thought drove him mad with rage her 
husband! She his own the mate of his soul of his body 
and soul was the legal belonging of somebody else! Some 
vile man whom she hated and loathed, a "rotting carrion 
spoiling God's earth." 

"Queen,* he said, his voice hoarse with passion and pain, 
"let us leave Venice let me take you away to some far land 
of peace. You would always be the empress of my soul/* 

She flung herself on the tiger couch and writhed there 
for some moments, burying her clenched fists deep in the 
creature's fur. 

"Moi-LiotiKwyi my beloved!" she whispered in an- 
guish. "If we were lesser persons yes, we could hide and 
live for a time in a tent under the stars but we are not. 
They would track me and trap us, and sooner or later there 
would be the end, the ignominious end of ordinary dis- 
grace n Then she clasped him closer, and whispered 
right in his ear in her wonderful voice, now trembling with 
love. 

"Sweetheart listen! Beyond all of this there is that 
thought, that hope ever in my heart that one day a son of 
ours shall worthily fill a throne, so that we must not think 
of ourselves, my Paul, of the Thou and the I, and the Now, 
beloved. A throne which is filled most ignobly at present, 
and only filled at all through niy birth and my family's in- 
fluence. Think not I want to plant a cheat. No! I have a 
right to find an heir as I will, a splendid heir who shall 
redeem the land the spirit of our two selves given being 
by love, and endowed by the gods. Ah! think of it, Paul. 
Dream of this joy and pride. It must quiet this wild useless 
rage against fate.** 

All that was noble and great in his nature seemed rising 
up in one glad triumph-song. 

12,7 



Elinor Glyn 

A son of his and hers to fill a throne! Ah! God, if that 
were so! 

The following night they celebrated the feast of the full 
moon. 

The lady was the most radiant vision he had yet seen. 
Her garment was pale green gauze. It seemed to cling in 
misty folds round her exquisite shape, it was clasped with 
pearls. A diadem confined her glorious hair which de- 
scended in the two long strands twisted with chains of 
emeralds and diamonds. Her whole personality seemed 
breathing magnificence and panther-like grace. And her 
eyes glowed with passion, and mystery, and force. 

Paul knelt like a courtier and kissed her hand. Then he 
led her to their feast. 

The whole place had been converted into a bower of 
roses. The walls were entirely covered with them. A great 
couch of deepest red ones was at one side. From the room 
chains of roses hung, concealing small lights. The dinner 
was laid on a table in the centre, and the table was covered 
with the tuberoses and stephanotis, surrounding the cupid 
fountain of perfume. The scent of all these flowers! And 
the warm summer night! No wonder Paul's senses quivered 
with exaltation. No wonder his head swam. 

Throughout the repast his lady bewildered him with her 
wild fascination. Never before had she seemed to collect 
all her moods into one subtle whole, cemented together by 
passionate love. It truly was a night of the gods and the 
exaltation of Paul's spirit reached its zenith. 

"My darling one," the lady whispered in his ear, as she 
lay in his arms on the couch of roses, crushed deep and 
half-buried in their velvet leaves. "This is our souls' wed- 
ding. In life and in death they can never part more." 

In the early morning, before Paul was awake, the lady, 

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The Best-Selling Novelist 

shaken with fierce, dry sobs, tiptoed away, wrote Mm a fare- 
well note, and was gone. The three weeks were over. 

When Paul awoke and found that she had indeed gone, he 
collapsed and was unconscious with fever for days. In his 
delirium the whole story came out and his father, who had 
been sent for, learned everything. Paul crawled hack to life 
at last, to his beloved Queen's last letter and her last gift to 
him, a gold collar for his dog, over which he cried like a child. 
His father took him back to England, but he was a changed 
man. He studied earnestly in preparation for a political career 
and all the time he watched the calendar in gnawing anxiety. 

At long last the letter came, containing a tiny curl of 
golden hair, and written on the paper: "Beloved, he is strong 
and fair, thy son." 

Meanwhile his father and a friend, Captain Grigsby, man- 
aged to discover who the lady was, Paul, by arrangement, met 
Dmitry again in Paris. The lady would be at her villa on the 
Bosphorus later that year, and if the Excellency could come, 
he might be able to see her again. The cry of a sea gull three 
times would show him it was safe to land. 

He set off at once with his father in Grigsby's yacht, 
landed, but was promptly sent away by Dmitry, who told him 
there was danger. He must return in two days* time, if the 
flag was flying. Two days later he returned, desperately anx- 
ious; but the flag was not flying. Later, in a letter from Dmitry, 
he learned the awful truth. The King had entered suddenly 
and in a drunken rage had stabbed the Queen to death, say- 
ing, "It will be a joy to kill thee," only to have his own life 
throttled out a moment later by Vasili. 

Paul, almost mad with grief, travelled the world for five 
years, searching in vain for consolation. At last he realised 
that he was wasting his life; he mastered his sorrow and 
longed to see his little son. He wrote to the Regent, who 
replied, inviting him to be present at the celebration for the 
little King s fifth birthday. 

129 



Elinor Glyn 

It was in a shaft of sunlight from die great altar window 
that Paul first saw his son. The tiny upright figure in its 
blue velvet suit, heavily trimmed with sable, standing there 
proudly. A fair, rosy-cheeked, golden-haired English child. 

And as he gazed at his little son, while the organ pealed 
out a Te Deum and the sweet choir sang, a great tender- 
ness filled Paul's heart, and melted for ever the icebergs of 
grief and pain. 

And as he knelt there, watching their child, it seemed 
as if his darling stood there beside him, telling him that 
he must look up and thank God too for in her spirit's con- 
stant love, and this glory of their son, he would one day 
find rest and consolation. 



27. 

We cannot now quite take Three Weeks in the spirit in 
which it was written. Its voluptuousness, its exotic setting, its 
full-blooded passion, its uninhibited idiom, its use of the sec- 
ond person singular, its exclamation marks are no longer fash- 
ionable. But the intensity of the inspiration still comes 
through. Elinor was convinced when she was writing it that 
she was creating one of the great love stories of the world, 
which would be remembered long after she was forgotten. 
And it is the love scenes which are the glory of Three Weeks. 

Oh! the divine joy of that night! 

"Paul," she said, "out of the whole world to-night, there 
are only you and I who matter, sweetheart. Is it not so? 
Remember, Paul/' she whispered when, passion madden- 
ing him, he clasped her violently in his arms "remember 
whatever happens whatever comes for now, tonight, 
there is no other reason in all of this but just I love you 
I love you, Paul!" 

130 



The Best-Selling Novelist 

"My Queen, my Queen!" said Paul, his voice hoarse in 
his throat. 

And the wind played in softest zephyrs, and the stars 
blazed in the sky, mirroring themselves in the blue lake 
below. 

Such was their wedding night. 

Oh! glorious youth! and still more glorious love! 



28. 



Three Weeks was published in June 1907 and fell like a 
thunderbolt on the unsuspecting world. 

"An exceedingly difficult work to know how to review,* 
wrote the Onlooker rather helplessly. "It is perhaps better 
written than anything Mrs. Glyn has done before. It is em- 
phatically not your les jeunes filles" 

The Bystander put up a cautious umbrella against the storm 
to come: 

Mrs. Glyn has chosen to write of a passionate and beauti- 
ful love episode between persons who have not previously 
been married. That is her offence and for it, of course, she 
must suffer the abuse of those most trustworthy of Mrs. 
Grundy's spokesmen the daily reviewers. 

The Sunlay Times, almost alone, came out on Elinor s 
side. 

With the exception of the Times Literary Supplement, 
which maintained a pained silence, all the other critics were 
unremittingly hostile. 



Elinor Glyn 



29. 

Critical response seemed to have little effect on the public, 
however, for as fast as Duckworth reprinted, he was barely 
able to keep pace with the demand. It is not possible now to 
give an exact figure of the total sales of Three Weeks to date. 
In 1916, nine years after publication, and immediately before 
the production of the first cheap edition, the sale in Great 
Britain, the British Empire, and America was just short of two 
million copies. The book was translated soon after publication 
into virtually every European language, the sales being par- 
ticularly heavy in Scandinavia, Spain, and South America. 
We must also include the flood of cheap editions which began 
in 1916; in Great Britain no less than three separate pub- 
lishers brought them out. In 1933 an article in Everybody's 
stated, on information supplied by the author, that the total 
world sales were then five million copies. If we can accept this 
figure and it is just possible then Three Weeks must take 
its place among the Himalaya of world best sellers. 

Three Weeks brought in, as was to be expected, a very- 
large quantity of fan mail from all parts of the globe. This 
had been coming in a quiet stream ever since The Visits of 
Elizabeth; now it burst into full flood. Kings and Queens sent 
messages; Australian bushmen, Bishops, Klondike miners, Ro- 
man Catholic priests all wrote letters of appreciation. There 
were also a large number of abusive letters, but Elinor noticed 
that these only came from English-speaking countries, just as 
it was only British and American reviewers who did not ad- 
mire the book unreservedly. 

A more substantial form of fan mail arrived over the years 
in the form of tiger skins, presented by various admirers, 
known and unknown, including one each from Lord Curzon 
and Lord Milner. It was at this time, too, that the rhyme, 



The Best-Setting Novelist 

which caused Elinor much amusement, first appeared; and 
which helped to contribute to her reputation as a scarlet 
woman. 

Would you like to sin 

with Elinor Glyn 

on a tiger skin? 
Or would you prefer 

to err 

with her 

on some other fur? 



30. 

The hook sold sensationally fast, hut even faster went its 
reputation for immorality. Lady Warwick had read the man- 
uscript and sternly advised Elinor not to publish it, as, if she 
did, none of her friends would ever speak to her again. It 
was bad enough for a society lady to write novels at aH, with- 
out perpetrating books of that sort. 

Despite her warning Elinor was surprised and bewildered 
by the extent of the hostility engendered by Three Weeks. 
Among her friends in society she was abused and reviled, 
called an immoral woman and a glorifier of adultery. This 
hurt her extremely and she felt that such criticism was, from 
that source, pure hypocrisy; the members of Edwardian soci- 
ety, with their lovers, mistresses, and illegitimate children, 
were, she felt, the very last people to cast stones. 

Even Professor Thomas Lindsay, the Principal of Glasgow 
College, coming to spend the week end at Lamberts, scolded 
her for having produced such an offensive book. She asked 
him whether he had himself read it, and on learning that he 
had not, she gave him a copy and sent him up to his bedroom 
to read it. He did not come down to lunch, and she found 



Elinor Glyn 

him later that afternoon In tears, sobbing that he had grossly 
misjudged it. Elinor was much gratified. 

She gradually came to believe that those who were most 
shocked by the book were those who had not themselves read 
it; or if they had read it, had missed the point, Paul's regenera- 
tion, by not bothering to read on after the lady's death. This 
view was strengthened by a further episode. Three Weeks 
had been banned at Eton, as at most schools, and the Head- 
master, Dr. Edward Lyttelton, wrote to her (beginning, 
formally, "Madam") to inform her of this. She replied spir- 
itedly, challenging him whether he had himself read it, to 
which he was obliged to reply that he had not She sent him 
a copy, and later he wrote to her again (beginning "My dear 
Mrs. Glyn") to say that he had enjoyed the book and had 
been misled by its reputation. The ban, however, must stay. 

In her distress and bewilderment at the reception of the 
book into which she had poured her whole heart, she was 
much comforted by the fact that those whose opinion she 
really valued saw the point of the story and appreciated it. 
The Duchess of Abercorn and Lady Arthur Paget both wrote 
charming letters, and she specially treasured the letter that 
Lord Milner wrote her. 

Three months after its English publication the book was 
published in America, and there it raised the same storm. It 
was banned altogether in one state. It was not allowed to be 
sent through the post. It was boycotted in Boston and banned 
in most schools and libraries. Though it found many cham- 
pions, American high society was in general shocked by it. 
These strong feelings lasted for many years. Twenty-five 
years later, in 1932, a Mickey Mouse cartoon was banned al- 
together in the state of Ohio because it showed at one mo- 
ment, a cow, reclining in a field, reading Three Weeks. 

A consequence of the book's sales and fame was, not un- 
expectedly, the appearance of several works purporting to be 
by her and trying to pirate her idea. One of these, called 



Hie Best-Selling Novelist 

One Day, which Elinor regarded as a travesty of -her own 
inspiration, achieved a certain success, siphoning off some of 
her own sales in the process and damaging her own literary 
reputation. In 1915 a film appeared called Pimples Three 
Weeks (without the option). It was a burlesque of such cru- 
dity that Elinor brought an action for infringement of copy- 
right against the film company.* Mr. Justice Younger, in the 
course of his judgement, said: 

But there is another, and from the public point of view, 
a much more important aspect of this case which in my 
judgment entirely debars the plaintiff from obtaining re- 
lief in this court. The episode described in the plaintiff's 
novel, which she alleges has been pirated by the defend- 
ants, is in my opinion, grossly immoral both in its essence, 
its treatment and its tendency. Stripped of its trappings 
which are mere accident, it is nothing more nor less than 
a sensuai ? adulterous intrigue. And it is not as if the plain- 
tiff in her account of it were content to excuse or palliate 
the conduct described. She is not even satisfied with justi- 
fying it. She has stooped to glorify the liaison, both in its 
inception, its progress and its results and she has not hesi- 
tated to garnish it with meretricious incident at every turn. 
Now, it is clear that copyright cannot exist in a work of a 
tendency so grossly immoral as this; a work which, apart 
from its other objectionable features, advocates free love 
and justifies adultery where the marriage tie has become 
merely irksome. 

We are constantly hearing of the injurious influence ex- 
ercised upon the adventurous spirit of our youth by the 
"penny dreadful 19 which presents the burglar in the guise 
of a hero. So is a mischievous, glittering record of adulterous 
sensuality, masquerading as superior virtue, such as we find 
in this book, calculated to mislead, with consequences as 

* Glyn v. Western Feature Film Co., Ltd., 2 1 st December, 1915. 

135 



Elinor Glyn 

certain as they are sure to be disastrous, into the belief that 
she may without dishonour choose the easy life of sin, 
many a poor romantic girl, striving amidst manifold hard- 
ships and discouragements to keep her honour untarnished. 
It is enough for me to say that to a book of such a cruelly 
destructive tendency no protection will be extended by a 
court of equity. It rests with others to determine whether 
such a work ought not to be altogether suppressed. 

This remarkable judgement still stands in law. It is curious 
to think that if judicial precedent be followed, no modern 
book, play, or film which deals with adultery, no matter how 
tragically but without direct censure, is protected by the law 
of copyright. 



It appears strange that Three Weeks should have inflamed 
such high feeling, for it seems now a very mild and inoffen- 
sive book. There is not a salacious word in it. Many modern 
novels contain descriptions far more intimate and detailed 
than Three Weeks. Elinor herself was not much interested in 
sex; she thought it unromantic, animal, earthy. She was in- 
terested in love, in the romantic disguise which enveloped 
more material thoughts and feelings, and the maintenance of 
which was the great ideal of her life. 

There was nothing crude about her pattern of love-making,, 
which she repeated many times in her later novels. The man, 
passionate and strong, would master the woman with his 
strength and the intensity of his love; then, suddenly, all the 
mastery would be gone and he would be on his knees before 
her, offering worship and homage. Further than that Elinor 
did not go. It may have been a little unrealistic, her own 

136 



The Best-Selling Novelist 

wishful thoughts finding expression, but It was certainly not 
lascivious. 

One is struck, too, in reading Three Weeks now* by its 
high moral tone. A very large part of the book is devoted to 
the lady's lectures to Paul on being worthy of his name and 
race. And the final scene in the cathedral, with Paul on his 
knees in joy and thanksgiving, is not what one would expect 
in a vulgar and offensive "shocker/* 

For the first American edition Elinor wrote a preface, in 
which she defended her book and hoped to temper the wind 
in advance. She later wrote a longer and more detailed de- 
fence, which she had privately printed, and which she in- 
corporated into an article in the Grand Magazine of March 
1920, called "Why I Wrote Three Weeks" Her defence 
rested on a number of points: that the lady was a Slav and 
must not be judged by English standards; that her marriage 
to her husband was a marriage in name alone, and for this he 
was solely responsible; that she was accustomed, being a Rus- 
sian Imperial Highness as well as a Queen, to ordering any- 
one who amused her into her sitting-room, a performing 
monkey, a street singer, a carpet seller, or Paul; that the love 
between Paul and herself was overwhelming and perfect on 
every level, body, mind, and soul; and, lastly, that the lady, 
having offended against the laws of man, duly paid the su- 
preme price of her life. 

Elinor also printed, for private circulation, Mark Twain's 
defence of Three Weeks, in which he argued that so great a 
love was divine and beyond human control or law. 

None of these arguments, however, had any effect at the 
time. Only the passing of years, which, ironically, has spoilt 
the flavour of the prose, has been able to acquit Three Weeks 
of an immoral purpose. 



137 



EUnor Glyn 



32. 

The astonishing and sustained sales of Three Weeks can- 
not be wholly attributed to its immoral reputation though 
this, of course, played a considerable part. To be banned was 
then, as now, to be assured of a certain curiosity value. But 
the sales of Three Weeks were just as heavy in countries 
where its reputation was blameless, and something further is 
required to explain its success. 

We may perhaps attribute it to its being unashamedly and 
sumptuously a romance. A great love story fills a crying need 
of the human heart and it had been many years since there 
had been another one in the class. The fact that so many of 
the love stories of the world Paris and Helen, Antony and 
Cleopatra, Lancelot and Guinevere, Tristram and Yseult, 
Sigurd and Brynhild, Nelson and Lady Hamilton, Paul and 
his lady cut across the marriage ties was, in Elinor's view, an 
unfortunate outcome of the conflict between the laws of God 
and the laws of man. She was in later years to devote much 
thought to the reasons why domesticity should so often prove 
fatal to great love, and to proving that the two need not nec- 
essarily be mutually exclusive. It should be possible, she 
argued, given sufficient skill and wisdom on both sides, not 
only to generate but to maintain inside marriage the degree 
and quality of love that Paul, and others, had found only out- 
side it. It was to providing this skill and wisdom that she 
gave so much of her later time and energy, with, as will be 
seen, considerable success. 

Another reason for the popularity of Three Weeks may 
perhaps lie in the fact that it coincided with the great wave 
of feeling which sought to sweep away the restrictive and 
unimaginative barriers of Victorian purltanism, and which 
washed up on the beach such a curious mixture of treasure- 
is* 



The Eest-Selling Novelist 

trove and iotsam. Elinor herself would have been both sur- 
prised and indignant if she could have realised the company 
she was in, if she could have seen that Three Weeks appealed 
to the same renascent and manumissive instinct that had also 
welcomed, for example, Freud. She and Freud, of course, were 
poles apart in ideals, in methods, in aspirations; they were 
united on one count only, a hatred of repression for repres- 
sion's sake. 

And, lastly, seeking to account for the success of Three 
Weeks, we must not forget the book itself. It had, and still 
has, something over and above its fulfilment of the wide- 
spread longing for romance, its embodiment of the general 
distrust of restrictive prohibitions, its appeal, if indeed there 
ever was any, to the salacious-minded. Three Weeks was writ- 
ten in a white heat of inspiration. The heat is not yet cooled. 
The book is by no means the best of Elinor Glyn's novels, 
but alone of them it flickers and glows with the rare fire of 
genius. 



33- 

The book's success had one further consequence, which 
was again not entirely unexpected. The rumour went about 
that it was, in fact, a true story. Several men announced that 
they were Paul; one man in America called himself Prince 
Paul, thereby showing that he had not read the book. It was 
also reported that the Czar had mentioned Three Weeks as 
being a book about his wife. 

Elinor regarded these reports indulgently, the inevitable 
consequences of the book's popularity. The story, she main- 
tained, was wholly imaginary; she had made it up on a wet 
afternoon in a Scottish castle. 

A little more fully documented, however, was the story of 
a man she met the following year in America. He said that 



Elinor Glyn 

the Dowager Empress of Russia, despairing of an heir, had 
sent her daughter-in-law off on a yacht with "Paul" nine 
months before the birth of the Czarevitch; and the Czare- 
vitch's haemophilia was transmitted, as always, through the 
mother. The American insisted on the story, asserting that the 
"Paul* 1 was an Englishman and had in fact died in his arms. 

Elinor was interested, but once again disbelieving. The 
book, she assured him was entirely imaginary; it had no con- 
nection with the Romanoffs. 

It was not until 1910, when she went to Russia, that she 
came to realise that she might, in writing Three Weeks, have 
stumbled on something dangerously close to the truth. 



140 



BOOK THREE 

American Journey 

1907-1908 



I. 



During the summer of 1907, Clayton Glyn decided that it 
was time his family saw more of the world, and he -planned 
to take them that winter on a trip which would encompass 
the globe. In July, Elinor went to France to collect Margot 
from her school, and, while in Paris, she stayed with Mrs. 
Kate Moore, a well-known American hostess, who suggested 
that she should visit America that autumn. Elinor was con- 
siderably more attracted by America than Ivy Ceylon or 
Japan and she accepted gladly. She paid herself for Mrs. Ken- 
nedy and Dixie to travel with the family in her place and it 
was arranged that she should meet them in San Francisco 
and that the whole family, reunited, should travel back across 
America together. 

In the autumn, just before her forty-third birthday, Elinor 
sailed for America in the Lusitania, aimed with a sheaf of 
introductions from Mrs. Moore and Lady Arthur Paget. She 
was a striking figure in a purple overcoat, a purple toque, 
and a purple chiffon veil, which she could wrap round her 
face; the whole effect was reminiscent, not altogether with- 
out design, of the Imperatorskoye. She took also sixty pairs of 
high-heeled shoes for her beautifully shaped, tiny feet. 

She was enjoying herself immensely. Travelling with Clay- 



Elinor Glyn 

ton had been very pleasant and luxurious, but it was agreeable 
for a change to be on her own, to be Elinor Glyn the famous 
authoress rather than the odd-looking wife of Clayton Glyn, 
the well-known traveller. 

She had one friend on board, Consuelo, Duchess of Man- 
chester, a fascinating American* who was a close friend of 
King Edward and Queen Alexandra, and the Duchess warned 
Elinor that the reporters would fall on her like wolves in New 
York- Elinor did not altogether credit this. She had not yet 
got used to the idea that she was a famous personality and 
that anyone outside society circles might be interested in read- 
Ing about her. She had, in the past, been interviewed by re- 
porters only once or twice at most, and she had been then, 
unwisely, a little brusque. 

She was taken aback now by her reception in New York. 
Reporters boarded the ship from launches as soon as she en- 
tered New York Harbour. Elinor was interviewed, photo- 
graphed, interviewed again on the quay, followed to the Plaza 
Hotel, and interviewed again there. She had had no idea of 
the methods of the American press and she was amazed at the 
barrage of personal questions fired at her. 

Was it true that Three Weeks was her own life story? Who 
was the real Paul? What did she think of America? What 
did it feel like being famous? What did she think about Ameri- 
can divorce? What were her early struggles like? How long 
was she going to stay? 

Elinor thought at first that they were joking, especially 
when she read in the previous day's paper a list of possible 
Pauls, culled probably from Debrett. But as soon as she 
realised that they were serious, she did her best to answer 
carefully and fully. She attributed afterwards the kindness 
with which the American press invariably treated her, both 
then and later, to the good impression she succeeded in mak- 

* She was the daughter of Antonio Yznaga de Valle of Ravensnood, 
Louisiana. 

144 



American Journey 

ing in those first interviews in New York. Though they nat- 
urally portrayed her as the siren to end all sirens, they never 
indulged in the bitter personal attacks which she had often 
later to endure in the British press. 

New York astonished her the height of the buildings, the 
hurry and the bustle, above all the noise. People seemed al- 
ways to be shouting at the top of their voices, even in private 
rooms; usually, Elinor observed, they were shouting that they 
knew what you were saying already; however, she went on, 
such was their capacity for absorption that they no doubt did, 
soon after they finished speaking. 

After London and Paris the "democratic*' manner of por- 
ters, waiters, chambermaids, and shopgirls pained her. It re- 
quired a thick-skinned determination to make a purchase in a 
shop. However, when she next returned to America four years 
later, she found that once again the Americans had learnt 
fast and the New York shopgirls were now level with, if not 
ahead of, their London and Paris counterparts in subtle, flatter- 
ing salesmanship. 



Together with Mrs. Fritz Ponsonby (later Lady Ponsonby) 
and the Duchess of Manchester, Elinor went, soon after her 
arrival in America, to stay with Mrs. Frederick Vanderbilt at 
her stately home at Hyde Park on the Hudson. Elinor had 
known Mrs. Vanderbilt in Paris and had found her a kindly 
lady, completely human and natural; she was utterly unpre- 
pared for the imperial grandeur of Mrs. Vanderbilt's manner 
at home. 

A long flight of marble steps led from the drive to the front 
door, and on every third step was a footman in knee breeches 
and with powdered hair, drenched in the pouring rain. The 
guests were received in the hall by a pompous English butler 



Elinor Glyn 

and led through a series of salons to the great drawing-room, 
where their hostess was waiting to receive them, magnificently 
gowned and wearing some fifty thousand pounds' worth of 
pearls and long white kid gloves. The drawing-room was fur- 
nished TOth fine cabinets and chairs, the cream skimmed from 
the antique dealers of the world. 

Tea in English country houses was an informal meal, dis- 
pensed by the hostess, but here it was evidently a highly 
formal occasion, with rows of footmen waiting as if it were a 
state banquet. The ladies sat in a line on a series of valuable 
but rather uncomfortable sofas; the gentlemen, silent and ill 
at ease, sat opposite them on a row of hard gilt chairs with 
their backs to the wall. It was as if everyone present were 
about to take part in some parlour game. 

The conversation was slow and platitudinous, until sud- 
denly Mrs. Stuyvesant Fish, whose caustic tongue was fa- 
mous, remarked: 

"They say in Europe that all American women are virtuous. 
Well, do you wonder? Look at those men!" 

The line of men sitting meekly on their gold chairs fidgeted 
awkwardly and accepted this sally in docile silence/ Elinor 
reflected that Clayton or Wynne Finch or Innes-Ker would 
not have allowed such a quip to go unanswered. 

Dinner that night was an amazing meal, twice as large and 
magnificent as anything Elinor had previously experienced. 
She was particularly astonished by the flowers; the American 
Beauty Roses, each one of which would have won a prize in a 
flower show, were so enormous as to seem artificial. The food 
was wonderful, and the whole company dined, of course, off 
gold plate. 

Only the conversation seemed a little below the standard, 
with everyone speaking slowly and loudly, rarely pausing to 
listen for an answer. A pleasant and refreshing feature, how- 
ever, was the absence of double-entendres, which were such 
a feature of English society conversation/ 

146 



American Journey 

One thing Is noticeable and nice. The conversations 
everywhere are all absolutely jeune file, never anything 
the least risque though it is often amusing** 

The bedrooms were fully as palatial as the downstairs 
salons. Each room had at least two Louis Quinze suites. The 
curtains, the dressing-table covers, the pillow cases, even the 
edges of the sheets themselves were embroidered with real 
Venetian lace. The pot-de-chambre had a lace cover; the lava- 
tory chain a large blue satin bow on it. There were no books 
or any evidence that the room had ever been slept in before. 

Mrs. Vanderbilt's own bedroom, where she received Elinor 
the following morning, had a balustrade separating the bed 
from the rest of the room, as in Louis XV's state bedroom at 
Versailles. 

**I suppose/* murmured Elinor reminiscently, "that only 
Princes of the Blood are allowed behind the balustrade." 

"Elinor!" said Mrs. Vanderbilt, deeply shocked. *You must 
not say such things in America.** 

It was with a certain relief that Elinor discovered that the 
Vanderbilt standard of living was not typical of the whole 
of American society. She spent week ends with the Ogden 
Mills at their house on the Hudson, and with the Bryces and 
the Greswolds on Long Island, and there she found an atmos- 
phere more nearly approximating that of an English country 
house. 

In between these week ends she lived at the Plaza Hotel 
and saw the sights of New York: Central Park, the Stock Ex- 
change, a big newspaper being put to press, and even an 
opium den in Chinatown, though she discovered later to her 
chagrin that this had been arranged specially for her* 

* Elizabeth Visits America. 



147 



Elinor Glyn 



America, even in 1907, was a very different place from 
England. Elinor found it difficult at first to reconcile herself 
to the different attitudes towards life which she found in New 
York. The domination by the female sex she found particu- 
larly hard to accept. In her view man must always be the 
master; women might be the inspiration, the consolation, the 
ideal, even the goal in themselves, but they could never be 
the masters. A matriarchy seemed to her a topsy-turvy world. 

Almost equally odd she found the lack of interest of the 
sexes in each other. The men seemed to be married to Wall 
Street, the women to their clubs. 

And what with the smell of the innumerable flowers and 
the steam-heated rooms, and the cigarettes, I can't think 
how they have wits enough left to play bridge all the after- 
noon, as they do with never a young man to wake them 
up. Of course it is amusing for Octavia and me to see all 
this as we are merely visitors, but fancy, Mamma, doing it 
as a part of one's life! Dressing up and making oneself 
splendid and attractive to meet only women! I* 

And why, she wondered, should the men, even the sons of 
millionaires, who had no need to work, rush downtown early 
every day to spend their best hours in a masculine bedlam 
like Wall Street, when they could be enjoying the company 
of beautiful women at home? 

This point troubled her a good deal, and she finally attrib- 
uted it to the gold-digging propensities of American women. 
It was they who drove their menfolk on in the eternal pursuit 
of the Almighty Dollar. It was the mothers, wives and daugh- 
ters, she decided, wanting enough furs, new cars, jewels, ali- 

* Elizabeth Visits America. 

148 



American Journey 

mony, not only to keep up with the Joneses but to go one 
better, who drove their men to stupefied exhaustion, plati- 
tudes, sentimentality, and too many cocktails. Money in Eng- 
land was not a subject of much interest in high society; either 
you had it or you did not, in which case you might be forced 
into taking up some profession. But if you had it, there was 
no earthly reason why you should bother to make any more; 
it was not as if it had any great virtue in itself. In America 
the opposite view seemed to prevail. 

Elinor was, of course, meeting for the first time a society of 
men earning their daily bread, a society which is now univer- 
sal and commonplace; and she was meeting it in a drastic 
form. Here was an upper class which did not regard estate 
ownership, sport, and opening bazaars as an adequate life oc- 
cupation, and who equally seemed to take little interest in 
public service or public affairs. It was rarely that politics were 
discussed at meals or in drawing-rooms; the masculine talk was 
always of finance, the feminine of culture or of bridge. Elinor 
herself at no time in her life took any interest in any form of 
finance and was accordingly specially unimpressed by this 
great interest of the American male; nor did she ever play 
bridge; and she regarded the type of culture purveyed by 
American women's clubs as highly superficial. 

In her diaries, her memoirs, and her book, Elizabeth Visits 
America, she was particularly severe on the "fluffy little gold- 
diggers'* she found in New York society. Everything seemed 
to be on a tit-for-tat basis. A girl would only give a kiss in 
return for an engagement ring, a wife would only allow her 
husband his marriage rights in return for flowers or furs. Ev- 
erything had to be bought by the man; love was never be- 
stowed as a free gift for the joy of its own sake or for the sheer 
pleasure in giving. It was not even parted with on credit terms. 

It is ironical that when Elinor came to America after the 
First World War, she found herself attempting to push the 
pendulum the other way, urging greater restraint and f astid- 



Elinor Glyn 

iousness in, the relations between the sexes, less casual pawing 
and petting and kissing. But in 1907 there was certainly no 
need for such advice. 

Elinor found regrettably little romance in New York, with 
the two sexes living in their own worlds. When they did meet, 
it seemed to be more on a brother-and-sister basis. The women 
seemed to have very little desire to make themselves mysteri- 
ous or elusive, to arouse the men's hunting instinct, and in- 
deed, she wondered if the men had a hunting instinct for 
anything except dollars. 

The dance was such fun, a bal Hanc, as only young peo- 
ple were asked, and they all came without chaperones, so 
sensible, and all seemed to have a lovely romp and enjoy 
themselves in a far, far greater degree than we do. It was 
more like a tenants' hall or a children's party, they seemed 
so happy, and towards the end lots of the girls' hair became 
untidy and their dresses torn, and the young men's faces 
damp and their collars limp.* 

Elinor smiled indulgently but was deeply puzzled. She 
would never have allowed a man to ruffle her hair. 

Elinor was prepared to give full credit to American women 
for their soigne appearance, their beautiful clothes worn with 
style, their well-groomed heads; the all-pervading influence of 
the beauty parlour put them well ahead of their English or 
French counterparts. In this, she observed, they certainly gave 
their husbands value for money. 

She was, however^ deeply pained by the drinking habits of 
American society, especially the younger members of it. She 
found it distressing to go into a ladies' cloakroom and find girls 
of nineteen or twenty laid out like salmon on a slab." At one 
dinner party which Elinor attended a young man became ex- 
tremely drank and disgraced himself. In England he would 
have had to resign from his clubs, possibly from his regiment, 

* Elizabeth Visits America. 



American Journey 

too, if he bad one; but in New York this course was apparently 
not necessary. He was only being gently teased for being 
"overfull" when Elinor met him again at a dance two nights 
later. But there were compensations even in drunkenness, one 
vice driving out another. 

She says the young men now in New York nearly all 
drink too many cocktails and that is what makes them so 
unreserved when they get to their clubs. So the women 
can't have them for lovers because they talk about it.* 

Elinor reserved her full scorn for the pretensions and snob- 
bery of high society, those members of the Four Hundred 
who informed her continually about their own .ancestry. 

If people are nice in themselves how can it matter who 
they are, or if ^fashionable" or not? The whole thing is 
nonsense and if you belong to a country where the longest 
tradition is sixteen hundred and something, and your an- 
cestor got there through being a middle-class puritan or a 
ne'er-do-well shipped off to colonise a savage land, it is too 
absurd to boast about ancestry or worry in the least over 
such things. The facts to be proud of are the splendid, 
vivid, vital, successful creatures they are now, no matter 
what their origin. Nearly everyone tells you here their great- 
great-grandfather came over in the Mayflower. (How ab- 
surd of the Cunard Line to be proud of the Mauretania! 
The Mayflower, of course, must have been twice the size.)* 

Among the "smart set** (do forgive this awful term, 
Mamma, but I mean by that the ones who are "in the swim" 
and whose society is the goal of the other's desire) they 
don't often tell you about the Mayflower and their ancestors 
though on Wednesday a frightfully rich person who has 
only lately been admitted into the inner circle because both 
her daughters have married foreign Princes, said to me, she 

* Elizabeth Visits America. 

151 



Elinor Glyn 

loved the English, and was, Indeed, English herself and 
some distant connection of our King, being descended from 
Queen Elizabeth! ! ! It was unfortunate her having pitched 
upon our Virgin Queen, wasn't it, Mamma? But, perhaps, 
as she had rather an Italian look, it was the affair of the 
Venetian attach^ and when I suggested that to her, 
she gazed at me blankly and said: "Why, no, there never 
has been any side-tracking in our family, we've always been 
virtuous and always shall be! f ** 

And again: 

The talk of equality is just as much nonsense In America 
as in every other place under the sun. How can people be 
called equal when the Browns won't know the Smiths! And 
the Van Brounkers won't know either and Fifth Avenue 
does not bow to Riverside Drive and everyone is striving 
to *go one bette/ than his neighbour?* 

It should not, however, be imagined that Elinor found only 
subjects for carping criticism in the New World. Her eight- 
eenth-century upbringing had taught her to pay great atten- 
tion to outward form and etiquette, and many customs of 
America startled and jarred on her. Nor was there, at any 
rate in the environs of New York, a rosy aura of romance to 
compensate and appeal to the other side of her nature. But 
once the first shock of America had worn off, she found much 
to admire and appreciate the frankness, the kindheartedness, 
the generosity, the abundant hospitality. 

These few days in New York have confirmed our opinion 
of everyone's extraordinary kindness and hospitality. All 
their peculiarities are just caused by being so young a na- 
tion, they are quite natural whenever their real feelings 
come out. As children are touchy, so are they, and as chil- 

* Elizabeth Visits America. 

ijz 



American Journey 

dren boast, so do they, and just as children's hearts are 
warm and generous, so are theirs. So I think this quality 
of youth is a splendid one, don't you, Mamma?* 

She also strongly admired their determination : 

I felt obliged to ask them [some boxers] if they minded 
at all having their noses smashed in, and black eyes, and 
if they felt nervous ever and the little coloured gentleman 
grinned and said he only felt nervous over the money of 
the thing! ! He was not anxious about the art or fame! 
He just wanted to win. Is not that an extraordinary point 
of view, Mamma, to -win? It is the national motto, it seems, 
how does not matter so much, and that is what makes them 
so splendidly successful, and that is what the other nations 
who play games with them don't understand. They, poor 
old-fashioned things, are taking an interest in the sport part, 
and so scattering their forces, while the Americans are con- 
centrating on the winning. And it is this quality which, of 
course, will make them the rulers of the world in time.* 

The only thing she really missed in America was romance, 
and she was to find this further west. 



Elinor returned to her suite at the Plaza Hotel one day to 
find that Mark Twain had called while she was out. She was 
flattered that he should have come all the way from his house 
in Washington Square just to see her, and she returned his 
call the following day . 

He is a dear old man with a halo of white silky hair and 
a fresh face, and the eyes of a child which look out on life 

* Elizabeth Visits America. 



Elinor Gfyn 

air of wisdom one sees peeping sometimes 
a soul To find such eyes In an aged face 

proves many as to the hidden beauties in the char- 

acter. Marie Twain was dressed in putty-coloured almost 
white broad-cloth, very soigne and attractive looking. We 
sat on a divan, and he gave orders that we were not 

to be disturbed.. 

She for an hour and a half, and for most of that time 

they Three Weeks, which he greatly admired, both 

In matter and In style. 

As she was leaving Elinor said she would write down a 
summary of their conversation and send him a copy to read; it 
Is this summary which forms the basis of the paper already 
referred to and which Is quoted above. She duly sent him the 
summary and Mark Twain, clearly a little afraid that she 
might publish It, which would be a breach of his contract with 
his publisher, replied : 

2. i Fifth Avenue, 
Jan. 24, 1908. 

Dear Mrs. Glyn, 

It reads pretty poorly. I get the sense of It, but It is a poor 
literary job; towever, It would have to be because nobody 
can be reported even approximately except by a stenogra- 
pher. Approximations, synopsized speeches, translated 
poems, artificial flowers, and chromos all have a sort of value, 
but It Is small. If you had put upon paper what I really said, 
it would have wrecked your type-machine. I said some fetid 
and over-vigorous things, but that was because it was a con- 
fidential conversation. I said nothing for print. My own re- 
port of the same conversation reads like Satan roasting a 
Sunday School It, and certain other readable chapters of 
my autobiography, will not be published until all the 
Clemens family are dead dead and correspondingly indif- 
ferent. They were written to entertain me, not the rest of 



American Journey 

the world. I am not here to do good at not to do it 

intentionally. You must pardon me for dictating this letter; 
I am still sick a-bed and not feeling as well as I might. 

Sincerely yours ? 

S, L. Clemens 

They met again later that winter when they were both 
guests of honour at a dinner given by Daniel Frohman. Mark 
Twain made a Mnd and most entertaining speech about Eli- 
nor. Also at the dinner was John Barrymore, who made a point 
of telling her how much he had himself enjoyed Three- 
Weeks. 

Elinor remained in New York all through the winter. 

I used to have ovations wherever I went, and began to 
think that the role of a famous authoress was a most de- 
lightful one. The air of America is rightly compared to 
champagne exhilarating, delicious, but most intoxicating, 
and fatal to good judgement and capacity for self-criticism!* 



In the spring she set out on her coast-to-coast trip. She 
started by going to Philadelphia, which she found quieter 
and more old-fashioned than New York; but she regretted that 
the finest site in the city should have been used for a cemetery. 
She was fascinated by a reporter who described it as a "cun- 
ning place to take your best girl on Sunday to do a bit of a 
spoon/' Love in a cemetery was a new aspect of romance for 
Elinor. 

From Philadelphia she went, via New York, to Niagara, 
where she stayed at the honeymoon hotel. There were four 
honeymoon couples there at the time and she was surprised to 

* Romantic Adventwe. 



Elinor Glyn 

all breakfasting downstairs in public. None of them 
One couple, who had been married three days, read 
the morning propped up against their cups, at the 

time furtively holding hands under the table. The sec- 
couple, **mere children/ had been married only the day 
before and the girl blushed crimson when she had to ask her 
husband whether he took sugar in his coffee. The third, mar- 
ried a fortnight, were obviously already very bored with each 
other; and the fourth, married three days, bolted down their 
breakfast as fast as they could before rushing out to play ten- 
nis. As honeymoons went, it was a very different atmosphere 
from Three Weefes. 

On the train from Niagara to Chicago, Elinor met the mil- 
lionaire who made such a deep impression on her. 

He had "raised" two young men in his office, and as 

proof of their wonderful astuteness from his teaching "I 
give you my word, Ma'am/' he said, "either of them could 
draw a contract now for me, out of which I could slip at 

any moment! ! !** 

Detroit she thought the most perfectly laid out city she had 
ever seen; Chicago itself she found "an immense, busy place 
with colossal blocks of houses and some really fine architec- 
ture; all giving the impression of a mighty, prosperous, and 
advancing nation, and quite the best shops one could wish for, 
not too crowded and polite assistants. (Even at the ribbon 
counter!)"* 

The further west she went, the more she seemed to like 
America. 

One of the strangest things is, that no one is old, never 
more than sixty and generally younger, the majority from 
eighteen to thirty-five and also something we have remarked 
everywhere, every one seems happy. You do not see weary, 

* Elizabeth Visits America. 



American Journey 

tired, bored faces, like in Europe, and BO one is shabby or 
dejected, and they are all talking and drinking and laugh- 
ing with the same intent concentrated force they bring to 
everything they do, and it is simply splendid.* 

And here, too, she was. struck by the chivalry and considera- 
tion of men for their womenfolk. 

The cold in the wife's head could be heard quite plainly 
even where we were, and the host shouted so kindly, "Say, 
Anabel, be careful of that draught." 

Fancy an English husband bothering to think of a 
draught after a catarrh had been there for fifteen years!* 



6. 

The next section of her journey led through the mining- 
camps and ranches of Nevada, and here at last she found the 
romantic America which she had been seeking. When she 
reached the town of Goldfield, a deputation of miners awaited 
her, saying that they had all greatly admired Three Weeks 
and would Mrs. Glyn come and visit their new camp at Raw- 
hide, nearly a hundred miles away. Elinor accepted gladly, 
and that visit to Rawhide was to remain one of the happiest 
memories of her life; indeed, one may regard it as a turning- 
point in her spiritual progress. 

Rawhide was not at first sight an inviting place. It was in 
the middle of a desert, without a blade of grass or any greenery. 
For hundreds of miles on either side there was nothing but 
earthy sand and sad grey sagebrush. The camp itself had been 
built only some two months before, but there were dance 
halls and a rough board hotel with a gambling-saloon, a bar 
on the ground floor, and about thirty bedrooms above. These 
had cheap, ill-fitting, plank partitions, in some cases papered 

* Elizabeth Visits America. 

157 



Elinor Glyn 

old and the doors consisted of a few boards 

only a lift latch for fastening. Round 
the camp were plentiful and the continual wind 

the In sandstorms. 

It was the miners themselves who Impressed Elinor so 

They to have stepped straight out of the pages 

of Bret Harte, They all carried guns openly It was an offence 

to concealed. Many of the qualities and traditions 

of the old covered-wagon days had survived; the courage, the 

endurance, the respect for women, the modesty, the rough 

but real of justice. In physical appearance, too, they 

were very different from the more thickset types of the eastern 

or the Middle West. Here in Nevada they had the 

slim, loose-limbed, well-bred appearance of thoroughbreds. 

There were ? of course, those who did not come up to the 
standards set by the others ? "the bad men," "the dirty yellow 
dogs,* and at Intervals these were rounded up and dealt with 
In a suitable way. There was also Scottie. 

Scottie was a desperado, an outlaw who lived near by in a 
lair called Death Valley, a humid place below sea level, where 
he was guarded by his gang. In the sack of fan mail about 
Three Weeks which Elinor had found awaiting her at Gold- 
field was a letter from Scottie, saying how much he had en- 
joyed the book and would she come and spend an evening 
with him, when he would show her the real Wild West* He 
gave details of the rendezvous and the point where she was 
to leave her escort and go on alone; and he promised "on the 
honour of a bandit** that she would be returned to her friends 
safe and unharmed. Elinor was keen to accept, but her hosts, 
the sheriff and deputy constables, flatly forbade it and In 
deference to them she had to decline, writing that she had no 
time on this trip, and enclosing the signed photograph for 
which he had asked. 

The miners showed her all round the camp. She was taken 
down a gold mine and suffered agonies of claustrophobia. She 

158 



American Journey 

watched diem playing poker in the gambling saloon, wearing 
green talc eye shades, which gave the gamblers 9 faces a 
strange, livid glow; a felt-slippered bartender silently padded 
round with drinks. The usual stake was a thousand dollars, 
and some of the men had twenty-five thousand dollars in 
front of them. The guns were all put up on a shelf, because, 
as the proprietor told Elinor, They so often got to shootin* one 
another when they played as high as that 1 * He found it "more 
conducive to a peaceable evenin* if their guns were handed 
out before they began. 11 At the other end of the saloon there 
was singing and dancing. 

The etiquette towards women, Elinor found, was strict and 
formal. A miner's wife was perfectly safe at any hour of the 
day or night with anyone; but any woman who wished to be 
flighty was fair game and she would live in a special part of 
the camp with "Katie" or "Polly** written over her door. 

There was one pleasant incident when a deputation of 
miners, led by Governor Hutchinson, came to present Elinor 
with a gun. 

'We give you this here gun, Elinor Glyn," said one of the 
miners, "because we like your darned pluck. You ain't afraid 
and we ain't neither/' 

Then Governor Hutchinson pinned the badge of deputy- 
constable on her breast and told her she could now arrest "any 
boy in the state." Elinor replied happily that she would like 
to arrest the lot, they were aU so delightful. Everyone cheered 
wildly. 

They also gave her a banquet. The long table in the saloon 
was specially covered with white oilcloth and about twenty of 
them sat down on plain, backless benches* Once again Eli- 
nor remarked the perfect, unaffected manners of the miners. 
Those sitting at the other tables glanced up and smiled as she 
came in; after that they never looked her way again. She was 
a strange, unaccustomed sight in that, or indeed in any, com- 



Elinor Glyn 

munity, but they never stared. She might have been at Easton 
or Cranford. 

The drinking-water had to be brought six miles. The food 
had come a hundred miles by wagon, the champagne from a 
deal farther off. One man had ridden ninety miles across 
the desert to fetch some yellow daisies, the only flowers pro- 
curable, to decorate the centre of the oilcloth-covered table. 
Elinor was almost in tears. Ninety miles, there and back, 
across the desert, just to fetch her some flowers, and she never 
even knew which man it was. 

She had always vaguely considered the phrase "nature's 
gentleman 3 * to be a polite fiction, but now here he was before 
her eyes, the living proof that gentle manners and aristocratic 
behaviour were dependent, not on birth, or on the acquired 
traditions of centuries of authority, or on education, but on 
character. It was a shattering discovery. Mrs. Saunders would 
have accepted it with the utmost reluctance; Ambrosine would 
have died rather than admit it. But Elinor Glyn, faced with 
its actual presence, accepted it unconditionally. 

Nowhere in the world, whether in the houses of the rich, 
ax in the courts of Kings, have I found such chivalry, such 
a natural sense of the fitness of things, such innate aristoc- 
racy as in the mining camps of Nevada.* 

She never forgot the Rawhide miners. They seemed to her 
the embodiment of everything that was best in the New 
World. She set the climax of two of her novels in the Nevada 
gold fields; and the deputy-constable's badge and the gun a 
small pistol mounted in mother-of-pearl were for the rest of 
her life her most cherished possessions. 

* Romantic Adventure. 



1 60 



American Journey 



From Nevada she went, via Denver, to San Francisco,, and 
there she found herself back in the hectic socialite atmosphere. 
Her hosts, Mr. and Mrs. Miller Graham, had not yet arrived 
from Santa Barbara, and she lunched by herself in the Fair- 
mount Hotel. At the next table were six ladies, who were 
evidently the hostesses of a ball being given that evening for 
the officers of the fleet. 

They were arguing in loud voices about whether one of 
their guests should be "thrown down'* that night. The advan- 
tages and disadvantages of this action were fiercely debated. 
Another lady, joining the party late, strongly advised against 
such a course, as the guest in question was a personal friend 
of Mrs. Vanderbilt and Mrs. Stuyvesant Fish, no less, Elinor 
realised that it was she who was under discussion. 

She attended the ball that night for which Admiral Long 
had sent her a special invitation. She was not "thrown down/' 
and she was a little disappointed to find that the hostesses 
did not seem to recognise her as the lady at the next table at 
lunch. She thanked them politely for inviting her, to the 
amusement of Admiral Long, who had heard the whole story. 

Three Weeks seemed to have aroused greater hostility in 
San Francisco than anywhere else in the world; Elinor sus- 
pected that, once again, most of the book's principal critics had 
not themselves read it. She was accustomed by now to receiv- 
ing whole sacks of fan mail at each of her halts across America, 
the larger and masculine part of it favourable, the smaller part, 
almost entirely from women, abusive. But in San Francisco 
even the men seemed to be shocked by its reputation. 

It is not altogether surprising that Elinor liked San Fran- 
cisco the least of all the American cities she visited, though 
she attributed this not so much to its hostile reception of her 

161 



as to something sinister and discordant in the atmosphere. 
Most of the town had been destroyed by earthquake and fire 
only two years earlier, the disaster which had shown up the 
graft of the original building contractors and revealed so many 
apparently solid walls as mere shells filled with nibble. This 
seemed to be a cause more for pride than for shame, and 
Elinor was astounded by the number of San Franciscans who 
told her, a visiting stranger, the full details and drove her 
about so that she might herself see as much as possible of the 
evidence of corruption. 

In San Francisco she found a message from Clayton from 
Japan, saying that he was unable to get passages across the 
Pacific and was taking the family home instead across Siberia. 

On the first stage of her own journey home she travelled 
south from San Francisco to Los Angeles, then only a small 
California town, and eastward to Salt Lake City, where she 
saw the Mormons. The idea of sharing a man with several 
other women was yet another new aspect of romance to her, 
but one which did not appeal greatly. 

From Utah she went on to St. Louis, where Mr. James 
Hackett was arranging to produce a dramatic version of Three 
Weeks; which Elinor had written herself in New York a few 
months previously. However, when she finally reached New 
York again, she unwisely allowed herself to sign a contract 
allocating not only the stock repertory rights of Three Weeks 
but, as was afterwards discovered, the whole dramatic rights 
east of the Missouri to a Miss Marbury for a mere one hundred 
pounds. All her life Elinor suffered from an inability to re- 
frain from signing any contract laid before her, and the result 
of this sale was to prevent the stage production of Three 
Weeks not only in St Louis, but in New York, too. 



162 



American Jonmey 



8. 

Elinor returned from America with a number of new ideas 
and theories about life. The chief of these was the so-called 
a New Thought,** which at that time was sweeping America 
and whose literature was to be seen on so many bookstalls. 
With her rejection of the teachings of the Church and her 
deep 'Curiosity about the causes and reasons behind life and 
human behaviour, she was specially vulnerable to influences 
of this sort; and after nearly a year of adulation and lionization 
her critical faculties were a little blurred. 

The language with which the teachings of "New Thought** 
were veiled, quasi-Biblical with quotations from the New 
Testament, made it only too easy for Elinor to believe that 
here was the true Christian teaching undistorted by centuries 
of ecclesiastical misinterpretation. 

The conception of the mind's influence over matter was, 
of course, basic to her Saunders upbringing, but Mrs. Saunders 
would never have approved, or even understood, the methods 
of the newly discovered "thought-f orce w and the ends to which 
it was applied. Those who practised this cult were beyond 
doubt more prosperous and successful than those who did not 
and there were apparently thousands of Americans who spent 
hours every day willing themselves to receive large sums of 
money, exceptionally profitable contracts, or new fur coats. 
Elinor herself spent much time reading the publications, es- 
pecially Richard Ingalese*s The History and Power of Mind; 
it seemed to fit in, in so many ways, with her own instinctive 
beliefs and disbeliefs, and it provided an authoritative ex- 
planation for many of the points which troubled her. She 
would sit hex sense of humour for the moment in abeyance 
for more than an hour a day concentrating in the approved 
manner, doing the prescribed exercises, and visualising the 

163 



EMnor Glyn 

and the riches which she was teaching herself to desire. 

In due course she sloughed off the greedier and more ma- 
terialistic aspects of New Thought and she came to consider 
evil, verging almost on black magic. But she never aban- 
doned her belief in the power of thought-force. She had been 
taught that the atmosphere was full of good and evil thoughts, 
magnetic and unmagnetic vibrations, radiating like wireless 
waves, and the human mind, by regulating its own thoughts, 
could **tune in* and receive whatever good or bad influences 
were present in the surrounding atmosphere. To think evil 
thoughts, to break one's promise, to lie were not only wrong 
in themselves; they would tune her mind to receive only evil 
or unmagnetic vibrations, which would probably bring disaster 
in their wake. She extended this theory to cover her own per- 
sonal inclinations; to save for a rainy day, she contended, was 
inevitably, by the power of thought-force, to attract that rainy 
day a financial doctrine which was to drive her relatives and 
advisors almost to despair. 

Apart, however, from this special application, this later, 
modified conception of New Thought was both harmless and 
appealing. I myself can remember her sitting in the garden 
under a purple parasol, her eyes closed as she concentrated 
upon golden light. 

She also returned from America with a new philosophic 
jargon, the chief item being "The New Religion of Common 
Sense.** Her eighteenth-century rationalism had always prized 
this quality and she herself used the term to describe indiffer- 
ently both the sensible and the incredible. Part of this en- 
thronement of common sense was a series of laws "The Law 
of Cause and Effect,* 'The Law of the Boomerang," "The 
Law of Periodicity 3 * laws whose universal application she 
sought to establish, not always successfully, by scientific or log- 
ical method, 

Yet another acquisition in America was 'The Secret of El- 
Zair," a form of the elixir of eternal youth. Over the next two 

164 



American Journey 

years Elinor carried out at carefully regulated Intervals the 
prescribed treatment, partly mystical, partly medicinal, and 
kept a full account of her progress in a notebook specially 
bound to resemble a copy of Beyond the Rocks. She averred 
that she benefited considerably from the treatment, adding 
drawings and data to prove her point; it not only rejuvenated 
the skin, the muscles, and the eyes, but also removed neural- 
gia, neuritis, and rheumatism. She succeeded in persuading 
a number of friends, including Lucy, her new husband, Sir 
Cosmo Duff-Gordon, and Lord Redesdale to try it, though 
Lord Redesdale, who was then seventy-two, was too old to 
benefit fully except in *Tiis youthful exaltation of mind." 
Lucy's actual health improved: 

. . . but I am more than ever sure, from one case I have 
closely observed, that if used with doubt and grumbling, 
the effect is only half as good and the youthful effect nil. 

Far more serious and fundamental than these theories and 
experiments was Elinor's belief in reincarnation, which came 
at this time to full flower. This was not a new discovery in 
America; she had been thinking deeply on the matter for years. 
She herself attributed her first interest in the subject to a visit 
she made to Paestum in Italy on the occasion of her first re- 
turn from Egypt. It was there that she had a very definite 
sensation of having been in the place before, of being linked 
in some way with the past. This sensation was to return to 
her several times in her life and in widely different places, 
amongst them St. Petersburg, Versailles, and Shepherd's Mar- 
ket in London. 

The more she thought about reincarnation, the more it ap- 
pealed to her as an explanation and a pattern of life. It pro- 
vided a satisfactory reason, a "common sense reason," for so 
many of the perplexities, the seeming unfairnesses of life. It 
fitted in, too, with her conception of a supreme, benevolent 

165 



Glyn 

negative Deity, occasionally overriding the laws 
of nature to help and comfort some repentant sinner. 

During Elinor's stay in America and in the years that fol- 
lowed she meditated a great deal on the subject, eventually 
clarifying her theory and restating it in a number of articles 
and essays. In later years, as her views became more widely 
known, she would elaborate her own earlier lives in more de- 
tail. She would even claim that she could, in certain moments 
of insight 7 see glimpses, half-seen pictures, of the earlier lives 
of her friends. They found this a bewildering gift, uncertain 
whether she was serious or joking. 

In fact, she was sometimes one, sometimes the other, de- 
fending on her mood. For, like the rest of the English nation, 
she had the ability to make jests on occasions of the things she 
held most sacred. 



166 



BOOK FOUR 

The Breadwinner 

1908-1914 



I. 



Elinor arrived at home in June 1908, very pleased with her- 
self and with life, with her success in America, with the new 
sights and scenes of her travels, with the large sums of money 
which all her books were now bringing in. She was utterly 
unprepared for the reversal which awaited her. 

Her family had arrived back some three weeks previously 
and were full of the wonderful time they had had on the 
long journey, which had even included a mild train crash on 
the Trans-Siberian Railway. The children had grown and de- 
veloped considerably under the stimulus of new sights and 
sounds, while Mrs. Kennedy declared that she had had her 
happiest six months since her first husband died. 

But Clayton seemed to have changed considerably for the 
worse. Seeing him every day, Elinor had been less aware of 
his physical deterioration; now, after an interval of nearly a 
year, she was shocked by the change. He had grown very 
much stouter and there was about his face a purple tinge in- 
dicative of heart trouble. He had always been a little asthmatic 
and this, too, seemed to be worse. 

For years his doctors had been urging him gently to give 
up smoking twelve cigars a day, to eat less rich food, to drink 
less port, to cut down the numbers of turkish baths, journeys 

169 



Hmor Glyn 

in hot countries, long August days on grouse moors all the 
things which he loved most in the world. He had steadily 
the doctors' advice, even when Elinor had joined them 
in him to treat his no longer youthful constitution with 

more consideration. Now it seemed that he was paying the 
price for his own self-indulgence. 

After a while Elinor noticed that the trouble was not only 
physical His gayefy, his merry smile had gone; there was a 
pathetic hangdog look about him. She realised with a sinking 
heart that there was something else, other than his health, 
worrying him. It was several weeks before she discovered what 
it was. 

He came into her room one day one of the few occasions 
on which he ever entered her Trianon and handed her, with- 
out speaking, a letter from his solicitors. For a while she could 
not grasp its meaning. Then the terrible truth dawned on her. 

Clayton had been living all these years not on his income, 
but on his capital; and the capital was now exhausted. Worse 
than that, he had been borrowing money everywhere he could 
find it The property was mortgaged to its full extent; he was 
deeply in debt to the bank, to his friends, and to money- 
lenders. And now his creditors were demanding repayment. 
The crash had come. 

In later years Elinor blamed herself severely for not realis- 
ing that in the first sixteen years of their marriage they must 
have been living far beyond their possible maximum income. 
But, in fairness, she must be exonerated from this charge. 
Clayton never took her into his confidence about his financial 
affairs; indeed, he would have avoided discussing them with 
her even had she shown any desire to. He had never suggested 
that their standard of living, their long luxurious journeys 
were too costly. He had virtually encouraged her to spend as 
much as she liked on clothes. His only efforts at economy, 
their successive removal to smaller houses, he always camou- 
flaged by giving some other reason for the change. 

I/O 



The Breadwinner 

Elinor herself had never "been of a frugal nature and she 
had spent her own earnings freely. However, so large were 
the royalties which her books were now bringing in that she 
had, .almost without intention, accumulated a considerable 
fortune in her bank account. She did not hesitate to give the 
whole of this to Clayton, but large though it was, it was only 
sufficient to meet the more pressing of his creditors, and after 
a few weeks it became apparent that if he was to be saved from 
bankruptcy, she would have to sign away her marriage settle- 
ment, too. Once again she agreed, preferring to part with her 
last financial resources, the sole bulwark between her and 
destitution in the years to come, rather than that Clayton 
should be publicly disgraced. She also undertook, with rather 
a heavy heart, the support and maintenance of her husband 
and children, since she alone was capable of earning her own 
living. From now onwards, she realised, the whole family 
would be dependent upon her earnings. Her pen alone stood 
hetween them all and starvation. 

It was her responsibility now to reorganise the family fi- 
nances. In one way there could have been few people less 
fitted for the task. Her own lack of financial acumen, her 
spasmodic but unpredictable and irresistible extravagances, 
hex dislike of petty restrictions did not assist her to impose a 
more economic pattern of life upon the family. 

She had, however, two enormous assets to help her at this 
moment of crisis. One was her own innate courage and the 
other, almost equally great, was her capacity for making 
money. 



It was not till after Clay ton's death in 1915 that Elinor 
was able fully to understand the reasons which lay behind the 
purblind, cruelly short-sighted attitude towards life that he 



Clyn 

adopted. Then, going through his papers, she was able to 
enough of his early life to understand, if not to excuse, 
his later behaviour. 

His father had died while he was a child and he had been 
brought up by his mother to expect every luxury and, at the 
tirae^ to live on an allowance small compared with his 
ultimate expectations. He had wanted to go into the family 
regiment, the Rifle Brigade, but she had persuaded him out 
of this. He was called to the bar, but she did not encourage 
him to practise. By the time he came to his full inheritance, 
the damage was done; he was by then fully accustomed to 
luxury, idleness, and debt. Even at Oxford he had got into 
the hands of moneylenders and he remained in their clutches 
for the rest of his life. 

The property was already heavily mortgaged when he mar- 
rial Elinor, but he made, reluctantly, one or two efforts at 
economy so that there might be some of his estate left to 
bequeath to his son. It was the birth of a second daughter 
and the loss of ten thousand pounds at Monte Carlo that 
settled the pattern of his future life. There was now to be no 
son and so there was now no point in saving any of his estate 
for the next generation. 

The alternative before him had been clear-cut and had been 
presented, no doubt, in a most cunning light by the money- 
lenders, who were the evil geniuses of his life. Either he could 
economise and live out a dreary but probably much longer 
life, or he could continue the way he was going, the way of 
the lotus-eater, and have a shorter but a gayer life. He chose 
unhesitatingly the second course, 

His doctors had assured him that he was killing himself with 
his present manner of living and he continued in that way, 
even stepping it up further, gayly and deliberately under- 
mining his health, smoking not twelve but sixteen cigars a 
day. Suicide itself was vulgar and unthinkable, but it seemed 

172 



BreadimmmeT 

only too likely that he would be naturally dead before his 
money ran out. 

After that his widow would have her marriage settlement, 
and judging by the number of her admirers, she would have 
little difficulty in marrying again. His children, too, were pro- 
vided for under the settlement; so too was Mrs. Kennedy, who 
was at this time drawing a fair income from her founder's 
shares in Lucile's. The only losers would be those who had 
lent him money and who now, his widow's settlement being 
untouchable, would never recover it; but Clayton, like so 
many others of his generation, had little sympathy for dis- 
appointed creditors, even his own! He had only himself to 
think of and he was, according to his lights, perfectly en- 
titled to choose for himself the swift and easy path to destruc- 
tion. One can exonerate his doctors, who knew nothing of the 
financial reasons for his way of life and who continued to 
urge much greater austerity upon him; but one cannot avoid 
wondering at those who knew the truth and who acquiesced 
meekly in such an egoistical and disastrous policy. 

By ending his married life with his wife Clayton could be 
certain of never having a son, the contingency which would 
upset his plans. But he could never be certain that he would 
die before his money and his credit were finally exhausted. 
That must always be a gamble and, as such, it attracted him, 
a born gambler. As always, he lost lost by seven long, pitiful 
years. 



Even though she did not know the full truth at that time, 
Elinor never blamed her husband for bringing them, without 
a twinge of conscience, to their present pass. He was still for 
her the grand seigneur, and whatever his other faults and 
shortcomings, she never ceased to look up to him and admire 



Elinor Glyn 

him, when no points of mutual contact remained, even 

he almost to delight in adding to her burdens 

than in diminishing them. Indeed, on looking tack, 

her principal reaction was of astonishment at his gayety and 

cheerfulness all the years when the gaunt spectres of death 

and disaster were approaching remorselessly nearer, all the 

time that he was hugging his terrible secret to himself. She 

tool the attitude that it was his money to do with as he 

While he had had it, he had spent it freely upon 

her. Now it was her turn to repay his generosity. 

For Clayton, as for many others of his generation, debt was 
no special matter for shame. It was perfectly natural to bor- 
row money, even from personal friends, without any hope of 
repayment. It was only actual bankruptcy which was a dis- 
grace. 

Upon this point Clayton and Elinor had, once again, a 
totally different attitude. She detested borrowing money, but, 
if she was forced to do so, it was inconceivable not to repay it 
at the first opportunity. In the years that followed, she was 
several times forced to ask some of her friends, especially her 
cousin Geoffrey Glyn and her sister Lucy, for assistance. But 
she always repaid them as soon as possible in full. 

It was not easy to economise at Lamberts. Elinor disliked 
it, Clayton resisted it. Mrs. Kennedy adored Clayton; in her 
eyes he could do no wrong. Her character was always at its 
weakest when there was a male influence in her life, and now 
she connived at his extravagances, she indulged his luxuries 
at a time when she ought to have been resisting them and 
urging retrenchment 

The six years that followed were a continual struggle for 
Elinor to pay the household bills, to bring up and educate her 
children, and to maintain a reasonable standard of life for 
her family. They were years of almost unremitting financial 
crisis. Over and over again she was saved from ruin by an 
unexpected cheque from her publishers, or if this was not 

174 



The 



forthcoming, by the proceeds of hastily written novels and 
short stories. Sometimes the weight of the burden upon her 
seemed to be almost overwhelming, but she was always just 
equal to it. 



The immediate necessity was to increase the family income. 
Over a year had elapsed since the publication of Three Weeks 
and there had been nothing since then 7 apart from a slim 
anthology of quotations and aphorisms derived from the early 
books, principally The Reflections of Ambrosine, called, Say- 
ings of Grandmamma, and this clearly was not going to bring 
in any very large sum in royalties. 

She began at once to write Elizabeth Visits America, the 
gayety of which she was very far from feeling, but it was to 
be nearly another year before that work appeared on. the book- 
stalls. 

The Grand Duchess Kiril of Russia, whom Elinor had met 
the previous summer in Paris, had suggested that a good way 
of vindicating the morals and reputation of Three Weeks 
would be to stage a private performance of a dramatic version 
to which the whole of London society could be invited. Elinor 
remembered this suggestion now. It seemed to her that by 
putting on such a performance at the present time she would 
not only clear the name of her book, but she might well also 
interest a manager in a commercial presentation. The dramatic 
version of the novel was already written and Elinor threw 
herself energetically into the preparations for the performance, 

It took place, as an invitation matinee, on the twenty-third 
of July, 1908, at the Adelphi Theatre. In order to make the 
presentation still more attractive Elinor was persuaded to act 
the part of the Queen herself. She had, apart from tableaux 
vivants, charades, and some amateur theatricals, no dramatic 

175 



Elinor Glym 

experience and there was no time to do more than teach her 
her lines. But the part, being a portrayal of yet another aspect 
of her own personality, demanded little more of her than that 
she should recreate once again her own passionate, intense 
mood As her model, there was always in the back of her 
mind Sarah Bernhardt as Theodora. 

The rest of the cast was professional. Paul was played by 
a handsome young actor, Charles Bryant. CL Aubrey Smith 
(later Sir Charles Aubrey Smith) was Paul's father, and the 
play was produced by Sir Charles Hawtrey. Lucile's provided 
the dresses for the one sumptuous performance to which most 
of London society came. 

Even with an amateur in the principal part it was a con- 
siderable success, and it seemed for a time that both Elinor's 
objectives might be achieved. The play was a straightforward 
rather melodramatic tragedy, without a single indecent line, 
and many of Elinor's friends confessed to her later that they 
now understood the motives which had impelled her to write 
the boot. Hawtrey himself began to make plans for a West 
End presentation, with a professional actress in the leading 
part, and the contract was signed, giving Elinor handsome 
terms. The play was submitted to the Lord Chamberlain for 
approval. 

It was turned down flat No explanation was given and all 
requests for information as to which lines or scenes might be 
thought objectionable were ignored. Elinor and all her friends 
were astonished, for there seemed nothing censorable in the 
version as played at the private performance. However, there 
was nothing to be done about it, and the contract was can- 
celled. 

It was a heavy blow, for the mounting of the private per- 
formance, financed personally by Elinor, had been costly and, 
apart from increasing the reputation of the book and of Eli- 
nor s own resource and versatility, the outlay had yielded no 
dividends. It was not until later that Lord Redesdale gave Eli- 

176 



The Breadwinner 



nor to understand that die ban had been instigated at the 
request of the Foreign Office. 



One of those who came to the matinee was Lord Curzon of 
Kedleston. His distinguished but controversial viceroyalty of 
India had ended three years earlier, unmarked by any public 
recognition, and he was now living, a disappointed widower, 
in partial retirement. She had met him on one or two previous 
occasions and had been a little in awe of him. Now he wrote 
her a charming letter of appreciation of Three Weeks, of her 
acting, and above all, of her courage in trying to vindicate 
herself in such a bold way. 

Elinor replied suitably, much cheered and comforted by 
the kind words from someone whom she hardly knew and 
whom she had previously supposed to be reserved and rather 
inhuman. She was not to know, when she wrote, that she 
was entering into what was to be the great romance of her 
life. 

It is at first a little puzzling to see just why Lord Curzon 
and Elinor should have been so strongly attracted to each 
other. Curzon had, it is true, a penchant for romantic women 
novelists; he had for years kept up a desultory correspondence 
with Ouida. He much admired Elinor's physical beauty and 
he gave her later a miniature Delia Robbia bust of Venus, 
which he thought she strongly resembled. But at first glance 
he and Elinor would seem to have been so different the cold, 
aloof, intellectual statesman, dedicated, industrious, contemp- 
tuous of feminine charms and failings, and the ardent, pas- 
sionate novelist, capable on occasions of those exaggerations 
and follies which he admired least. 

Yet if we examine both characters more closely, we find 
that they were, even on the surface, surprisingly similar. Lord 



Glyn 

D'Abemon has said of Curzon that Tie was born and died 
in the faith of an aristocrat of the English eighteenth cen- 
tury/ and the same may be said of Elinor, substituting 
"French* for ^English. 1 * They were both of ancient patrician 
breeding, with a more Immediate provincial and impoverished 
background. They were both lonely, both felt themselves ill- 
used by the British public, and both bore their moments of 
adversity and disappointment with courage and dignity. They 
were both excessively class-conscious, self-assertive, and ego- 
tistical; they both lacked a sense of proportion; they were both 
energetic and Idealistic; they shared a common love of the 
classics. 

There were, of course, matters in which she and Curzon 
differed sharply; Curzon s meticulousness, particularly over 
cash accounts, had no counterpart In Elinor. But in general 
their characters and their attitudes towards life were such as 
to make us believe that the bond between them was the mu- 
tual attraction, not of opposites, but of equivalents. 



6. 

Elinor decided that Margot's education should be finished 
by a stay in Dresden and Elinor herself went there later in 
the summer of 1908 to find a suitable pension. On her return 
journey she met Curzon at Heidelberg and he showed her the 
sights of the city. 

Margot and Dixie went to Dresden in the autumn, but 
almost at once Margot caught scarlet fever and was removed 
by the German authorities to an isolation hospital, where, 
Elinor maintained, she would inevitably have died but for 
Dixie's devoted attendance. There was only one nurse and 
one wardmaid for the whole ward of thirty beds and the nurse 
was on duty day and night. 

Elinor rushed out to Dresden again but she was not allowed 

178 



The Breadwinner 

even to have a glimpse of Margot and had to content herself 
with receiving daily reports from Dixie. Elinor was treated, 
apparently, by the authorities with crude and autocratic Brutal- 
ity, and from this episode we must date her lifelong detestation 
of Germany and the German race. 

She returned to England as soon as Margot began to im- 
prove. In due course Dixie brought A/fargot to Monte Carlo 
to convalesce and Elinor motored out to join them. However, 
a new financial crisis at this time, the one which involved 
Elinor in having to sign away her marriage settlement, cast a 
grey shadow over the gathering. 

They all returned together in the new year, 1909, and Eli- 
nor started to make arrangements for ten-year-old Juliet to 
go to school at Eastbourne. 



Elinor's concern that her children should have a better edu- 
cation than she had had was well within the terms of reference 
of spiritual motherhood. She had also to guide their tastes 
and ideas. She made them read the boots which meant most 
to her and chose the pictures for their bedrooms, reproduc- 
tions of eighteenth-century portraits, which she mounted her- 
self, so that her daughters might look upon good art first thing 
in the morning and last thing at night. 

Otherwise her care for her children was a little haphazard. 
At times she would take immense trouble over them, particu- 
larly in cases where her own ideas of entertainment and theirs 
coincided. She herself had painted the bill of Juliet's duck a 
brighter orange so that it might win a prize at a gymkhana. 
She had gilded the horns of Margot's cow, Wilhehnina, and 
hung its neck with garlands so that it might be a worthy 
centrepiece for the children's fete champ&tre, an entertain- 



Elinor Clyn 

in which Marie Antoinette herself would have de- 
lighted. 

Elinor loved picnics. She would take the children and Dixie 
to a nearby field and there over an open fire she would cook 
curry foe tea and everybody present would wolf it down with 
glee. Clayton would sometimes wander down from the house, 
wrinkle his nose with distaste at the smell, observe drily that 
they had all had a large lunch and were about to have an 
.even larger dinner, and wander back again. 

At such moments Elinor was a delightful mother. The un- 
predictability and unusualness of her tastes appealed strongly 
to children sated with nursery or schoolroom routine. But at 
other times she was casual and indifferent, wrapped up in her 
own world, not knowing whether they were happy or not. She 
was, of course, engaged for much of the time in writing the 
books which paid for their meals. But she tended too easily to 
think that they were brimming over with happy animal spirits 
whilst she was bearing the sorrows and burdens of the world 
alone. She had never understood the mind of a child; the 
special problems and unhappinesses of adolescence were 
equally beyond her. 

It was as well for the children that Mrs. Kennedy was al- 
ways at hand to provide a stable background, to give that 
continuous love and sympathetic companionship which they 
received only intermittently from their mother. Mrs. Kennedy 
all through those years gave the two girls all the love and 
devotion which she had not been able to give her own chil- 
dren, and both Margot and Juliet responded by considering 
her as being virtually their mother . 



8, 

Even apart from the financial crises life at Lamberts was 
not very easy during these years. Clayton and Elinor had for 

i So 



The Breadwinner 

some time had very few points of mutual contact; there were 
practically none left now. She did not reproach him for his 
part in bringing about their financial ruin, but they had very 
little else to talk about. 

The position was not made any easier by Mrs. Kennedy's 
own attitude towards the situation. Lamberts was her house, 
given to her as a present by Clayton^ and it never occurred to 
her for one moment that she might abdicate in favour of her 
daughter. It was she who sat at the head of the table, with 
Clayton opposite her at the other end. It was she who ordered 
the long, elaborate meals which Clayton enjoyed so much. 

Lunch never lasted less than an hour and a half, dinner 
two hours, and the only permitted topic of conversation was 
food, a conversation carried on entirely by Clayton and Mrs. 
Kennedy. Elinor would sit at the side of the table, silent, 
abstracted, almost in a coma of boredom. Her interest in food 
was confined to certain favourite dishes in which she revelled 
and liked to eat as often as possible. But it was not, in the 
abstract, a topic which she wished to discuss at length* 

Often she would have meals sent across to her own sitting- 
room on a tray and she always left her husband and her 
mother to breakfast alone together. In the evening, after din- 
ner, Elinor would retire at once to her Trianon the only part 
of the house which seemed to her like home while Clayton 
and Mrs. Kennedy would go to the drawing-room and play 
patience or piquet. 

A stranger to the household would have guessed that it was 
Clayton and Mrs. Kennedy who were the married couple and 
that Elinor, who was in fact the breadwinner for the whole 
family, was a poor relation who had outstayed her welcome. 



181 



Glyn 



In the summer of 1909 a fresh financial crisis broke on 
the family, bom as usual of Clayton's refusal to economise, 
Mrs. Kennedy's weak indulgence of his wishes, and Elinor's 
own feeling that it was not for her to refuse him anything 
after all the money he had spent upon her so ungrudgingly. 

A diary entry of this time gives some idea of the weight of 
the burden upon her and the amount of fortitude she had to 
summon to meet it. The entry also illustrates the extent to 
which her private thoughts were now dominated by Curzon. 

It has come. Now I must face the inevitable and call all 
my forces to give me courage. Before me, humanly speak- 
ing, there is nothing to be seen but a weary life of work. 
Immense worries, the responsibilities of all my dear ones 
on my shoulders, the watching ever of one who suffers. 

Away weakness and repining! Away concentrated ab- 
sorbed thought of and for one person! Call common sense. 
Say, *Your duty lies in using your brain and force for your 
sweet ones and your family. It does not lie in undesired 
and idolatrous obsession over the sun, moon and stars/ 1 Re- 
assert your personality which was once a potent factor in 
your life. Take the gifts fate throws in your way. Your idol 
will not value you the less because you are successful and 
gay. He is too busy over his own great aims to care for your 
worship. 

Cease brooding for hours if his little finger aches. Cease 
praying for his glory and happiness and health from morn- 
ing to night, and instead be joyous when you do see him, 
and between whiles concentrate upon your affairs for the 
benefit of your sweet ones and those dependent upon you. 
Be true to yourself and not the miserable slave of an obses- 

182 



The Breadwinner 



sion. He your Idol never wished you to be a slave or im- 
posed any single thing upon you. He is great, he only 

desires your welfare so away with worship! 



10. 

Later that summer Elinor went to Carlsbad, where she un- 
derwent not only the prescribed cure but also the secret treat- 
ment of El-Zair. Her maid, Williams, had had to give up 
service through ill-health, and on this trip Elinor was ac- 
companied by her new maid, Maria Fielder,* who was to be 
with her for more than ten years. On her return Elinor, to- 
gether with Margot, went to stay with Count Cahen cTAnvers 
at Champs for a shooting-party. While there, she received a 
telegram from the Grand Duchess Kiril of Russia asking if she 
could meet the Grand Duchess and her mother-in4aw, the 
Grand Duchess Vladimir, in Munich. 

Elinor accordingly went and met both ladies, who invited 
her to spend that winter in St. Petersburg with a view to 
writing a book about the Russian court. They had been much 
impressed by the grasp of the Russian character which Elinor 
had shown in Tferee Weeks and thought that she would be 
able to make a sympathetic study of their home life. 

The Grand Duchess Vladimir, a magnificent, stately Prin- 
cess, said, "Everyone always writes books about our peasants. 
Come and write one about how the real people live/* 

Elinor accepted eagerly. She loved travel and new sights, 
and she loved court society. Moreover, it was now becoming 
urgent for her to write another novel and she had no desire 
at the moment to return to her earlier fields, English country 
house parties. The Grand Duchess Vladimir advised her to 

*Both Williams and Maria had red hair, and this coincidence gave 
rise to the story that Elinor only engaged red-haired maids because 
they understood her temperament. 

183 



Glyn 

plenty of dresses as it was rumoured that the Czar and 
the Czarina were about to emerge from their seclusion at 
Tsarskoe Selo and there would be court balls and much gayety. 
On the strength of this Elinor ordered an entire new ward- 
robe from Lucile's and a number of new hats from Reboux to 
go with Lucy's masterpieces. 

Elinor arrived at St. Petersburg on the twenty-eighth of 
December^ 1909 (English calendar), and went at once to the 
Hdtd de FEurope, where she was to stay. It had been ex- 
plained that she would have more liberty staying there than at 
the Vladimir Palace. She learnt that the Grand Duke Michael 
had just died in Cannes and that the court was in mourning 
for two months. Elinor had only two black frocks with her, one 
for day and one for evening, and she realised that she would 
have to wear these, day in, day out, for the next two months, 
while her beautiful new Lucile dresses remained in their 
trunks. 

She found on taking tea with Lady Nicholson, the British 
Ambassadress, that afternoon that even her new black Reboux 
hats were unacceptable and that Lady Nicholson had already 
ordered her a black crepe mourning bonnet with a long flowing 
veil. 

The following day Elinor attended church with the Grand 
Duchess Vladimir and was much impressed by the weird sing- 
ing and the magnificent robes of the priests. Afterwards there 
was a salon, at which she was presented to most of the 
Imperial family and the various court equerries and ladies-in- 
waiting. She noted that the men, though otherwise fine-look- 
ing, seemed very pasty-faced, the result, she supposed, of 
living in steam-heated rooms without much fresh air. The 
Grand Duke Boris recalled their meeting in Egypt but he 
seemed to have aged a lot and to be very bored with life. The 
Grand Duke Andre and the Grand Duchess Helene (Princess 
Nicholas of Greece) examined Elinor's eyes closely to see if 
they were really as green as they were reputed to be. 

184 



The Breadwinner 

After this they took zaeousk, the famous Russian hors 
d'oeuvre, and eventually sat clown to a banquet, the conversa- 
tion being conducted in several different languages, but always 
in English or French whenever Elinor was within hearing. 

The following day she watched the Grand Duke Michael's 
funeral precession from the windows of the British Embassy 
and wrote in her diaiy a vivid account of it: the Czar and the 
Grand Dukes marching resolutely behind the coffin, in terror 
of assassination; the Czarina cringing in her carriage; the 
priests 7 magnificent vestments, trailing in the slush; the double 
line of soldiers lining the route, facing both the procession 
and the crowd; the blind-shuttered windows from which no 
one, except at the British Embassy, was allowed to watch; the 
sullen, ungrieving crowds. As a state funeral she could not 
help contrasting it with Queen Victoria's. In Russia death 
seemed to have no real meaning. 

She attended the Grand Duke's funeral the next day, to 
find herself in the front row of the foreign guests, only ten 
feet from the Czar himself, and she was struck by his resem- 
blance to his cousin, the Duke of York, who was later King 
George V, yet his face was so unnaturally composed as to 
seem like a mask. The Czarina had refused to be present. 
The service lasted for four hours and there were no chairs. 
With the uniforms and candles it was a fine spectacle but 
Elinor felt herself getting very tired towards the end. At least, 
being a Protestant, she did not have to hold a heavy candle 
throughout; nor, like the Czar and the members of the Im- 
perial family, did she have the ordeal of kissing the dead 
man's face. 

For the next two months Elinor lived in St. Petersburg, 
seeing the sights, observing the habits and customs of the Rus- 
sian court, and being entertained royally. Wherever she went 
she was greeted by bowing officials; the policemen knew her 
carriage by sight and held up the traffic for her. The Czar gave 
orders that the Winter Palace was to be opened specially so 

185 



Elinor Glyn 

that she might see It, and she was shown over it, rather over- 
come by the honour, by two Grand Dukes and a host of lesser 
royalty. Without having been there before she seemed to know 
her way round the Winter Palace well, and she explained to 
the startled Grand Duke Andre, when he commented on it, 
that she was herself the reincarnation of Catherine the Great 
and remembered the palace quite well, adding, for corrobora- 
tion, some details about Catherine's death which were not at 
that time supposed to be known outside Russia. 

She was also making notes for her novel, working out scenes 
and plots. She was, however, in difficulties about the character 
of her hero. The Russian nobles whom she had met seemed, 
for all their urbanity, a little charmless. Though they would 
make admirable subsidiary characters, none of them inspired 
her sufficiently to be the hero of the story that was growing 
in her mind. 

Finally, at tea one day in Elinor's suite, the Grand Duchess 
Hel&ne suggested that she might describe Prince Gritzko Witt- 
genstein, who had been killed in a duel recently. Memories of 
Cairo and the Khedive's Ball flooded back into Elinor's mind, 
and at once she saw her way clearly. She would start the book 
in Egypt, with the Sphinx by moonlight and the Khedive's 
Ball; then she would move the story to St. Petersburg. She 
would put in all Gritzko's exploits, of which all the court were 
now busily reminding her, even the story of the gipsy girL 

She wished to begin the book straightaway, but her Egyp- 
tian diary, with her descriptions and memories of Gritzko, was 
at Lamberts and she wanted to reread it before starting. She 
had also received that morning a disturbing letter from her 
lawyers; Clayton had apparently been borrowing money again 
and the creditor was pressing for repayment. 

She decided to travel to England, ostensibly to fetch the 
diary, pacify the creditor, and then return to Russia. Everyone 
was deeply impressed by her conscientiousness and asked her 
to be back quickly, as court mourning was just ending and 



The Breadwinner 

there would be balls and great festivities In honour of the King 
of Bulgaria, who was about to visit Russia. Elinor promised 
faithfully that she would be back within a week. 

It was suggested that she should return to England via Mos- 
cow, which she needed to describe in her novel, and plans 
were made accordingly. A court official called on her In her 
suite and explained the arrangements for the journey. In Mos- 
cow the keepers of the palaces and museums had been in- 
structed to give her special facilities for seeing them. A sleeper 
had been reserved on the night train from Moscow to Warsaw. 
She was to spend the following night at the Hdtel de I'Europe 
in Warsaw, \vhere a room had been reserved, and catch the 
Berlin train the next morning. A carriage had been ordered 
to meet her in Warsaw, as it would be late in the evening and 
there might be no cabs. The official gave her her ticket and 
sleeping-car reservation and explained that the tickets and res- 
ervations for the part of the journey onwards from Warsaw 
would be awaiting her at the Hotel de TEurope. 

The meticulousness of the arrangements was typical of the 
care and thoughtful planning which Elinor had experienced 
ever since she arrived in Russia. She thanked the official for 
the great trouble he had taken in ensuring her a comfortable 
journey. He bowed, kissed her hand, and left. Only after he 
had gone did she realise that she had never seen him before, 
although she now knew almost all the court officials by sight 

The following day she set out. Ever since her arrival in St. 
Petersburg, Maria had been the victim of continuous stomach 
upsets, which she attributed to the contrast of hot rooms and 
cold air outside. Elinor, however, had suspected appendicitis 
and tad sent her back to England, her place being tempo- 
rarily taken by a sulky Russian maid. Elinor thought It an 
unwarrantable expense to take this maid with her and she 
was therefore on this journey, for the first and only time in 
her life, travelling completely alone. 

187 



Elinor Glyn 



II. 



The arrangements went as smoothly as clockwork. In Mos- 
cow, Elinor was treated with the same elaborate consideration 
which she was used by now to expect in St. Petersburg. She 
saw over the palaces and museums and was struck by the city's 
contrast with St. Petersburg. St. Petersburg was a wholly 
westernised city it could have been London or Paris or Vi- 
enna, But Moscow, barbaric and oriental, could have existed 
only in Russia. 

She caught the night train to Warsaw, as planned, and was 
not disturbed on crossing the Polish frontier. She reached 
Warsaw the following evening after it was dark. There were 
no porters about and she was forced to carry her own dress- 
ing-casefortunately, on this occasion, she was travelling unu- 
sually light. Nor were there any cabs waiting outside the sta- 
tion, except for a single carriage with two good horses and two 
men on the box. This was evidently the carriage which had 
been ordered to meet her. 

The man beside the coachman climbed down, bowed 
gravely, and enquired, "Madame Glyn?" 

Elinor nodded and climbed in, feeling tired after the train 
journey and appreciating the excellence of the travelling ar- 
rangements made for her. The man climbed back on the box 
and they drove off. 

After a while Elinor realised that they were driving very 
fast, and moreover that they were travelling through poor, 
mean streets which she was sure could not lead to the Hotel de 
FEurope. She vaguely wondered if there had been some mis- 
take, but everything had worked so smoothly so far and the 
carriage had clearly been ordered expressly for her. The man 
on the box had said her name. 

She opened the window and shouted, "H6tel de FEuropeP 

188 



The Breadwinner 

The coachman gave no answer but instead whipped up his 
horses into a gallop. In the dim snow-light Elinor could see 
that they were almost out of the city; soon they would be in 
open country. With a sickening qualm of apprehension she 
realised that she was being kidnapped. 

They were travelling too fast for her to be able to get out 
without serious injury. She leaned out of the window and 
screamed again and again as loudly as she could. The horses 
galloped faster than ever; the bitter wind stung her cheeks 
and blew her cries away across the fields. There was no sign 
of anyone and she felt desperate. 

Suddenly she heard shouts behind her. Two riders overtook 
the carriage Polish police she imagined and forced it to a 
halt. There followed a long altercation In Polish, with Elinor 
interjecting "Hotel de FEurope* at intervals. At last the man 
who had greeted her climbed off the box and one of the police- 
men took his place. He made the coachman turn round and 
drive back into the city while Elinor sat in the carriage, weak 
and gasping with relief at the narrowness of her escape. 

All sorts of new thoughts struck her now. Maria's stomach 
upsets were they really appendicitis? Elinor had often re- 
turned to her rooms in St. Petersburg to find them in some 
disorder. Might that not be because someone was systemati- 
cally searching them? The court official who had made the 
arrangements for her journey, who was he really? 

They reached the Hotel de FEurope and the policeman 
helped Elinor down. She was feeling weak about the knees 
and glad of his support. He gave her a significant look, put his 
finger to his lips enjoining silence, and mounting the box, 
drove off. She had dearly never been intended to reach the 
Hotel de FEurope and she was hardly surprised to find that no 
reservation had been made for her. Indeed, the whole hotel 
was completely full and there was no room vacant; nor were 
there any tickets or sleeper reservations awaiting her. Further, 



Elinor Cljn 

the surprised night porter explained that the Berlin Express 
went out the same night and not the following morning, 

Elinor hurried back to the station, where to her joy she 
found a friend, Sir Savile Crossley, also waiting for the train. 
She flung herself upon him, begging his protection for the 
rest of the journey. He made his valet give up his sleeper, and 
Elinor in due course arrived in London without further in- 
cident. 

There she saw Duckworth and obtained an advance against 
her Russian no\ T el, which she had not yet begun. She visited. 
her lawyers and paid them the advance, for onward transmis- 
sion to the creditor, and then she went to lunch with CUIZQZL 
She told him of her Polish experiences, and he strongly ad- 
vised her not to return to Russia, as there was clearly someone 
there who wished her out of the way. But Elinor would not 
consider this. She was now committed to finishing her Russian 
novel, and in any event she despised those who were deterred 
from a reasonable objective by the thought of physical danger, 
She rejected the same advice from Lord Redesdale, who rec- 
ommended her not to mention her experiences to anyone at 
all inside Russia, even the Grand Duchess Vladimir. He him- 
self would ask the Foreign Office to look after her on her return 
journey. 

She went down to Lamberts, saw her family, collected her 
Egyptian diary, and began again the long journey back to St. 
Petersburg. On the way she meditated upon the incident in 
Warsaw. The plot had clearly been deeply laid and meticu- 
lously planned. To have disposed of her in St. Petersburg 
itself under the noses of the British Embassy would not have 
been easy. But in Warsaw, where no one knew she was, it 
was a different matter. If she had disappeared mysteriously 
there, it would have been days before anyone noticed, Clay- 
ton would have imagined her detained in Russia, the British 
Ambassador in Russia would have thought her safely in Eng- 

IpO 



The Breadwinner 

land. By the time the disappearance was noticed, the trail 
would have been cold. 

What was the motive, she wondered. She had dearly a 
deadly enemy in Russia. Did someone imagine that she was 
dangerous, that she perhaps knew too much? Elinor remem- 
bered the story that the Czar had spoken of Three Weeks 
as being a book about his wife; she remembered the Ameri- 
can's tale about the Czarina; and she came to the conclusion 
that the plot against her life had been hatched in Tsarskoe 
Selo and that her enemy was someone in the Imperial en- 
tourage. 

But the suggestion that Elinor should travel via Moscow 
had been made by her friends at the Vladimir Palace and the 
arrangements for her to see Moscow had been made on the 
orders of the Grand Duchess Vladimir herself, whom Elinor 
refused to think even as a possible accessory before the fact. 
Who had made the arrangements for tie rest of the journey? 

We may well wonder now whether the whole invitation to 
Russia was not part of the trap, whether her magnificent re- 
ception by the Imperial court was not window-dressing de- 
signed to cover up her later, inexplicable disappearance, with 
the Grand Duchess Vladimir and the Grand Duchess Kiril 
acting, unwittingly and innocently, the part of decoys. 

Elinor was back in St. Petersburg exactly a week after her 
departure. Everyone expressed surprise that she should have 
succeeded in making such a long and arduous journey so 
quickly. Elinor, gazing round at their friendly smiling faces, 
wondered exactly how surprised some of them were. 



With the lifting of court mourning and the arrival of the 
King of Bulgaria court life in St. Petersburg was now a whirl 
of gayety, and at last Elinor was able to wear her beautiful 

191 



Elinor Glyn 

new dresses. The pomp and ceremony, the glittering uniforms, 
the magnificent je\vels ? the gorgeous court balls fulfilled all 
the Cinderella dreams of her childhood. Even more enjoyable 
were the numerous private balls and parties, with their at- 
mosphere of hectic enjoyment and irresponsible hilarity. 

In the middle of die night everyone would suddenly rush 
out, tumble into sleighs, and drive across the frozen Neva to 
the Islands, there to continue the party. No one dreamt of 
going to bed before four or five in the morning. 

She came to realise that the Russians were, for all their 
veneer of sophistication, due mainly to their clothes and to 
their mastery of foreign languages, still very primitive under- 
neath. They were not yet grown-up; children who put on their 
best drawing-room manners to go downstairs and meet guests, 
and upstairs romp wildly by themselves. The same unaccount- 
able waves of gayety and depression would sweep through a 
party as through a nursery, to be followed by yet another 
exhibition of high spirits. 

Elinor watched it all with acute, fascinated eyes, and one 
can only be amazed that she should have retained enough 
energy not only to participate in the nightly festivities, but 
also to write her novel. 

She needed for one scene to describe a typical Russian coun- 
try house, and the Grand Duchess Vladimir arranged for her 
to see one at Peterhof, three hours' journey away, which had 
belonged to Potemkin, the friend of Catherine the Great. At 
a private ball given the same night by the Countess Shuvalov 
for the King of Bulgaria, the Minister for Foreign Affairs came 
up to Elinor at about five in the morning and presented a 
handsome young officer who had been instructed by Her Im- 
perial Highness to show Elinor the country house. "If they 
are to be back before dark/* the officer explained, "they must 
start almost at once/* 

Elinor had just time to change out of her ball dress and 
they set off. The road was appalling and their troika, a pic- 

192 



The Breadwinner 

tuiesque but uncomfortable vehicle, bumped mercilessly. The 
young officer clasped Elinor tightly to shield her from the 
bumps and reassure her. She was very tired when they finally 
reached the house but she insisted on seeing over it, much 
to the surprise and annoyance of the young officer. The house 
itself had teen extensively renovated in the worst Victorian 
manner and only the astoundingly inadequate sanitary ar- 
rangements made any real impression on Elinor. 

Soon after they started on the return journey a terrible 
snowstorm broke. The light disappeared and the. troika was 
thrown in every direction while the horses floundered on 
through the deep drifts and the driving snow. Elinor and the 
officer huddled under the fur rug, and once again he tried 
to console her by clasping her tight in his arms and murmuring 
French love words, interspersed at the worst jolts by Russian 
swear words. Elinor was too cold and weary to care. She fell 
fast asleep in his arms and she was quite surprised to End, 
when she woke, that they were safely back at her hotel. 

The Grand Duchess Vladimir summoned Elinor at the unu- 
sually early hour of half past nine the next morning to be 
reassured that Elinor had come through the experience safely. 
The Grand Duchess was lying in bed, having her ankle mas- 
saged, and Elinor related her experiences. 

Had the officer behaved well, she was asked. 

"Comme nn ange, ALtesse" replied Elinor serenely. 

Beside the bed was an enormous showcase filled with thou- 
sands of pounds' worth of diamonds and white and black 
pearls. The Grand Duchess explained that since she was still 
in mourning for her husband she could not look upon any 
coloured jewels. 

"Quelle delicatesse, madamei" murmured Elinor, hiding her 
smile. 

Elinor was given neither facilities nor encouragement to 
see anything of Russian life other than the life of the court 
and she felt that it would foe an abuse of the warm hospitality 



Eltnor Gfyn 

which she received to try to do so. But one morning she hap- 
to glance out of her window at about nine o'clock, long 
before anyone normally stirred, and she saw about thirty 
wretched men and women, barefoot and in rags despite the 
bitter weather, being driven along by Cossacks with whips. 
She the hall porter later who they were, and he an- 

swered that they were only foolish people who had come into 
the city without passports and he advised Madame that it was 
wiser for her not to look from her window in such a treacherous 
climate. 



In April 1910, Elinor travelled to London, returning once 
more to Russia in May 7 this time taking Maxgot with her. 
She was astonished at the change that had come over the 
Russian countryside with the abrupt arrival of spring. Russia 
had seemed to her a land of snow it was strange to find it 
green and smiling. 

The gayety of St. Petersburg, however, had been closed 
down once again by court mourning, this time for King Ed- 
ward VII, and even Margot was obliged to go about in a long 
black veil looking like a widow* Once again Elinor was warmly 
welcomed by the whole court and once again her rooms were 
searched continually by some unknown agent. 

Elinor's Russian novel, His Hour, was now complete, and 
she read it aloud to the assembled court in her beautiful, low, 
dear speaking voice of which she was so proud. The readings 
went on for ten days, at the end of which the Grand Duchess 
Vladimir expressed her unqualified approval and the book was 
dedicated to Her Imperial Highness "with grateful homage* 
and devotion." 



The Breadwinner 



His Hour, which was published in October of the same 
year, is one of the most characteristic and one of the best of 
Elinor's romances. Tamara Loraine, a prim misslsh young 
English widow, visiting Egypt with relatives, encountered a 
strange young man while she was seeing the Sphinx by moon- 
light. She later discovered him to be Prince Gritzko 
Milaslavski At the Khedive's Ball he behaved towards her 
exactly as the real Gritzko had behaved towards Elinor, and 
he was again on the ship going to England, where the in- 
cident with the gipsy girl took place, in a very mild and fully 
clothed version. 

Later she went to Russia to stay with her godmother, 
Princess Ardacheff (the Grand Duchess Vladimir), and took 
part in the social life of St. Petersburg. Here she met Gritzko 
again, who was obviously much attracted to her and with 
whom she rapidly fell in love. But she held him firmly at 
arm's length, feeling, not without reason, that he was merely 
trifling with her affections. Princess Ardacheff tried to throw 
them together but Tamara remained haughty and reserved, 

Gritzko did many of the wild deeds of his real prototype. 
He was slightly wounded in a pistol duel he fought in a dark- 
ened room with Count Boris Varishkine over Tamara. He 
broke his favourite Arab horse's legs by riding it up and down 
the stairs of his palace. Tamara, like all Elinor's other hero- 
ines, reproached him for wasting his life and his opportunities 
so flagrantly; but whereas the English heroes would have 
flung themselves enthusiastically into politics at this point, 
Gritzko a shrewd touch this when it was suggested that he 
might do something about his serfs, merely shrugged his 
shoulders, hopeless and Russian. 

Before she returned to England, it was arranged that the 

195 



Elinor Gfyn 

whole party, including Tamara, should see Gritzko's country 
house near Moscow, sending the night in Moscow. On their 
return from visiting the house there was a fearful snowstorm 
and Gritzko contrived to lose the way in his sleigh, so that 
he and Tamara were benighted in a shooting-hut, deliberately 
provided in advance with food and champagne. There, faced 
with the prospect of dishonour, Tamara snatched the pistol 
from Gritzko s belt, held it to her head, saying that she would 
How her brains out if he approached any nearer. After an 
hour or so of this, however, she fainted, and when she came 
to she knew by her disordered clothing and Gritzko's trium- 
phant expression that the worst must have happened. 

Gritzko proposed to her formally by letter, and poor 
Tamara, disgraced and anxious about the possible conse- 
quences of Gritzko's misdeed, had no choice but to accept. The 
wedding took place soon afterwards, quietly because of Lent, 
Tamara's English relatives being greatly astonished and dis- 
approving strongly. 

That night, in his palace, Gritzko showed Tamara his 
mother's room and the sanctuary with the lamp swinging be- 
fore the Ikon, which no woman since her death had been 
allowed to see. There he confessed eternal love for Tamara, 
and she, deeply moved, responded by breaking down the icy 
reserve which had encased her for so long. She forgave him 
freely for his misdeed towards her, and only then did he con- 
fess that in the shooting-lodge, in the hour when he had had 
her at his mercy, he did but kiss her little feet. 



His Hour undoubtedly owed its great popularity to the char- 
acter of Gritzko masterful, tempestuous, passionate, untame- 
able. It was his picture, and not Tamara's, which was shown 
on the frontispiece. Young ladies would lie on their beds read- 

196 



The Breadwinner 

ing His Hour, wondering If such a fascinating, romantic man 
could possibly exist and would ever come into their lives. 

But for those readers who find Gritzko's irresponsibilily and 
wildness a little tedious, the charm of the book lies in the 
amazingly vivid picture of the Russian court of 1910. We are 
a very long way from the imaginative backgrounds of Marie 
Corelli or the notorious inaccuracies of Ouida. Elinor *s keen 
eye, her gift for descriptive writing served her in good stead 
in Russia. Over and over again the book is illumined by some 
little vivid touch which lights the scene in our eyes : 

Then her attention was diverted, as it always was each 
time she saw the blazing braziers and heaped up flaming 
piles of wood at the corners of the streets, since she had 
been in Russia. "How glad I am there is something to make 
the poor people warm," she said. 

"When it gets below twelve degrees it is difficult to en- 
joy life, certainly," the Prince agreed. "And, indeed, it is 
hard sometimes not to freeze/ 

It was a strange lurid picture, the Isvostchiks drawn 
round, while the patient horses with their sleighs stood 
quiet some little distance off. 

The romance of Gritzko and Tamara was full-blooded 
enough to satisfy Elinor's greediest admirers, but when we 
think of His Hour now, we think, not of them, but of the 
vanished splendours of Imperial Russia, the pomp and cere- 
mony, the balls and banquets, the uniforms and the jewels, 
the endless court mourning, the endless games of bridge, the 
feverish, irresponsible gayety, the hot rooms and the icy wind, 
the polonaises and the mazurkas, the sleigh bells and the 
snow. 

Gritzko and Tamara settled down at Milaslav, but for once 
we can be certain that they did not live happily ever after. 
They can have had only seven years at most of tempestuous 
married life before the Revolution swept them away. 

197 



Gljn 

Elinor, In her descriptions of Russian life, did not venture 
any criticism, apart from Tamara's pep talk to Gritzko. In- 

with the Grand Duchess Vladimir and most of the Rus- 
court virtually looking over her shoulder as she wrote, 
she was hardly in a position to do so. She had misgivings 
about the value and the ethics of the life she ivas describing, 
but it is doubtful if she foresaw that it must end so soon in 
violence. And such a prophesy would hardly have been wel- 
comed by her hosts, who had suggested the book and who had 
given her such opportunities and such help in writing it. Eli- 
nor could only record what she saw objectively and, as far 
as possible, sympathetically. It is, for that reason, all the more 
devastating an indictment. 



16. 

Elinor and Margot returned to England in June in com- 
pany with a newly acquired Siberian cat, and Elinor picked 
up again the threads of her normal life at home. 

Tonight we have dined with Field-Marshal Sir Evelyn 
Wood, rather deaf, seventy-two and as active as a two-year- 
old! He began by saying he enjoyed the rare pleasure of 
a long chat with me, that I was so intelligent and he loved 
listening to me! 1 1 He said that he adored my books and 
wished to hear aU about my Russian trip. 1 opened my lips 
to speak, but was not allowed to get the words out, as he 
had a number of long stories and remarks to make himself* 
I remembered Sterne "I take heaven to witness that I 
never once opened the doors of my lips" and remained per- 
fectly silent, only nodding and smiling at intervals. He told 
my husband I was such a witty person! ! and my Russian 
trip must have been extremely interesting! ! ! 

For most of the summer of 1910, Elinor seems to have been 



The 

in a depressed frame of mind; partly due, no doubt, to re- 
action after the excitements of Russia, partly to a particularly 
dismal spell of wet weather, and partly to the endless financial 
struggle and the frustrations and aimlessness of life at home. 
She was also grieving and worried over Clayton and in- 
creasingly preoccupied with the painful intensity of her feel- 
ings for Curzon. 

How dark! how cold! Leaden skies and damp lawns, 
Glorious roses spoilt, tears in die air, a wild rebellion in me. 
Day after day the same life, incomplete, hungry, with no 
aim or 'end, only to get through with it. A strange nameless 
excitement is in my veins. There is a magnet here in Eng- 
land and I am a needle, and between the two are all sorts 
of paltry obstacles and some great ones, and I fed I could 
scream to the night, Tear me a path, sweep them .aside, 
let me be free to follow my bent/ 

In August she and Margot went to Gowes, which, with 
King Edward so recently dead, was a very quiet affair that 
year. Later they went on to stay with Billy Grant at Millers- 
don. They returned to London at the beginning of September 
and Elinor was visited by Milner. 

I have seen him, my old friend. I wonder why in the 
past I never loved him. He loved me and loves me still. 
His stem face grew soft when his eyes rested upon me. 
We talked for hours in the firelight and he forgot his duties 
and his dinner. We visited past scenes Stephaniewartz and 
the new moon! I gave him a new moon out of the tiniest 
diamonds Carrier I remember designed it and made it into 
a pin he wears it still! We spoke of Nuremberg and our 
joyous day there; of pine woods; of forests; of walks high 
up the mountain where, gay as children, we used to wander; 
and he reminded me of our playful afternoon when we got 
lost and I was childish and pretended there were bears com- 



Elinor Glyn 

Ing out of the dark trees to eat us! and how I held his hand 
and him run down into the open early moonlight. 

I had forgotten it all. We talked of that time seven years 
His face at last was full of wistful pain it touched 
me. And at last he went away and I fear he will not come 
again. I cannot love him I love only one. But even though 
he wiE not see me ? we shall write. That side of me he can 
safely have, the intellectual. He shall be the friend of my 
ideals. 

In September she and Margot went to stay with Curzon 
at Crag Hall, Derbyshire. It was a pleasant family party. 
Cuizon's daughters were much the same age as. Elinor's,, the 
eldest, Lady Irene (now Baroness Ravensdale) being just 
three years younger than Margot. Elinor mercilessly drove the 
whole family out to picnic in the woods, cooking over an open 
fore boiled bacon and potatoes for tea. Over more formal meals 
in the house the assembled families would play the history 
game. Curzon would describe in splendid, orotund language 
some historical event and then ask one of the girls present to 
identify it In the evenings Curzon, like so many others, would 
read Aristotle aloud to Elinor. 

It was a happy party, but It seems to have added fuel to 
the raging fires inside Elinor. She wrote in her diary on her 
return to London : 

thoii great one, calm and wise, accept this my cry of 
worship. Know that for me thou canst do no wrong. Thou 
art the mainspring of my life, for whom I would die, for 
whom I would change my character, curb my instincts, 
subjugate every wish, give my body and soul, worship 
blindly* Maimed or sick, well or strong, thou art adored, 
my arms for thy comfort, my soul for thy assuagement 

And a little later on she wrote : 

1 wrote and wrote and read and worked, then I went 



2,00 



The Breadwinner 

alone Into the garden. A great bed of white roses drew me, 
pale stars, more pure than in June. This Is the Indian Sum- 
mer, the first we have had of any sort this year, and it is 
calling me and mocking me, I am wild with unrest and 
pain. Oh night! with your black wings, enfold and soothe 
me, give me sleep, heavy and dreamless. Blunt my longing, 
give me peace. 

But later her spirits began to improve .and on October 17, 
her forty-sixth birthday, she wrote : 

I have seen a vision. Away with all sorrow or weariness 
or despair! Away with all sad and depressing things! The 
glory of it has gilded all the horizon. All is well. Never 
again can dark thoughts come to me. High above all earthly 
things shines the light. To thee eternal God I cry aloud in 
praise and thanksgiving. Shadows are passed. All is well. 

She and Margot spent all Halloween staying with Lord 
Ormonde at Kilkenny Castle in Ireland. On her return she 
stayed with Lady Jeune (now Lady St. Helier) at her house 
in Portland Place. She had been accustomed to stay with the 
Jeunes whenever she was in London, first at their house in 
Harley Street and later in Portland Place. But she decided 
that it would be more convenient now if she had her own 
pied-a-terre in London and she took a small suite at the Ritz, 
which, despite financial crises, she retained for the next two 
years. 



Clayton longed to winter again in the South of France, 
and Mrs. Kennedy encouraged this wish. Elinor, remember- 
ing all the trips abroad he had given her, acquiesced. A 
warmer climate, too, might be good for his asthma. Accord- 
ingly he, Mrs. Kennedy, and Margot set out for the Medi- 

201 



Etinor GI/ 

terra&ean in November to for a suitable hotel. They went 

first to Bonnes More deciding on the Hckei Beau- 

Rivage at St. Raphael 

Elinor them later In the year, stopping for a while 

in Paris. 

I am better. There are angels of some kind of peace 
around me. I seem to feel no sorrow. I seem to realise that 
all things have phases and the pendulum swings both ways. 
The atmosphere of Paris suits me. Here, and in Russia, 
there are no quaintly jealous women. They understand and 
appreciate what they are good enough to call my "esprit.* 
I have my place, conceded with homage. AE the great ones 
of the earth who are here for the time do me honour. And 
although honour will not lift the ache from my heart, it 
will soothe one's self-esteem. 

Then she motored on to St. Raphael, stopping, as was her 
habit, to look in the antique shops she passed for good French 
furniture, and finding on this occasion the lovely piece of silk 
brocade whose design she adopted for her bookplate. 

Also staying in die Beau-Rivage was Professor F. H. Brad- 
ley, the most distinguished metaphysician of his age. He had 
come to St Raphael for peace and especially to get away from 
children, whom he detested. But he was apparently intrigued 
by Elinor, for he came up soon after her arrival and introduced 
himself as a fellow author* With him she struck up one of 
those faithful and incongruous friendships which were such a 
feature of her life. 

They would walk together through the pine woods round 
St Raphael and Valescure discussing philosophy in general 
and reincarnation in particular. Like Jeune and Milner he 
helped to fill in some more of the gaps in her education, in 
particular the nature of philosophy since Aristotle, which was 
still largely a closed book to her. "And there were some things," 
she wrote in her memoirs, "which I really believe I might 



2,0 Z 



The 

have taught him too, had we met earlier In both our lives.* 
They exchanged signed copies of their works and sat side 
by side In the sunshine, Bradley reading His Hoar he had 
already read Three Weeks and Elinor working her way 
doggedly through Appearance and "Reality. Bradley also spent 
a good deal of time In trying to improve Elinor's spelling, an 
Impossible task, for though she was by now a willing pupil y 
It was too late for her to alter her own individual ideas about 
the way words should be spelt. 

Elinor returned to England at the beginning of 1911 and 
paid a brief visit to America, seeing friends In and around 
New York and discussing her books with her American pub- 
lisher, Appleton. She was back again in England shortly be- 
fore Easter, collected Juliet from her school at Eastbourne, 
and took her out to join the family at St. Raphael. 

At the end of April, Clayton, Mrs. Kennedy, and Juliet 
returned home, while Elinor and Margot went on for a motor 
trip through Italy. The financial cloud had for the moment 
been blown away by the large sales of His Hour, and the 
Italian trip was a specially happy experience. Elinor was at 
the time enthralled by the Renaissance and she and Margot 
spent many enjoyable days exploring Perugia and San 
Gimlgnano. They remained in Italy for six weeks, returning 
to England at the beginning of June. 



18. 

During Elinor's absence in Italy, Clayton had supple- 
mented the regular allowance which she made him by borrow- 
ing a thousand pounds from a friend against an IOU, which 
he had neither the resources nor the intention to redeem. The 
IOU came into Elinor's possession on her return from Italy 
and she was not only exasperated but humiliated; humiliated 
especially, because Clayton had got the loan from Curzon, 

203 



Glyn 

the one person horn whom, in Elinor's mind, it was utterly 
unthinkable to accept money. She saw herself placed in a 

unbearably mortifying. 

At all costs the IOU must be redeemed at once. But after 
the expenditure of the winter and the spring, the heavy trav- 
eling expenses and hotel bills incurred in St. Raphael and 
Italy, the family exchequer was almost empty. There was not 
a thousand pounds in it. 

In her shame and desperation Elinor went to R. D. Blu- 
inenfeld, the editor of the Daily Express, who was not only a 
friend and neighbour but also an admirer of her works. She 
asked him if he could help her to earn a thousand pounds as 
quicHy as possible. He replied that he would willingly pay a 
thousand pounds for the first British serial rights of a new 
Elinor Glyn novel provided that it was delivered before the 
serial at present running in the paper finished in three weeks' 
time. The new novel, he added, should be at least ninety 
thousand words. Elinor murmured something about a half- 
finished novel in her drawer which might be suitable and 
hurried back to Essex. 

There was, of course, no half-finished novel in her drawer. 
She had at that moment not even an idea for one. Back at 
Lamberts she retired at once to bed, with a stack of blocks 
and her favourite stylo, now badly worn down on one side. 
She instructed Maria that she was not to be disturbed and 
she settled down to write the opening chapters of The Reason 
Why. 

For the next three weeks she hardly got out of bed at all. 
Meals were brought to her on trays in between whiles she 
was fortified with coffee and brandy. She wrote most of the 
day and far into the night. Beside her on the bed table was 
the terrible IOU r haunting her, driving her on even when she 
felt tired out. She finished the novel in eighteen days, and 
the first instalment appeared in the Daily Express on Monday, 
J u ty 3> i9 11 * exactly three weeks after her commission to 

204 



The Breadwinner 

write it. She received die cheque for one thousand pounds the 
same day, as promised, and was able to redeem the IOU. 
Then she lay back, saddened and utterly exhausted. 

She seems, strangely enough, to have felt no resentment 
against either of the two men, the borrower or the lender, 
who had placed her in such an invidious position, from which 
she had extricated herself only by straining her creative en- 
ergy to its utmost limit. All her resentment at the episode 
was concentrated upon, the unfortunate book itself. In dash- 
ing off a potboiler in such haste, without thought of style, 
construction, plot, or grammar, she had prostituted her art and 
forfeited for ever in the minds of all right-thinking people 
her literary reputation. For the rest of her life she always con- 
sidered The Reason Why the very worst book she ever wrote. 
"My only choice on this occasion,* she wrote, "seemed to lie 
between the degradation of myself or of my pen. The Reason 
Why is my witness that I chose the pen.* 



19. 

Elinor's three principal literary advisors, Curzon, Milner, 
and Bradley, urged her continually to take more pains and 
trouble over her books. Cuxzon was especially severe on her 
for her "cursed facility. 1 * He wanted her to take her time and 
write a book which would do full justice to her literary gifts 
and of which she could be justifiably proud. 

The opportunity to write this book seemed to present it- 
self at this moment. The Reason Why was not yet out and 
there was no cause to hurry with a new book. And by writing 
such a book she would not only give herself deep satisfaction, 
but regain her literary standards and reputation, damaged by 
recent potboiling. The book was to be her credo, the embodi- 
ment, in the form of a love story, of her beliefs and attitude 
towards Mfe. She would distil into it her love for classical 

205 



Gljn 

Greece. She would call the book and the heroine Halcyone, 
the fairy maiden, the daughter of the beach and the 
wind, described in Kingsley's The Heroes. 

She mote the novel that autumn aed winter at the Hotel 
des R&ervoirs at Versailles, while the rest of the family 
gathered once again at St. Raphael When the book was fin- 
ished, Elinor went on herself to St. Raphael and gave the 
manuscript to Bradley, who was also wintering there. He read 
it carefully, suggested some revisions and alterations, and 
provided her with the Greelc quotations she required. He also 
corrected her myriad spelling mistakes in a handwriting so 
vile that even the printers could not read it. 



20. 



Haley one* published in June 1912, and dedicated to the 
memory of Sir Francis Jeune, was Elinor's own favourite 
among her books. She prized it higher than Three Weeks or 
The Visits of Elizabeth, or His Hour, and for this reason it 
deserves special consideration in the canon of her works. It 
was also, we may note, the first of her novels in which the 
hero had a career to follow. 

The story of Haleyone is almost unbearably poignant in 
view of what was to come later. Haleyone La Sarthe lived 
alone with two impoverished aunts in the dilapidated La 
Sarthe Chase. She was a strange solitary child, pure, innocent, 
loving, darting about the woods like a will-o'-the-wisp, com- 
muning with nature, uneducated but with a naturally culti- 
vated taste and mind, revering almost to idolatry a bust of 
Aphrodite which she had found in an attic, herself in love 
with ancient Greece. 

A retired professor came to live in a cottage outside the 
gates. Haleyone made friends with him, nicknamed him 

* Published in some American editions under tlie title Love Itself. 

2.06 



The 

Cheiron, and persuaded him to teach her Greet and to give 
her an extensive classical education. There one day she met 
another of his pupils, John Derringham, now a rising politi- 
cian, ambitious, egotistical, with a tendency to deliver rather 
pompous lectures on the necessity for aristocratic government. 
He was at this stage not the least interested in Halcyone, 

Many years later, when she was grown-up, she met him 
again at Cheiron's house. It was necessary for his political 
career that he marry someone with money and he was now 
wooing a rich American widow, Mrs. CricHander, who had 
leased a house near by. Mrs. CricHander had her culture pur- 
veyed to her daily, predlgestecl, by an English companion 
specially employed for that purpose, and by this resourceful 
means she was able to keep her head above water in a com- 
pany whose conversation was almost exclusively classical and 
even, apart from a few lapses such as confusing Cheiron with 
Charon, to impress John Demngham, himself a fine scholar. 

John Derringham, however, met Halcyone and fell in love 
with her, although he had always scoffed at love. 

The moon was growing brighter and a strange mysterious 
shimmer was over everything, as though the heat of the day 
were rising to give welcome and fuse itself with the night. 

He was alone with the bird who throbbed from the copse, 
and as he sat in the sublime stillness he fancied he saw 
some does peep forth. 

But where was she the Nymph of the Night? 

His heart ached, the longing grew intense until it was 
a mighty force. At last he buried his face in his hands; it 
was almost agony that he felt. 

When he had uncovered his eyes again he saw, far in 
the distance, a filmy shadow. It seemed to be now real, and 
now a wraith, as it flitted from tree to tree, but at last he 
knew it was real it was she Halcyone! . . . 

All reason, all resolution left him. He held out his arms. 

207 



Elinor Gfyn 

"My love!" he cried. a l have waited for you! Ah, so longP 

And Halcyone allowed herself to be clasped next his 
heart. 

They had such a number of things to tell one another 
about love. He who had always scoffed at its existence was 
now eloquent in his explanation of the mystery. And 
Halcyone, who had never had any doubts, put her beauti- 
ful thoughts into words. Love meant everything it was 
Just he John Deningham. She was no more herself, but 
had come to dwell in him. 

She was tender and absolutely pure in her broad loyalty, 
concealing nothing of her fondness, letting him see that, if 
she were Mistress of the Night, he was master of her soul. 

He would marry her at once, though the marriage would 
have to be kept secret, since if it was known that he had a 
wife, he would have to keep her in the stately splendour his 
position demanded, and which he could not afford. Halcyone, 
loving and trustful, agreed simply. Coming to meet her at 
the arranged rendezvous a few days later, he fell, a little un- 
romantically, into the ha-ha and knocked himself out; and 
Halcyone, distraught at his failure to appear, was taken off 
herself to London by her legal guardian. 

John Derringham was nursed slowly back to health by Mrs. 
Cricldander, at the end of which time he found himself en- 
gaged to her. Too late he came to his senses and realised that 
she wanted him only for his position; by then he was in hon- 
our bound to her. Halcyone, heartbroken at seeing the an- 
nouncement of his engagement in the paper, and Cheiron, 
who now knew everything and despised John for his ignoble 
conduct towards Halcyone, went off together for a trip to Italy, 
taking the bust of Aphrodite, from which she was never sepa- 
rated. 

Mrs. Cricldander, however, discovered that the govern- 
ment was about to fall and, having no wish to be for years 

208 



The Breadwinner 

the wife of an opposition leader, she dropped John and trans- 
ferred her attentions to a Radical. John, fearful that he might 
have lost Halcyoae for ever, pursued her and found her on 
top of a tower in Perugia. There on his knees before her he 
begged her forgiveness and love. They were happily married 
soon afterwards. 



The book was in many ways the most ambitious Elinor had 
yet attempted a study in pure and simple love, trusting, open- 
hearted, scorning all tricks, all prevarications, all flirting, 
despised, unshakeable, and finally triumphant. Halcyone her- 
self is, of course, yet another self-portrait of the authoress, 
this time as she wished to see herself, idealised almost to the 
point of incredibility. Halcyone, the fey child, is frankly un- 
believable, the dream child of one who never for a moment 
understood children. Grown-up, she is a little more solid, a 
little more three-dimensional. But she is absurdly overpraised; 
her natural purity of soul, nobility of mind, and cultivation 
of taste are emphasised to the point of satiety. Yet the evident 
sincerity with which the character was conceived and the de- 
votion with which she was described are strangely moving in 
their intensity. 

Gheiron, the prof essor, was a loving portrait of Bradley. And 
we are given many indications of the personage who inspired 
John Derringham. like Curzon, he was a fine scholar and 
had been Captain of the Oppidans at Eton. His aristocratic 
descent was, like Curzon's, partly obscured by a more im- 
mediate background of poverty. Like Curzon he was an am- 
bitious politician. Like Curzon he had already been Foreign 
Under-Secretaiy. 

We cannot think that Curzon, when he read Halcyone, 
failed to recognise himself; and, equally, we cannot think that 

209 



Glyn 

be can have been very pleased at the character displayed 
there, a selfish, egotistical man who was prepared to put his 
own alms and ambitions before anything else; who believed, 
at any rate initially, that only the male sex could have souls; 
and who was told forcibly by the professor at the end that 
he was not worthy of Halcyone. The letter which Curzon 
wrote to Elinor after she sent him a copy has not been pre- 
served, but she said in later years that he merely acknowledged 
the of the boot and pointed out two spelling mistakes 

In her covering letter. 

The critics viewed the book with qualified approval and 
Dr. Edward Lyttdton, endeavouring to atone for his incivility 
over Three Weeks, wrote a letter of appreciation. But the 
rest of the great public the thousands all over the world who 
loved Elinor's boots were deeply disappointed. After the 
strong situations and the brightly coloured passions of her last 
three novels they were puzzled by the gentle story and the 
quiet half-tones of the new book. They were bewildered by 
the feyness, by the unleavened mixture of piety and paganism, 
and by the continual classical allusions. They were frightened 
away by the unpronounceable tide, by the Aphrodite on the 
frontispiece, and by the awe-inspiring inscription on the 
cover: 

APASANTI HAEIN 

which they were expected to translate for themselves.* Finan- 
cially, the book was an almost complete failure. 



22. 

Margot was now eighteen, and in the summer of 1912, 
Elinor took a litde house in Green Street, Park Lane, for her 
first London season. Elinor redecorated the house lavishly, 

* "To him that doetb, so let it be done/ Aeschylus, Cho&pkoroe. 

2,10 



The 

and there was hardy enough money left at the end for taads, 
much less to give a dance. House decorating was fast becom- 
ing Elinor's ruling passion, amounting almost to mania, and 
while it was upon her, all thoughts of economy, never vezy 
strong, were thrown to the winds. 

Margot, however, was duly presented at court and was en- 
tertained a good deal, and Elinor was able to look at society 
through her daughter's eyes and observe how it had changed 
and relaxed its formalities since the days when she had been 
a debutante. The summer was clouded by Clayton's health, 
which was now very poor, and Margot would usually go back 
to Lamberts for the week end to look after him. 

In taking the house in Green Street, Elinor had a second 
purpose besides launching Margot; that was to repay some of 
Curzon's hospitality, and he did in fact come to dine several 
times, though not as often as she hoped. Her f eelings towards 
him had not weakened in the least with the passing of the 
years. Despite his frequent letters and his present of a mag- 
nificent diamond and sapphire ring the only jewels she ever 
accepted from an admirer she had the inescapable feeling 
that their romance was not advancing towards any very happy 
outcome. On receiving a letter from him about this time she 
wrote in her diary : 

The writing always makes my heart beat. Why are we 
such slaves to emotion, that the sight of traced words on 
paper causes sudden physical sensation of thumping puke, 
and heat or cold? Alas! the power of the Loved One, even 
at a distance! When shall I be able to dominate these things! 
Alas, when? One can obtain dominion over all outward 
demonstration with a strong will, but who can crush the 
soul's acheI wish I knew. 

It was only to be expected that she would be considerably 
influenced by Curzon's political views. Her own convictions 
were, by nature, high Tory and many of his opinions con- 



211 



Elinor Glyn 

and crystallised her own instinctive but less explicit 
thoughts. Amongst other things she disapproved deeply of the 

suffragette movement, thinking it both undignified and un- 
feminine. 

And as women by their greatness, tact and goodness in- 
fluence affairs and governments and countries, through 
men, a thousandfold more than the cleverest suffragettes 
could influence these things by securing votes for women 
I do implore you, Caroline, when your turn comes to be 
the inspiration of some nice young husband, to use your 
power over him to make him feel truly the splendour of 
his inheritance in being an Englishman, and his tremendous 
obligation to come up to the mark.* 

But women were not only the inspiration and the guiding 
light; they were also, in the last resort, the end in themselves. 
She wrote in her notebook : 

If a women excites a man's senses but remains a prob- 
lematic possession, the man will skimp his duty, neglect 
his friends and snatch even hours from sleep to spend them 
in her company. 

To Elinor there was nothing illogical or mutually incon- 
sistent in this dual conception of the role of women. Nor at 
the time did she see the irony in herself being a stern opponent 
of the emancipation of womenshe who had shocked society 
by earning her own living and by doing so had helped to blaze 
the trail towards feminine independence. 



23. 

In the course of the season Elinor and Margot went once 
again to Cowes and in the Squadron Gardens there Teresa, 

* Letters to Caroline. 

212 



The Bread-winner 

Marchioness of Londonderry, related to Elinor 'the story of a 
woman she knew. This story struck Elinor forcibly and she 
used it, with very little alteration, for the plot of her next 
novel, The Sequence. 

After Cowes they went to Paris, where they stayed, .as 
usual, at the Ritz. They were welcomed warmly by Olivier, 
the headwaiter, who was now an old friend. For lunch every 
day they ate lobster, raspberries* and cream; it was Elinor's 
favourite meal and she saw no reason why she should have to 
eat something she liked less weU every second or third day 
merely for the sake of variety. Olivia: called 'the meal, 
"Comme d'Habitude," and gave them a special reduction. 

From Paris they went on to Carlsbad, returning at the end 
of the summer to the Hotel des Reservoirs at Versailles* where 
Elinor finished The Sequence. In December they returned to 
England to prepare for the usual family migration to St. 
Raphael. 

In the new year, 1913, Elinor and Margot went first to 
stay with Curzon at Hackwood; then they went on to Paris 
and Cannes. Mrs. Kennedy went direct to St. Raphael as 
advance party. Clayton was due to join her there, but he never 
came. 

He was far from well physically, and by now his moral 
disintegration was almost complete. He had been living on 
his wife's charity for almost five years and he could bear the 
humiliation of his position no longer. He gathered up his re- 
maining possessions, including some of his family silver, and 
disappeared into the blue* No one knew where he was until 
a letter, addressed not to any of the family but to Dixie, about 
his clothes, disclosed that he was in Constantinople. The mar- 
riage had been a long time a-dying, but it was dead at last 

One may be tempted to think that Elinor's marriage to 
Clayton Glyn brought her little except disillusion and disap- 
pointment and heavy financial burdens. From a bright start 
it had declined, at first slowly, with occasional lifts back into 



Etinor Glyn 

the sunlight, and then with an Increasing acceleration down 
into the shadows. But to represent her marriage only as a 
story of decline and frustration is to present a convincing but 
incomplete picture. There were times, especially in the early 
years, when Clayton made her very happy; and while he still 
had the power he gave her everything she asked for except 
romance. Above all, he gave her her position as his wife. 

Had he not married her, her life would have been very 
much harder than it was. As a spinster, her place in society 
every year more difficult, mortified by the fact that for all her 
beauty no man apparently wanted her as a wife, hard up, a 
burden to her friends and relatives, she would only have been 
Poor Nellie, consumed even more with frustrated romantic 
longings .and self-pity. As a spinster, her articles upon love 
and marriage, her position as an acknowledged authority on 
the subject, which she became in the twenties, would have 
been less acceptable. She would probably have written books, 
but they might have had to be rather different books. She 
might well have made money, but without the advice and re- 
straining influence of her daughters and sons-in-law she might 
easily have ended friendless and destitute like Ouida. 

In marrying her Clayton Glyn gave her that essential pos- 
session, a place in the world, which she was never to lose, 
and for that she forgave him everything. And it was a debt 
which she repaid in full. 



24. 

As soon as the news came through, Elinor and Margot 
joined Mrs. Kennedy in St. Raphael and there they waited 
for further developments, which did not, in fact, materialise. 
Early in the spring they returned to England, and arrange- 
ments were made to sell Lamberts. Essex was Clayton's home 
county, but now that he was gone there was no need for 



214 



The 

Elinor to remain there any longer. The family for die 

moment into the Green Street house. 

The final breakup of Elinor's marriage was, of course, her 
private affair only. Life must go on. Books must be published, 
her position in society retained; and that summer she went as 
usual with Margot to Cowes and to Carlsbad. On the way to 
Carlsbad news came that Clayton, now coming slowly home 
from Constantinople, ivas lying ill at a hotel in Interlaken 
and Margot went there to nurse him. When he recovered, 
he returned to England, where he took a small house in Rich- 
mond. Here he lived quietly for the next two years, alone 
but not unhappy, visited at intervals by Elinor and his daugh- 
ters. 

The Green Street tenancy was now up, and Elinor de- 
cided that henceforward she and her family would live mainly 
in France. Accordingly she took a long lease of No. 5 Avenue 
Victor Hugo, Pare des Princes, outside Paris, and proceeded 
to redecorate it in her usual extravagant style. Precautionary 
thoughts were brushed aside: beautiful brocades were spe- 
cially woven; she did not even ask for estimates for the altera- 
tions she planned and the builders* bill alone for the house 
came to more than a thousand pounds. 



25. 

In the autumn the whole family moved to Paris. It was a 
pleasant house at the far end of the Avenue Victor Hugo, near 
Boulogne-sur-Seine, but they soon found that it was too far 
out from the centre of Paris to be convenient Elinor tad had 
several objectives in taking the house. She wanted somewhere 
as dissimilar as possible from Essex, with its unhappy associa- 
tions; she had always wanted to live in France; she wanted 
Margot to taste the delights of French society and Juliet to 
finish her education there. She wanted a home that was ab- 

2.15 



Elinor Glyn 

solutely her own, decorated and furnished by herself for her- 
self; and she wanted a home where she could receive and 
entertain Curzon IB the style which he showed her at Hack- 
wood and which she had not been able to reproduce ade- 
quately in Green Street. She wrote inviting him to come, but 
he responded, temporising. 

One day, December 3, she saw in an illustrated paper 
photographs of Curzon and Milner, the two eminent states- 
men who were her closest friends, and she was moved to con- 
trast them in her diary. 

Today in an illustrated paper there is a picture of you, 
my King, as you sat when the speech was done, leaning 
your proud head against the wall. You look weary and 
rather sad as you gaze into distance and the picture pulls 
at my heartstrings. I long to draw you to rest and caress 
those lines of care away. Ah me! 

And side by side on the page there is my old friend ad- 
dressing a vast multitude too. How strange that you should 
be so near together! How different are your personalities, 
both so great, both true and noble and splendid, and yet 
the sight of one picture moves every passionate emotion 
and the other stirs a gentle admiration. And you are both 
counted as cold and stern and indifferent. Women, they 
say, are things of naught in both of your lives! 

Curzon finally came in the spring and was warmly wel- 
comed by the whole family, including Juliet, who had been 
taken away from school at Eastbourne to attend classes in 
Paris. Elinor discovered to her astonishment that Curzon had 
not been to Versailles since he was a small boy and she took 
him there, leading him with closed eyes across the terrace, as 
she had led Innes-Ker nine years before. 

"Now!" said Elinor, turning him round. 

Curzon gazed at the great facade for a long time without 
speaking, while Elinor waited with bated breath. 



216 



The Breachmmer 

Finally he gave his opinion. "Architecturally coned, but 
monotonous." Elinor, once again delated, was left wondering 
whether anybody but she appreciated the most wonderful 
sight in the world. 

During the winter she worked on a new novel. The Man 
and the Moment, which had been commissioned by her Amer- 
ican publishers, and which they wished to appear in America 
before it appeared in England. The expenses of redecorating 
the house and living expenses generally had been heavy and 
Elinor worked fast and hard to meet the alarming bills which 
were now coming in. Juliet attended her classes and Margot 
experienced the fashionable merry-go-round of smart Paris so- 
ciety, which Elinor had enjoyed in her day. 

Elinor herself entertained a certain amount at her big house. 
At one of these parties, reclining on a sofa in a purple alcove, 
she read aloud from her works, both in the original and in 
the French translation, to a resplendent assembly which in- 
cluded the Duchesse de Luynes, the Duchesse de Rohan, the 
Duchesse de Noailles, the Marquise de Mun and the Com- 
tesse de Segur. Such readings were not unusual among es- 
tablished authors of the time and Elinor's books had a high 
reputation with French literary critics higher than they had 
in England. 

But France was changed and Elinor was troubled at the 
new atmosphere in Paris, the hectic, feverish pursuit after 
amusement, no matter how bizarre or distasteful. Even among 
the upper classes the reserve and dignity which Elinor had 
thought practically synonymous with French aristocracy 
seemed to have gone. 

The onrush of the war took the French upper classes com- 
pletely by surprise. Elinor had already arranged to return to 
England for the season, being dissatisfied with French society, 
and had fortunately made her travelling arrangements well in 
advance. On the Quatorze JuOlet she took the girls to Ver- 
sailles to see the fireworks, let off in front of a huge crowd as- 

217 



Glyn 

sembled round the Bassin de Neptune. The holiday spirit 
seemed undisturbed and there was no suggestion of calamity 
in the air. 

On July 23 they went to a chitaau near Paris for the week 
end and both they and their hostess were surprised and of- 
fended at the sudden departure of the Austrian Ambassador, 
who was one of the guests. It was Fielder, Elinor's chauffeur, 
who mentioned that he thought there might be going to be a 
war y and everyone searched hurriedly in the newspapers to 
see what he could mean and with whom the war could be. 

The family reached England on July 29 to find that Eng- 
lish society was almost equally unaware of what was going on. 
Leaving Juliet staying with Lucy at her house in Lennox Gar- 
dens, Elinor and Margot went, as usual, to Cowes. 

They found the place in commotion at a rumour that the 
regatta might be put off. Most people refused to take this 
seriously but Lord Ormonde, the Commodore of the Squadron, 
told Elinor that he thought there must be something in it, for 
Prince Hemy of Prussia, who never failed to come, had can- 
celled Ms visit 



218 



BOOK FIVE 



The War Correspondent 

1914-1919 



I. 



During the rest of 1914, Elinor and Iier family lived in 
London. Mrs. Kennedy took a flat on the ground floor of 
Shelley Court, Tite Street, Chelsea, while Elinor stayed at 
the Ritz. Margot enlisted as a V.A.D. and worked in the 
kitchen of a hospital in Park Lane. Juliet, not yet sixteen, 
refused to go back to school, and instead put her hair up, 
pretended to be older than she was, and became a V.A.D., 
too. Elinor herself hankered to be given some war work, and 
she was greatly attracted by a suggestion that she should re- 
turn to France and write articles for the American press about 
the devastated areas in France. The necessary permits and au- 
thorities, however, were not immediately forthcoming, and 
she remained for the moment in London, writing articles for 
the English press. 

In 1915, impatient of the delay in completing the arrange- 
ments for her to write her articles, she returned to Paris, leav- 
ing her daughters in the care of their grandmother at Shelley 
Court. She decided that her house in the Avenue Victor Hugo 
was too far out and she stayed now at the Ritz, where she 
would be nearer to the heart of things. 

Paris had altered greatly from the hectic days before the 
war. Everything was very serious, sober, and quiet. But at 



221 



Elinor Glyn 

the time Elinor noticed none of the earnestness, the 

appreciation of the gravity of the situation, the desire to be 
something, too, which was so apparent in London, even 
though the war was being fought on French soil. 

She was especially disappointed at the attitude of the aris- 
tocracy. Very few of them were fighting; most of them were 
living quietly on their country estates and the rest had ob- 
tained safe jobs. Etiquette did not allow any well-born French 
girl to be a nurse or to do any form of war work at all, and 
it was solemnly explained to Elinor that no girl who demeaned 
herself in such a way could possibly hope to make a good 
marriage. Elinor remembered her own daughters in the hos- 
pital kitchen in London and was amazed at the different atti- 
tudean attitude which persisted to the end of the war. 

Paris was a depressing place at this time and Elinor's diary 
makes gloomy reading. The war was not over by Christmas 
and no one had yet developed his second wind. A great num- 
ber of Elinor's friends, many of whom had been regular 
officers or in the reserve of their yeomanry or county regi- 
ments, had been killed. 

Her permits to visit the battle areas had still not come 
through and she used to pass the time by taking flowers and 
cigarettes to the British Hospital in the Trianon Palace Hotel 
at Versailles. She would spend much of the day there, talking 
to the men, listening to their accounts of the battles. On one 
occasion she arrived at the hospital, her arms full of red roses, 
just as a man was wheeled past on his way to the operating 
theatre. He looked ghastly, and the sister, when Elinor glanced 
enquiringly at her, shook her head sadly. On a sudden im- 
pulse Elinor pushed a rose into his hand and told him that if 
he held on to it he would be all right. The man's fingers 
closed on the rose and he smiled feebly. Later the surgeon 
told Elinor that the man had held on to the rose even under 
the anaesthetic and was now making an almost iniraculous 
recovery. 



222 



The War Correspondent 

The permits, however, still failed to appear, and Elinor be- 
gan to feel that she was achieving nothing by remaining in 
Paris. She was becoming very depressed, both by the war news 
and by the lack of Interest of all her French friends In the 
war. The news also came that Clayton was seriously ill, and 
in the summer of 1 9 1 5, Elinor returned to London. 

She took a Eat on the top floor of Shelley Court while her 
mother and her daughters remained on the ground floor. As 
usual, Elinor redecorated the flat completely before she moved 
in, giving the living-room varnished purple walls. 

In March, Duckworth published her new novel, The Man 
and the Moment, which had been brought out the previous 
year in America. It was a light romance, very slight and 
artificial, but It was written with a great deal of charm and 
skill. The opening chapters, indeed, have a gayety reminiscent 
of The Vicissitudes of Evamgeline. 

But perhaps the foremost claim that The Man and the Mo- 
ment has to our attention Is that in It appears the first mention 
of "it," that personal magnetic quality whose discovery and 
identification was later to bring Elinor fame and fortune al- 
most as great as that brought her by Three Weeks. 

1 know one particular case of It In a friend of mine. No 
matter what he does, one always forgives him. It does not 
depend upon looks either although this actual person Is 
abominably good-looking It does not depend upon intelli- 
gence or character or anything as you say, it is just "it.* 
Now you have "it w and the Princess, perfectly charming 
though she is, has not. 



2,. 



For the summer of 1915, Curzon lent Elinor his villa, 
Naldera, at Broadstairs. Her personal feelings for him were,, 



223 



Elinor Glyn 

if than they had been seven years 

she could not help hoping that in due course 
their might be established on a more serene and 

not less Intense, basis. 

But, if she have seen it, the writing was already on 

the wall. On the twenty-seventh of May, Curzon joined the 

Government as Lord Privy Seal, and from that mo- 

onwards his political ambition was once more in the 

ascendant* 

Shortly afterwards she was present at a public speech which 
he made, and she wrote in her diary: 

What magic in a personality! Oh! my heart! to see you 
there, master of those ten thousand people, calm, aloof, un- 
moved. To hear your noble voice and listen to your masterly 
argument. To sit there, one of a rough crowd, gazing up at 
your splendid face and to know that in other moments that 
proud head can lie upon my breast even as a little child, 
Ah me! these are moments in life worth living for. And 
what matters to me that sometimes you are cruel and aloof 
even to me? Have you not a right to be what you please 
since you are certainly Icing of my being? Did I write some 
while ago that my soul worship of you was dead! Poor fool! 
It is greater than ever. It slept, but not with the sleep of 
death. No other man and no other voice can move me ever. 
Only you, beloved one in all the world. I have been through 
many days of anguishing sorrow. You wiU never know, my 
heart, the agony. But now I am calm again and I have seen 
you playing your great part in the fierce light and I am 
satisfied. 

Curzon had taken a long lease of Montacute House in 
Somerset, and he suggested now that Elinor might like to go 
down there in the autumn and winter and supervise its redec- 
oration for him. This suggestion appealed strongly to her and 
she spent a large part of the rest of that year, and of the 

224 



The \Var Correspondent 

following year, 1916, at Montacute. Normally she not 

endure room temperatures to be below seventy and it 

is tribute to her devotion both to Cunon to decora- 
tion that she should have been willing to live in the wintry 

weather in the cold stone house, much of the time spent 
on the top of stepladders in large, unheated rooms. 



In November 1915, Clayton Glyn died, his long years of 
illness and dependence at last over. Elinor had the painful 
task of going through all his papers and learning so much 
about him which he had never allowed her to know during 
his lif etime, and mourning again the decay of her once bright 
and happy marriage. 

Soon afterwards she became ill herself and had to remain 
in bed for several weeks. On her recovery she determined that 
she must do something active to help in the war and she 
joined the canteen in Grosvenor Gardens, choosing the night 
shift, explaining that at her age it no longer mattered what 
happened to her* 

I was never a good waitress [she wrote], always stupid 

and muddling, but I could sweep and dean nicely and 
finally became one of the most expert of the washing-up 
staff. 

In company with other voluntary workers she washed up 
thousands of greasy plates, knives, and forks, and scrubbed 
tables and floors with those immaculate, lily-white hands of 
which she was so proud. She was bullied by the professional 
canteen manager, who enjoyed humiliating the more aristo- 
cractic or celebrated members of her voluntary staff. 

Elinor derived a considerable satisfaction from her work, 
feeling that at last she was doing something to help and lik- 

225 



Elinor Glyn 

Ing the direct contact her work gave her with the troops. The 
worst part of the night shift was the trudge home at four In 
the morning to Tite Street, for there was no transport avail- 

and, petrol being unobtainable, no one kept a car. 
In between her shifts she would go down to Montacute or 
in her flat in Tite Street, She was also at this time writ- 
Ing articles for the British press, and in the intervals of every- 
thing else she was at work on her new novel, The Career 
of Busk 



In the spring of 1916 the first suspicions came to Elinor 

that her friendship with Curzon was drawing towards its close. 

She wrote in her diary : 

Oh, I realise no man matters but my Lord, and I must 
crush all that and be a cynic and when I see you, oh my 
heart, I must be gay and not feel, and there is some change, 
I know it, in me. It is the third stage, it is of a tender place 
that is growing a hard surface to protect itself. I am afraid 
of suffering but I must be gay, for of what good to be 
tortured? The moment might come when you would again 
think only of what was lest for you, and then what would 
become of me? Should I die, or simply go to hell? 

But how shall I feel when I see you, Oh my heart? That 
is what I do not know. I must of course be cold and friendly, 
since that is what you wished, but what will it be if, as ever, 
your much loved face moves me to the passionate tender- 
ness of old. Surely I am strong and can meet you calmly. 
Surely my will has not been all in vain. 

However, her will could not meet die demand she made of 
it. 

Tonight I have seen you again and I know that, however 

226 



The War Correspondent 

it for this world, I can never love you less. You are my 
darling, my Moved Lord. However you will, you can come 
back to me and I will love and soothe you and be tender 
and true, and some day, since 1 believe In God, I shall have 
peace and my heart's desire and no more pain. 

Meanwhile let angels watch over you and keep you. I 
care not whether you are .selfish, as everyone says, or no. I 
care not if you are famous, or no. Nothing can change my 
absolute love. Darling one, goodnight, and let my love bring 
you rest and peace. 

Elinor had been trying for years to conquer either her love 
or her misgivings. She had not succeeded in doing either. 
When the blow finally fell, it fell with a suddenness that was 
overwhelming. 

On December 10, 1916, Lloyd Gorge formed his War 
Cabinet, with Curzon as a member; and on looking in The 
Times the following day to read about the appointment Eli- 
nor saw there the notice of Cuizon's engagement -to Mrs. 
Alfred Duggan. 

There had been no letter beforehand warning her of what 
was to come; nor was there any letter afterwards. If only 
there had been some word of warning, some word of explana- 
tion, it might have hurt less. Their faithful, passionate friend- 
ship had lasted for eight and a half years, and now it was 
severed by one public blow of the axe. She never saw him or 
wrote to him again. His letters to her, nearly five hundred 
of them, she burnt herself the funeral pyre of her last and 
greatest love. 



In April 1917, Elinor returned to Paris, since the arrange- 
ments for her to write for the American press and the permits 



227 



Elinor Clyn 

to visit the battlefields had at last come through. She was as- 
at the change that had come over France in the two 
years she had been back in England. The subdued, depressed 
note of Paris had completely gone. Now there were gay crowds 
everywhere. The Ritz swarmed with expensively dressed 
women in silver fox capes; both the beau monde and the 
now congregated there and it was impossible to 
tel them apart. In the evenings, however, the Ritz would 
be empty, everyone having gone to the Cafe de Paris, where 
the best of the oocottes assembled, or to the Folies Bergere, at 
the bar of which a lower type of courtesan, usually only seen 
on the streets, was available. "They are the most appalling- 
looking creature, painted, diseased, and half-drunk with 
absinthe or drugs/* she wrote. 

No one had any war work to do. Indeed, no one seemed to 
take any interest in the war. "The sight of the whole com- 
pany of idlers at tea the first day struck me as dreadful, after 
seeing the hard work done in England and remembering the 
touching belief which still prevailed that everyone who had 
work in France must be a hero." Elinor was much chaffed at 
the appointment of a food controller in England; the thought 
of food regulations was to French society incredible, the sort 
of absurdity which only the English could think of. No one 
had any knowledge of or interest in the German submarine 
menace, then at its height. 

A French Comtesse, hearing about Elinor's work in the 
canteen, commented, "I suppose it feels wonderful to work. I 
must try it a new emotion/' 

Elinor loved France deeply. It was her second home and 
some of her happiest days had been spent there. She filled 
her books with French phrases, she spoke its language as eas- 
ily as her own. She was a passionate admirer of French art, 
French architecture and furniture, French habits, French 
civilisation. She loved Paris, Above all, she loved the French 
nobility, whom she had been taught to admire from the mo- 

228 



The \Var Correspmideni 

ment she coulcl understand human speech, whom she 

had herself always thought to be the embodiment of the 
virtues that she most admired. 

She was bitterly disappointed now. Apart from the 
Duchesse de Rohan, whose house was a hospital, and the 
Comtesse de la Beravdiere who had turned her big hdtel in 
the Pare Monceau into a leave centre for British officers, none 
of the French nobility seemed to take the slightest interest in 
the war. She wrote in her diary : 

What has happened to the gallant French nation that I 
used to adore? So much of the aristocracy here in Paris 
seems to be just fin de race. They have no true outlook, 
only just some decadent remains of the dbckuitime and the 
Second Empire without the wit and dignified point of view 
of the former, and without the pinchback vigour of the 
latter. They seem to be wilted flowers revived by some 
chemical for a short time, but their roofs no longer exist. 

The war only means something to those who have suf- 
fered by it; it means little in the abstract and less than 
nothing to the section it has not touched. The peasants are 
carrying on in the fields near the Front because it is their 
life. The little shop-keepers near the lines are carrying on 
their business with unruffled calm, but the real source of 
their contentment is not patriotism but merely greed. They 
charge exorbitant prices for every bundle of straw and every 
cup of water which they dispose of to the exhausted troops, 
filling their pockets out of the extremity of human need. 

And later she wrote : 

The women have a sex urge but they are vicious with 
overdvilisation. They want men, they do not want chil- 
dren. Nature speaks, but sophistication diverts nature. Poor 
France! 

Among the lay population, to those who have lost no 

229 



Gljn 

ones and have suffered no decrease of wealth, the 
war is simply a bore nothing further "Voyonsl the thing 
has gone on too long it is an ennui." 

What has become of the proud old French race? The 
French of today are an astonishing people. Ungrateful, 
emotional, dramatic, crafty and self-seeking; witty, gay, 
brave and untrue; yet so fascinating and so brilliant that 
they will always be loved, not for their qualities but in 
spite of them. 



6. 

Soon after her arrival in Paris, Elinor made her first visit 
to the battlefields, nearly becoming a casualty on her first 
day, the American officer who was driving her misjudging 
the width of a tram. Fortunately she had had a premonition 
of disaster and had insisted on sitting in the back in lonely 
state instead of beside him, as he wished. He was much im- 
pressed by her premonition and she decided afterwards that 
she bore a charmed life. 

She dined that night at the French G.H.Q. at Compiegne, 
and was considerably relieved to find that the French Gen- 
erals took more interest in the war than the Parisians. She 
spent the night at Compiegne and set off next morning to 
see as much as she could of the front. The French author- 
ities evidently attached a good deal of importance to her Ameri- 
can articles and her permits gave her wide scope. 

She had several narrow escapes. Once she was bombed on 
the road and several times caught in artillery bombardments; 
but the most frightening experience she had was in one 
specially heavy bombardment. She was made to take shelter 
in a deep dugout, where she suffered miseries of claustropho- 
bia. "My tongue was dry and my forehead damp and only 

230 



The War 

the memory of Grandmamma's teachings me from 

screaming al0ud/ f she wrote. 

She speat several nights sleeping in the car or in a ditch 
at the side of the road, in stern contrast to the high standard 
of living upon which she normally insisted. At one point she 
was arrested, the troops being suspicious of the beautiful red- 
haired lady she was fifty-two, but she looked at least fifteen 
years younger driving about just behind the lines. They were 
convinced of her innocence, not by her formidable permits, 
but, strangely enough, by the discovery of an elegant pink 
satin nightdress in her luggage, which they searched. 

Her most moving experience of the war was a night she 
spent in a deserted house which had been sliced in half by 
a shell. The vilkge ? too, was deserted, and uncannily quiet, 
but to get away from any stray starving dogs she camped in 
the first-floor bedroom and there, lying on the hard skeleton 
fed, she watched through the space where the wall should 
have been the bombardment of St. Quentin a few miles away. 
The noise of the guns effectively prevented sleep and she lay 
there all night watching the scarlet flames sweeping through 
the town, the huge masses of earth and masonry hurled into 
the air and the gaunt old cathedral standing out black against 
the glow. 

It was a solemn and terrible sight and it moved her later 
to write a piece called Destruction, a paean of lamentation 
against the horror of war. 

Elinor's graphic pen stood her in good stead on these visits 
to the battlefields. She wrote in her diary after one visit : 

As I returned to the car I passed once more the heaps of 
stones that marked the site of the shattered village and 
I noticed the pathetic evidences of family life protruding 
from the ruins a poor old bedstead of iron, a sodden mat- 
tress, and in one place the head of a child's toy horse. A 
curious feeling of stupefaction came over me and I looked 

231 



Elinor Glyn 

tip Into the sky for relief. Then suddenly the air was 
rent with the thunder of battle beginning again to- 

wards the south. 

The country for around and beyond Bailly was one 

vast rendered the more piteous to look at by the 

contrast of the tender spring green of any bush and sapling 
which had chanced to escape the blast of shells. And not 
merely of shells. One of the things which enraged me the 
most was the wanton destruction of all the young fruit trees 
by the Germans before their retreat. For miles and miles 
the smiling Innocent trees, their early bloom still on them, 
lay prone, hacked down out of pure malice and brutality. 

One of her tasks was to investigate the stories of German 
atrocities, and she spent a good deal of time interrogating the 
victims and witnesses of alleged cases of German torture and 
rape. M udh as she had always disliked the Germans, she tried 
to be fair and impartial, but she came to the conclusion that 
there were few exaggerations in the stories told to her. 

Elinor returned to Paris from her first trip to the battle- 
fields deeply shocked and moved by all she had seen; but her 
diary entry of the day of her return ends with a description 
of a new Reboux tat which had arrived in her absence and 
which she was furious to find had got dented on one side. 



When Elinor was not touring the battlefields, she remained 
at the Ritz* She had a suite on the Cambon side of the hotel, 
which she retained for the next three years, and also, through 
the kind offices of Olivier, a corner table in the restaurant, 
where she and her friends could talk without being overheard. 

Many interesting conversations took place there during the 
next three years, for Elinor was a good hostess and she was 

232 



The War Conesptmdemt 

exceedingly discreet. Colonel Le Roy Lewis, the military 
attache, and his assistant, Colonel Spears (later Major-Gen- 
eral Sir Edward Spears), often dined with her and discussed 
the war. 

While she was in Paris, she undertook, "besides the writing 
of her war articles, a subsidiary war job, becoming vice-pres- 
ident of a society caled the Secours Franco-Americain. This 
had been formed to assist in resettling refugees as soon as 
possible in the recaptured battle areas and in starting them 
growing food again, wherever this was feasible. It was Elinor's 
first experience of a committee and she was most unimpressed. 
Many French noble ladies were also members, but they 
seemed unwilling to do any work and delighted in sidetracking 
the discussions on to subjects unconnected with the war. 
Everything was decided by sentiment, except when the ques- 
tion of subscriptions was raised, when the French members 
would sit for once absolutely silent. 

Only the English and American members were willing to 
do any actual work, and Elinor, accordingly, found herself in 
charge of the building of the temporary huts for the resettled 
farm labourers and their families in the Noyon district. She 
spent a good deal of time at Noyon, doing a job which lay 
completely outride her normal experience, but from which she 
derived a good deal of solace and satisfaction. 

This work involved a considerable amount of travelling to 
and fro between Noyon and Paris; and what with this and her 
journalistic work in the Battle areas, there was little time left 
for that other essential activity, earning her living* However, 
her energy was very great and she somehow found time in 
between other duties to start a new novel, The Price of 
Things. 

Her earlier novel, The Career of Kcztherine Bush, which 
she had been writing during 1915 and 1916, was published 
in April 1917. 



233 



Elinor Glyn 



8. 

It was ten years since Elinor's discovery in the Nevada gold 
ields tliat gentle manners and aristocratic behaviour had no 
automatic connection with birth. She had been meditating 
upon this and upon its social implications ever since. The 
lesson had been repeated more recently in the Grosvenor Gar- 
dens canteen, where she had observed the admirable manners, 
without any suspicion of familiarity or awkwardness or affec- 
tation, of the British private soldiers towards the peeresses 
who were waiting on them. 

She had also been watching the many American girls who 
had married into the British peerage and who, although they 
lacked what Elinor had once supposed to be the two prime 
requisites of aristocracy, birth and tradition, nevertheless suc- 
ceeded in merging into their new social background as com- 
pletely as if they had been born into it. Elinor had been grad- 
ually coming to the conclusion that there was no reason why 
anyone of any social stratum, given the intelligence and the 
will to learn, should be unable to become a personage of the 
highest social standing, accepted freely in all courts and 
houses, filled with noblesse oblige, and upholding proudly all 
the traditions of the aristocracy. 

She accordingly took for the heroine of The Career of 
Katherine Rush not a young woman of ancient lineage, still 
less a Russian Imperial Highness, but a girl from the English 
lower-middle classes, the daughter of a Brixton auctioneer, the 
granddaughter of a pork butcher.* 

* We may see tow far Elinor had travelled if we compare a passage 
from Beyond the Bocks. 

Lady Hairowfield tittered and whispered almost audibly to her 
neighbour: 

"These are the creatures Florence insisted upon my giving an 

234 



The War Correspondent 

Katherine Bush was the young, attractive secretary of a 
firm of moneylenders, and over the glass screen she heard 
the younger sons of the nobility begging loans against their 
future expectations. She thought how aristocratic and won- 
derful they were, herself imitating their voices and expressions 
against the time when she would be one of them. At home in 
Brixton she lived with her family, whom she despised heartily 
for their commonness, their lack of desire to raise themselves 
to aristocratic heights, and their petty snobberies. They in 
turn bore with {Catherine despite her hardness, her refusal to 
marry the worthy Charlie Prodgers, and her de haute en bos 
manner, and they were glad of her ruthless efficiency. 

{Catherine had always refused all invitations from the aris- 
tocratic clients of her employers, feeling that these would only 
distract her from her principal objective. However, to increase 
her knowledge of high life, she agreed to go for a week end 
to Paris with Lord Algy FitzRufus, one of the more charming 
and impoverished of them. Here she learned which fork to 
use for oysters and that the nobility apparently had baths 
every day. She survived the week end without unfortunate 
consequences (due solely, we are given to understand, to her 
strength of personality, while her sister, a weaker character, 
was, under similar circumstances, less lucky), but to her as- 
tonishment she found herself passionately in love with Algy. 
She crushed this weakness ruthlessly, refused to many him as 
he wanted, and insisted that they must never meet again, 
adding, for good measure, a pep talk about his idleness. 

She resigned from the moneylenders and took a job as per- 
sonal secretary to Lady Garribardine (a portrait of Teresa, 

invitation to last night. Look at the man!" site added. "Has one 
ever seen such a person, except in a pork-butcher's shop!" 

"I have never been in one," said Lord Bracondale agreeably; 
"but I hear things are too wonderfully managed at Harrowfield 
House though I had no idea you did the shopping yourself, dear 
Lady Harrowfield/* 

She looked up at him, rage in her heart. 

235 



Elinor Gljn 

Lady Londonderry), helping her with her charitable work. 
Katharine's family despised her for being a paid employee and 
haYing to live in," but Katherine was entirely content, living 
now in the houses of the great, learning all the time. She 
made mistakes, of course, but she only made them once. She 
used her physical charms to attract her employers married 
nephew Gerard, so that he might teach her about Renaissance 
painting and lend her Chesterfield s letters and other good 
books. When he, not understanding, presumed to go further 
and start an affair with her, she sent him smartly about his 
business. 

Usually she lived in her own room, eating her meals off a 
tray, but occasionally she was allowed into the drawing-room 
or dining-room, and here she would astonish everyone by the 
wisdom and sense of her remarks, by her discourses on the 
necessity for aristocratic government and especially for an aris- 
tocratic Foreign Secretary, by her strictures on the irrespon- 
sibility of some members of society, and by her emphasis on 
the general need for common sense. 

Finally she went one day, by design as always, to the House 
of Lords to hear the Land Bill debated. One of the speakers 
was the Duke of Mordryn, a proconsular figure with a 
Curzonian style of oratory. She learned that he was a widower 
and she persuaded the unfortunate Gerard to introduce her 
to him without disclosing her subservient status. 

The ending, of course, is inevitable, though there is one 
bad moment when Katherine, in her unswerving honesty of 
purpose, felt herself obliged to confess her affair with Algy to 
the Duke and at first to refuse his offer of marriage. However, 
we leave her a radiant Duchess, nursing the son and heir, and 
shedding a tear over the news of Algy's death in action at 
Mons a strange touch of sentiment which Elinor later ad- 
mitted to be out of character and artistically a mistake* 

The Career of Katherine Bush is a product of Elinor's 

236 



The War Correspondent 

cynical mood. Apart from a little perfunctory passion at the 
end, there Is no romance In it. One of Elinor's better known 
aphorisms, which occurs in several of her books, was: "It is 
wiser to marry the life you like, because, after a litde, the 
man doesn't matter." It was a sentiment which she alternately 
resisted violently or accepted, cynically, depending upon 
whether she was in her romantic or her sceptical mood. In 
The Career of Katherine Busk the man hardly matters, except 
in so far as he provides the life that Katherine wants. The 
Duke of Mordiyn only enters the book three quarters of the 
way through and it is not his character which entices Kath- 
erine. It is his tide, his coronet, the greatness of his position 
and we must be fair the greatness of his opportunities. 

Ten years after publication, in 1927, Elinor wrote on the 
flyleaf of her own copy : 

At the time this book was written, to be an English 
Duchess was the height of any young woman's ambition. 
Now, of course, all that has passed away. But the great 
lesson which the book still teaches is to make yourself the 
round peg before you aspire to the round hole never try 
and force yourself into a position you are not fitted for. 
Make yourself fitted for it; then in justice you can shout 
and complain if you cannot obtain it. It is the shouting of 
the square pegs for the round holes which makes all the 
difficulty in life. 

We may concede the sincerity of the author's purpose and 
the effectiveness with which she makes her point, while at 
the same time finding the book the social climber's vade 
mecum. Katherine herself, snobbish, humourless, hard- 
hearted, ruthless, selfish, and immoral, runs Ambrosine close 
as the most dislikeable of all Elinor's heroines. As one reads 
the book, ploughing onwards through the turgid sermons 
about aristocracy and common sense, one cannot help longing 



237 



Elinor Glyn 

for some setback, some disaster, some form of suffering to over- 
take such a terrible girl. And one longs In vain. 

The book is, of course, a Cinderella story, stripped of all 
its romantic atmosphere. But Cinderella, even such a hard, 
unloveable one, cannot fail, and the book was extremely pop- 
ular, especially in Great Britain. Its ultimate British sale was 
surpassed only by Three Weeks, The Visits of Elizabeth, and 
His Hour, 



The Career of Katherine Bush was serialised before book 
publication in Nosh's Magazine, like so many others of Eli- 
nor s novels. Elinor s literary agent, Hughes Massie, had in 
1915, while Elinor was still planning the book, submitted the 
synopsis to the Hearst press for serialisation in America. Now, 
however, on receiving the finished manuscript, the editorial de- 
partment had certain qualms about the story's acceptability in 
America. Mr* William Randolph Hearst himself read the 
manuscript and sent a message to Hughes Massie that he 
thought die character of Katherine was too hard for his read- 
ers; he would like her given some human faults and failings 
and made rather more lovable; he would like her to be less 
complacent about her early lapse from chastity; and he would 
like her to be less laudatory of English aristocracy in general 
three criticisms which may be thought reasonable. 

Hughes Massie passed these points on as tactfully as he 
could to Elinor, explaining that he thought it deplorable that 
she should be asked to alter her work by a newspaper propri- 
etor or editor, but that perhaps in this case Elinor might be 
able to meet Hearst's points without compromising her ob- 
jectives in writing the book. Elinor, however, refused to con- 
sider this, and cabled at once to Hearst the first personal 
communication that ever passed between them : 



The War Correspondent 

WILLIAM RANDOLPH HEARST 
RIVERSIDE DRIVE 

NEW YORK CITY 

YOUR EDITOR WANTS ME TO MAKE MY POWERFUL STORY 
CATHERINE BUSH MORE SUGARY I KNOW BY EXPERIENCE 
THAT MY OWN FLARE SUCCEEDS BEST WHEN NOT TAMPERED 
WITH FEEL STRONGLY STORY WILL BE FAR MORE SUCCESS- 
FUL IF LEFT RUGGED AND ARRESTING THOUGH WOULD NOT 
OBJECT SHORTENING PSYCHOLOGY PROVIDED NOTHING NEW 
INSERTED PLEASE CABLE YOUR PERSONAL FEELINGS 

ELINOR GLYN 

RTTZOTEL 

LONDON 

The reply to this has not been preserved but it cannot 
have been favourable, for a few days later Elinor wrote Hearst 
a long letter defending and justifying the book. She was pre- 
pared to make Katherine less complacent about her early 
lapse, since this was, of course, a manifestation of the sex urge, 
which she was so soon to suppress. But Elinor would not give 
way on the other two points. 

I feel that if I have made myself clear I am sure you 
will see that I could not condemn any of her opinions which 
I respect for their honesty, but I could more strongly en- 
force the want of wisdom of her initial act. Her opinions 
are perfect sound common sense unbiased by emotion, and 
I should fancy would greatly appeal to the clever sensible 
American public who must be sick of mawkish sentimen- 
tality and unreal romantic sentiments. 

I feel it would be immoral if I, the author, showed that 
I condemn the heroine's opinions, because if I did that and 
still made her successful it would be preaching the most 
wicked doctrine, when on the contrary Katherine's convic- 
tion is that only perfect honesty must win, and this is also 
my preaching. 

239 



Elinor Gljn 

I could write a preface if you think fit explaining as I 
have in this letter. I have the highest opinion of the com- 
mon sense of American readers and always feel I have their 
sympathy. They' understood Three Weeks when the Eng- 
lish did not. I know and feel this book will he of great 
interest and arouse controversy once we have made my 
point plain. 

She also wrote to Mr. Edgar Sisson, the editor of Cosmo- 

olMm magazine, which was considering the book. 

My view of it is that I wished not to draw a lovable 
sweet heroine but a strong clever magnetic woman who 
wins out by sheer splendid courage and truth, even against 
the tremendous handicaps of her initial mistake. Every one 
of K.B. s views are sane, logical, honest and full of common 
sense and show that she has deep psychological deduction. 
The whole explanation of what is true aristocracy I feel is 
the best thing I have ever done. K.B. was a true aristocrat 
and "the Duchess of Dashington" no better than a com- 
mon barmaid. The pictures of English society before the 
war are photographic; so are all the portraits and will be rec- 
ognised by everyone in England. Every single touch in the 
whole book is drawn from life. 

KJB. is a proof of what strong will coupled with perfect 
honesty can do. Above all things, she respects herself and 
her act of renunciation when she tells the Duke her story 
shows sublime honour and courage. Readers will be deeply 
interested in her whether they like her or no. I believe 
there is no ridiculous snobby class in America like Kather- 
ine's family with their shams and pretences, but still it may 
interest Americans to hear about what such people are like 
in England. 

But in her next letter Elinor wrote : 



240 



The War Correspondent 

Dear Mr. Hearst, 

On second thoughts I feel that if you would rather not 
risk Katharine Bush in your paper I shall quite understand, 
since you know your public best, and I could then make 
other arrangements. I have perfect confidence in your 
judgement of your public and think you are quite right to 
give them what you think best, only I write my books from 
inward conviction and make a study of my characters to get 
them exact to life, so I could not alter the principles in 
Katherine Bush which I have already explained. It would 
be like Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark. 

I feel quite sure this will clear up all points and that 
even if Katherine Bush does not appear under your aegis 
we can have better luck next time. As you know your pa- 
pers have aU my sympathy. 

Yours sincerely, 
Elinor Glyn. 

The Hearst press bought the serial rights of The Career of 
Katherine Bnsh for ten thousand dollars and it was serialised 
in Cosmopolitan with only the one agreed alteration. It was 
very well received by the American public and it was the be- 
ginning of Elinor's long association with the Hearst press. 
Most of her future novels were serialised in Cosmopolitan, 
which had an exclusive option on her work, and she was as 
well to contribute articles to other papers of the syndicate for 
the next twenty-five years. It was also the beginning of an 
oddly assorted but lasting friendship between Elinor and Wil- 
liam Randolph Hearst. 

In book form The Career of Katherine Bush did not sell 
well in America, its publication coinciding with the end of the 
war in Europe. Her American publisher wrote apologetically: 

Just consider for a moment the last three weeks. I am 
replying to a letter of yours dated October 23rd. Since then 
terrific battles have been fought, the Austrian Empire, hun- 

241 



Elinor Glyn 

dreds of years old, has gone to pieces, the great German 
Empire and its dreadful 'fighting machine have both entirely 
collapsed, 279 kings, princes and grand dukes and their 
families have abdicated and fled to neutral or unknown 
places, revolution started in all middle Europe and the war 
Is done and finished. No other three weeks in all history 
can show anything approaching this. Can you expect peo- 
ple to bey novels at such a time with such events going on? 
And for two years this country has been going through this 
sort of thing in a milder form. The result is that fiction has 
suffered materially in this country, 

This letter was shown to Hughes Massie, who commented 

drily: 

I should say he is anxious not to offend you but is not 
very clear himself just how the small sales of Katherine 
Bush can be explained. 



10. 



Meanwhile, in 1917, Hughes Massie had astutely realised 
that with the changed conditions in Europe there would prob- 
ably be now no objection to a stage presentation of Three 
Weeks. He considered, however, that it would be advisable 
to have a fresh dramatic version made, not only to ease Its 
passage through the Lord Chamberlain's office, but also to 
bring the dialogue a little more into line with modern tastes. 

Elinor agreed with this, and it was arranged that Roy 
Horniman, who had successfully adapted Locke's Idols for the 
stage, should write a new dramatic version. The play opened 
at the Strand Theatre on July 12, 1917, with Marga la Rubia 
as the Queen and Barry Baxter (succeeded later in the run 
by Basil Gill) as Paul. 

One can fully appreciate Horniman's difficulties in casting 

242 



The War Correspondent 

the book into a satisfying dramatic form, but at the same time 
his version must be open to some criticism. Most of the original 
dialogue, as might have been expected, has gone, the parts 
that remain standing out in startling and incongruous con- 
trast. With the original dialogue has also gone the special at- 
mosphere of exotic eroticism which was so essential to the story. 
The mysterious, passionate Slav Queen has been turned into 
a normal chain-smoking sex-starved woman called Sonia. 
Paul is a caricature of a stupid young Englishman; he 
whistles the "Eton Boating Song" just before each entry and 
after each exit as if it were a Wagnerian leitmotiv. The couch 
of roses, the feast of the full moon, the cupid fountain of 
Eastern perfume have all gone. The tiger skin just scrapes 
in; Paul twists his whiskers and calls him "Old Chap," a fa- 
miliarity he would never have dared in the book. Paul's entire 
family, together with the English part of the story, has been 
cut out, thereby largely eliminating the point of the novel, 
Paul's awakening from intellectual and emotional sleep. 

In place of these omissions Horniman put in a large number 
of Balkan courtiers and politicians, who, led by the King, 
continually interrupt the Swiss honeymoon to argue about pol- 
itics or flirt with each other. There is even a distressing little 
romance between the Queen's maid, Anna, and a Swiss waiter. 
Elinor had carefully left the Balkan background vague, a sug- 
gested menace hanging over the pair; but in the dramatic 
version much of the time is taken up with arguments about 
the Constitution and the Legislative Council. The work be- 
came, not a passionate and original love story, but a Ruritanian 
romance played by stock characters in stock situations with 
stock dialogue and without the twists of plot and the pace 
which forms so necessary a part of Ruritanian adventure. 
Worst of all, the play was given a happy ending, which 
seemed to Elinor not only morally and dramatically indefen- 
sible, but also, by eliminating Paul's grief and subsequent 
regeneration, to remove the second point of her novel. 

243 



Elinor Gljn 

The Times dramatic critic gave the play a lighthearted re- 
view, concerned solely with the number of cushions on the 
stage and the fact that nobody ever sat on them. The Daily 
Telegraph, which had been so deeply shocked by the original 
novel, found now ten years later with surprise how mild and 
inoffensive the story seemed; oddly, because the adultery and 
the consequent baby were still there, made more flagrant by 
the happy ending, triumphant rather than tragic. But, in the 
critic's opinion, the play seemed unreal and melodramatic, 
though it was. well acted apart from some moments of over- 
playing by Miss la Rubia* 

Even the inadequate new version was sufficient to start 
again the arguments about the morality or otherwise of the 
Queen's behaviour, and it was on its opening night enthu- 
siastically applauded by the audience. But it was taken 
off on October 20 after a run of a little over three months, 
and one cannot really feel that it deserved a longer run. 

On tour it played to large houses. In Colchester the dra- 
matic muse, presumably in outrage at the happy ending, 
gave the play a cataclysmic finale, which Elinor could not ever 
have bettered. The entire theatre burnt to the ground during 
the last act 

Elinor herself took little interest in the play, leaving the 
whole of the arrangements to Hughes Massie. She was not 
in England at any time during the West End run, and as far 
as is known, she never saw a performance of the play. 



n. 



Elinor's contacts in Paris in that autumn and winter of 1917 
were sufficiently senior and well informed to let her have no 
illusions about the seriousness of the war situation. The con- 
versations at her table with French Generals, with Le Roy 
Lewis and Spears, the letters she received from Milner, who 



244 



TJie War Correspondent 

was a member of the War Cabinet, while not disclosing any 
secrets, gave her a clear and anxious picture of future pos- 
sibilities. She was all the more resentful at the uncaring at- 
titude of French society to the war. 

There was in Paris now a certain feeling that economy 
should be practised, but there was no suggestion among Eli- 
nor's French friends that they should go without food, petrol, 
or luxuries. It was, however, no. longer good taste to wear 
sables and silver foxes in public these were replaced by 
sheared rabbit, mounted on the most expensive materials and 
almost equally costly. 

She wrote a bitter entry in her diary at this time: 

Vice is rampant in Paris, Lesbians dine together openly, 
in groups of six sometimes, at Larue's. They are every- 
where, and are freely spoken of without shame. Men are 
the same. Nothing is sacred, nothing is hidden, not even 
vice and avarice. The note is to be "natural" and "Nature" 
now appears to be a distorted thing. Oh! what is the matter 
with humanity? 

Last night I dined with Princess , daughter of a very 

old noble family. We went on, all crammed into her motor 
(only the friends of Ministers or Generals can obtain petrol 
nowadays!) to the Lune Rousse and heard some very witty 

songs, and then on to Madame *s where we sat and 

watched the dancing. 

The Young Comtesse , charming bacchante that she 

is, dances with perfect poetry of voluptuous motion, clasped 
close in the arms of an Argentine tango expert, their lips 
not two inches apart, eyes plunged in eyes, her unquiet 
body undulating against his, every movement of both in 
unison. The Argentine has been her partner not her lover 
for several months, though no one would believe it to see 
them dance. The real lover is an Italian, with whom she 
has been going about since she parted from a certain noble 



Elinor Glyn 

Englishman, and rumour has it that she has "been careless 
over this affair and is to have an operation. The old hus- 
band has been told it is appendicitis. 

Imagine the mentality which could dance such dances 
night after night with a professional partner, when she was 
already aware of the existence of the lover's child! She 
does not know that there is a war and cares not a whit for 
the old and honoured name which she holds although she is 
highly bom herself also. 

Another entry reads : 

One young widow was there tonight, her husband only 
killed four weeks ago, so bored, she said, with the funeral 
ceremonies and her mother-in-law's crocodile tears, that 
she had to come out and dance for a litde! She was wrapped 
in a yard or so of Hack chiffon and apparently nothing else. 

If God sent the war as a lesson to the world, it is not half 
learned yet I fear! Certainly not in Paris. 

She was, however, encouraged by the arrival in Paris in 
December 1917 of Milner. He dined with her several times at 
her table and she later wrote, "I am proud to remember that 
he honoured me with his confidence and treated me as a 
reasonable and patriotic being, worthy of trust in matters of 
state.* 

Elinor's discretion was complete, and Milner had a great 
regard for her judgement of people, which, unlike her judge- 
ment of business affairs, was usually very close to the mark. 
On this occasion she was much cheered, not only by his com- 
pany, but by his attitude to the war, so very different from, 
that which she heard all around her. On his return to England 
he wrote to her: 

Anything may happen. One lives in the presence of the 
most staggering possibilities of disaster. But so also does the 
enemy. If I am cheerful, it is because I am "all in w with- 

246 



The War Correspondent 

out any reservation whatsoever, or regrets for the past or 
thought of the future. ft On fait ce qnon feut* and the 

event is on the knees of the gods. 

In December 1917 the first American troops began to arrive 
in Paris. Elinor was friendly with their provost marshal, Gen- 
eral Allaire, but she was appalled by the indifference and in- 
gratitude of her French friends towards the American Army, 
Even for Christmas the Americans were offered no private 
hospitality, no form of welcome; no effort was made to mitigate 
their loneliness. Only those officers who came with the correct 
social introductions were received in French houses. 

Elinor felt very bad about it. Together with some English 
and American friends she persuaded the Comtesse de Sainte 
Aldegonde to lend her large house in the Avenue du Bois for 
a big New Year party to which every American officer in Paris 
was to be invited. To make it seem like a French party the 
invitations were sent out in the names of some grand French 
ladies, who had been persuaded to act as hostesses. Some two 
hundred American officers accepted and they were duly re- 
ceived by the official hostesses at the head of the great stair- 
case. However, having shaken hands, the hostesses then 
turned their backs upon the company and spent the rest of 
the evening talking to each other and to a few American 
officers whom it was correct for them to know. The rest were 
cold-shouldered. 

Elinor and her five friends did their best to make the re- 
mainder feel that they were being given a rousing welcome 
by the French, but they were only six among two hundred 
and there was a blank, depressed air over the whole party 
which nothing could shift. As midnight approached, Elinor 
noticed some of them slipping away quietly, unable to bear 
any more of it. She felt desperate; something drastic had to be 
done to retrieve this terrible evening. She seized a glass of 
punch, climbed up on to a table, and began to sing "Dixie," 

247 



Elinor Gljn 

The band joined in, and so, gradually, did everyone else. The 
action put Elinor socially beyond the pale, but at least the ice 
was broken and the party ended with some show of hilarity. 



12. 



IB March 1918, shortly before the big German offensive, 
Elinor had a severe attack of Influenza, followed by laryngitis; 
afterwards she was sent to the South of France to convalesce. 
She went as usual to St. Raphael, and while she was there 
she read of the disquieting break-through on the British front. 
When she recovered, she went over for the day to Nice, a town 
she had always hated; now its gayety, its luxury, its shops full 
of jewellery and fashions and hats in the middle of the su- 
preme crisis of the war seemed to her revolting. She returned 
to Paris as quickly as possible. 

Paris was at the time being shelled by Big Bertha, and most 
of Elinors French friends had fled from the city to their coun- 
try estates. The remainder, to her astonishment, made a point 
of being personally rude to her about the British. Army and 
British morale. One lady, whom Elinor had known intimately 
for thirty years, went so far as to write her an insulting letter 
about the British. Among those members of the resettlement 
committee who still remained in Paris there was special re- 
sentment that their work should have been wiped out so com- 
pletely by the German advance. 

Elinor refused to leave Paris. Someone, she felt, must re- 
main in the city. Almost the whole of society had gone, and 
everybody else who could afford to about a million alto- 
gether, it was said. Of Elinor's friends in Paris, virtually only 
the English and American war workers remained. On the 
evening of May 28 she and Lady Congreve were able to walk 
at half past eight in the evening round the Place Venddme, 
down the Rue de la Paix and the Rue Castiglione without 



The War Correspondent 

seeing a single human being or vehicle. There were rumours 
that the government was about to move to Bordeaux. 

At the beginning of June, Sir Henry Thornton, the Assist- 
ant Director General of Movements, urged Elinor to leave 
Paris, pointing out that after her propaganda articles she 
might expect no very humane treatment if she were captured 
by the Germans. Milner was In Paris at the time and she ap- 
pealed to him, asking if she need really go. Milner, however, 
was more optimistic about the situation at that moment, and 
it was arranged that Elinor could stay in Paris until or unless 
he sent a message to Sir Henry Thornton, The code word 
"Cherbourg* was to mean "Please arrange to move Mrs. Glyn 
to a place of saf ety " 

On June 7 Milner wrote to her : 

"I am very much struck indeed by what I see of your Amer- 
icanssplendid men/ 

The use of the word "your" amused her, and she told him 
in reply of a proposal made by General Allaire that she should 
visit the American base camp at St* Nazaire. Milner urged 
her to accept and to try to make the Americans feel how much 
their help was appreciated by the Allies. 

Elinor, however, was reluctant to leave Paris to visit any 
base camp at that moment, and on the twelfth of June, Milner 
wrote again: 

I cannot say that I regard Paris as unsafe yet and it may 
never become so. But what makes me uneasy is that I 
think, if anything did go wrong, it might come suddenly, 
without previous warning, through some internal trouble 
which could not be foreseen here. I am not happy at the 
thought that you might be depending upon me for a signal 
which I should not have the knowledge to give in time. 
My advice is rather, that if your work with the Americans 
can begin now, you should not delay it. I know you would 
not like to leave Paris, unless you were doing something 

249 



Elinor Glyn 

to help the cause. But as things stand, I really think that 
you might be rendering more service with the Americans 
and certainly your friends would feel easier in their minds! 

The same day came news that the German advance had 
teen checked and Elinor prepared to set out for St. Nazaire. 



She was deeply impressed by the American Army, which 
she now met in full scale for the first time. The grim, single- 
minded spirit, which she missed so badly among the French, 
reminded her of London in 1915. But she was also particu- 
larly impressed by the organisation of the American Army, by 
the care taken to draft every man to the branch where his own 
peacetime trade was likely to make him of most service. She 
went over the huge salvage depot near Blois and discovered 
that the gum-boot stores were in the charge of a leading rubber- 
boot manufacturer and the clothing-repair section supervised 
by the manager of a famous tailoring firm, both enlisted men. 
It had been very different in the British Army in 1914, with 
qualified engineers sweeping out stables and mathematicians 
working as navvies in labour battalions. 

While she was at St. Nazaire, an American troopship ar- 
rived and she stood on the quay watching the men disembark. 
It was an imposing sight, and she was greatly struck by their 
fine physique, deep sunburn, and predominantly Anglo-Saxon 
appearance. This last surprised her, and she wondered whether 
the Anglo-Saxon strain was far more widespread in America 
than her travels had led her to believe, or whether it was in 
some way connected with their being volunteers. They were 
very different from the type of cosmopolitan American usually 
found in Paris; none of them had ever been to Europe before. 
In addition to seeing round the base camps she would also 

250 



The War Correspondent 

address the men In huge drill sheds or canteen huts, dwelling, 
as Milner had urged her, on how glad their allies were to see 
them on the soil of Europe. She would also sometimes declaim 
her piece Destruction. It was a dramatic and moving perform- 
ance, Elinor standing on the platform, a solitary figure in black 
in front of the American flag, one blinding white spotlight fall- 
ing on her red hair. 

After her visit to St. Nazaire, Elinor came to London, 
where she visited her mother and daughters. She was back in 
Paris at the end of July and busied herself with the Secours 
Franco-Americain, her articles for both the British and Amer- 
ican press, with finishing her novel, The Price of Things, and 
starting a new one, Elizabeth's Daughter. 

This last was a description of the American base camps at 
St. Nazaire by the seventeen-year-old Lady Ermyntrude, 
whose epistolary style was very reminiscent of her mother's. 
There were the usual gayety, the usual "Glynisms," and a 
slight romance with an American officer, whom she called 
Hiawatha because of his Red Indian appearance. But unlike 
its predecessor Elizabeth Visits America, Elizabeth's Daughter 
had a vigorous pro-American bias, so vigorous that it may have 
been less acceptable to English readers, particularly if they 
were members of the British Army. It was serialised in Great 
Britain in Newnes* Newel Magazine and by the Hearst press 
in America, but it was never published in book form, both 
her publishers feeling by then that it would be a mistake to 
bring out a war book soon after the armistice, and that by 
doing so they would divert attention from The Price of Things. 
With this view Elinor agreed. 

Although Elizabeth's Daughter* has many pleasant touches, 
we must feel that this decision was the right one, especially 
in view of the book's narrow scope and ephemeral setting. 
For us now, however, the chief interest in the story lies in the 

* Serialised in America tinder the title Elizabeth's Daughter Visits 
theS.O.S. 

251 



Elinor Glyn 

acid comments which Elizabeth's uppish little daughter makes 
about the fading middle-aged beauty of her companion, a red- 
haired, green-eyed authoress who had written a shocking novel 
called Nine Months. Elinor's ability to laugh at herself was 
often buried deep in her moments of self-drama or self-pity, 
but it was never extinguished and it was always liable to reap- 
pear, most endearingly, at unexpected moments. 



14. 

With the final turning of the tide of war life in Paris became 
increasingly gay and cheerful. Society began to return, and 
the abuse of the British Army, which Elinor had endured so 
impatiently for the last three months, slowly died away, 
though even now her friends made a point of drawing her 
attention whenever possible to the fine achievements of the 
soldiers of other nations. 

After the armistice Elinor decided that she had had enough 
of Paris, Her work in the devastated areas, both in journalism 
and resettlement, was over, though she continued to write for 
both the British and American press. She wrote a series of ar- 
ticles for Sir Frank Newnes on such subjects as "Are Women 
Changing?" "Is Chivalry Dead?" and "If I Were Queen," 
which were published in the Grand Magazine and for which 
she was paid her usual British price of sevenpence-halfpenny 
per word. 

To write these articles Elinor wanted to get away by her- 
self somewhere peaceful and quiet, which would at the same 
time not be too remote from the interesting events and people 
connected with the forthcoming peace conference. Accordingly 
she took a flat at No. 23 Rue du Peintre Lebrun at Versailles 
and spent some happy weeks redecorating it. She moved in in 
the early spring of 1919 and there, besides writing articles 

252 



The War Correspondent 

and reflecting on life, she began her new novel, which was 
later to be published under the title Alan and Maid. 

When she was not writing at Versailles, she would be at 
the Ritz in Paris, where she still kept a suite, watching the 
parade of personalities gathered in the city for the peace con- 
ference, meeting most of the principal participants, and learn- 
ing something of what was going on behind the scenes. She 
had several old friends in Paris at that time; Lord Milner was 
there and also Lord Riddell, to whose newspapers she was con- 
tributing regularly. Both men often dined with her at her cor- 
ner table. 

In her diary she recorded her impressions and opinions of the 
statesmen gathered there. Lloyd George she met at dinner one 
night in the house in the Rue Nilot where he stayed. 

He struck me as such a purely Celtic type that I felt that 
I was talking to some foreigner who spoke English well 
rather than to the British Prime Minister. 

The conversation was nothing but chaff at first, but soon 
the P.M. began to tell us of his horror at the disgraceful 
way in which the French had thrown stones at the depart- 
ing German delegates. He spoke strongly about the ungen- 
erous vindictiveness of the French and I could see that his 
automatic sympathy for the underdog was turning him 
away from the French point of view about the terms of 
peace. 

After dinner he talked to me for some time. He curled 
up his legs on the tiny hard French sofa and leaned across 
the little table towards my chair, gazing intently at me as 
he spoke. I noticed the pupils of his eyes kept expanding 
and contracting, producing a peculiar hypnotic effect. As 
far as I could tell, throughout our conversation he gave me 
his undivided attention, and this remarkable power of con- 
centration struck me as the most wonderful of all his qual- 
ities. Most men are too vain to pay this compliment to a 



Elmof Glyn 

woman, but I feel sure that Lloyd George devotes the 
whole of his great capacities to everything which he under- 
takes and never misses a point by failing to attend to the 
evidence of a witness. 

The next day, in the course of a rather more elaborate anal- 
ysis of his character, she wrote : 

The word which rises to my mind as I write of him is 
TroiAadourl Perhaps it was his long hair and well-known 
love of music that gave me this odd impression, perhaps 
some momentary insight into an earlier incarnation. What- 
ever the cause, it was rather as a famous poet and minstrel, 
reciting his historic lays to the accompaniment of a strange 
musical instrument in the flickering fire-light of a castle hall, 
that I found myself picturing that peculiar Celtic visage, 
and never as the successor of Chatham and Peel, presiding 
over the British Cabinet at No. i o Downing Street. 

She was considerably less impressed by President Wilson. 

Wilson's face is a mask. I feel that no one believes in 
him less than he does himself and that only a quarter of 
what he says and puts forward is real. The cultivated the- 
orist in him has made him set out to accomplish a great task 
which he has now realised he is incapable of bringing to 
fruition, but he has not the courage to adapt his theories to 
fit the facts and continues to wear an air of supreme con- 
fidence which would be comic if it were not so tragic in 
its consequences. Despite his mask-like cheerfulness, I 
gained an impression of disappointment and of dreadful in- 
ward anxiety. There is a touch of Pan in him so carefully 
hidden and suppressed that it only shows clearly in his sud- 
den automatic smile. The mistake which all the Allies have 
made has been treating him with too much respect, as if 
his views were really those of the American people. 

254 



The War Correspondent 

At one time or another during those months she met most 
of the foreign delegates and described them in the locked 
pages of her diaiy: Venizelos, whom she regarded as the ablest 
man at the conference; Hughes, the Australian, whose deaf- 
ness confined itself to inconvenient questions; Lord Riddell, 
with his curious trick of seeming not to hear or be interested 
in what was being said to him, and of suddenly referring to 
it again an hour or a week later; and, of course, Milner, the 
contrast and the complement to Lloyd George. 

Several passages in her letters home at this time throw light 
on her relationship with Milner : 

He is here rushed out to see me as soon as he had 
signed Peace on Wednesday, and we spent the afternoon 
in the woods. He only signed the Peace to make the excuse 
to get over to see me. He told me he need not have done 
it, and yet he is one moment passionately loving, and the 
next, aloof and unapproachable. He is the most remark- 
able character of cunning, caution, sophistry and nobility 
one could imagine. We are just friends. 

It was as the correspondent for Lord RiddelFs papers that 
Elinor attended on June 28, 1919, the signing of the peace in 
the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles. She was one of the only 
two women present and she had to stand upon a precarious 
perch for a long time, waiting for the ceremony to begin. 

She had expected the day to be a moment of triumph and 
thanksgiving, but instead she was overcome by a sense of fore- 
boding. All she could think of was the empty meaning of the 
ceremony. 

As I stood there upon the tottering bench, feeling that I 
must take care to be able to keep my balance, a sadness 
fell upon me. I did not want to see any more. It seemed as 
if the peace of the world must be as insecure as my own 
footing upon the bench had been. 

255 



BOOK SIX 

Courts and Capitals 

1920-1931 



I. 



In February 1920, Elinor paid another visit to Egypt, stay- 
ing with Lady Congreve, whose husband was General Officer 
Commanding the Forces. Cairo at that time was full of friends. 
Lord AUenby was High Commissioner and Milner was also 
there on the abortive "Milner Mission,** his recommendations 
being subsequently rejected by Lloyd George, despite the sup- 
port of Curzon, the Foreign Secretary, and Allenby, the High 
Commissioner. 

Before leaving for Egypt, Milner had written to Elinor: 

I don't believe the Mission can do much good. First of all 
I was going in October, then I was firmly convinced I was 
not going out at all, now I am shot out at a moment's notice 
because the recalcitrant Nationalists have declared they 
won't have me Send me a message to deliver to your friend 
the Sphinx and pray that the Egyptian malcontents may 
aim badly they generally do! 

But when she met him there, she found him thoroughly bored 

with the cloud of detectives who surrounded him all the time. 

Elinor was always particularly sensitive to atmosphere and 

she found Egypt now very changed since her last visit eight- 

259 



Elinor Glyn 

een years earlier. There was an uneasy, hostile atmosphere in 
the country, which had found expression in the serious riots 
ten months earlier. She could not help contrasting Egypt with 
what now seemed in retrospect to be the golden days of Lord 
Cromer's administration. The precincts of the Sphinx were 
now filled with unsightly shacks and boardings. The weather 
was cold and forbidding. 

There was a change in Elinor, too. Since her last visit she 
had been through a great deal Her health admittedly was 
much better now, but she was sadder, wiser, and older. Her 
prime of life was past. The easy, sunlit, civilised life of prewar 
days, which she had enjoyed so much, had disappeared, pos- 
sibly for ever. At times the future seemed rather bleak and 
cheerless. 

She stayed in Egypt only four weeks, and though she was 
received with every kindness by Lady Congreve and Lady AI~ 
lenby, she was glad to leave when the time came. 

The King of Egypt remembered her and the long hours she 
had spent in the Gezireh Gardens on her last visit, and he 
invited her to a magnificent banquet which he was giving for 
Milner. It was a splendid occasion, but very different in style 
from the banquets she had experienced in Russia. The hun- 
dred guests sat round a huge horseshoe table, and there was 
none of the ostentation and elaborate ceremonial which she 
had come to expect of state banquets. The food was simple 
and unexpectedly hot, while the general atmosphere was 
reminiscent of dinner in an English country house, except for 
the service, which was like something out of the Arabian 
Nights. There were a vast number of perfectly drilled men- 
servants, dressed in scarlet and gold Turkish costumes, and 
they carried the dishes and plates high above their heads, 
moving always at a smart double. The whole dinner was over 
in forty minutes. 

Elinor went also to a large number of balls and gay parties 
in Cairo that winter, given in honour of the Crown Prince 

2.60 



Courts and 

(later King Carol) of Rumania. He invited Elinor, on behalf 
of his mother, Queen Marie, to come and stay with them in 
Bucharest on her way home to England. Elinor, to her deep 
regret, had to decline, as she was just off to stay with the 
Queen of Spain. 



Elinor arrived in Madrid for Holy Week and was accord- 
ingly able to be present at the magnificent Easter ceremonies 
of the Spanish court. Elinor loved court pomp and ceremony, 
especially when this contained traditional ritual whose origins 
went back far in history. She had been much interested in 
Russia by the ceremony of the Czar blessing the waters, but 
even more impressive now was the washing of the beggars' 
feet on Maundy Thursday. It was a moving sight, the Gran- 
dees in their glittering uniforms, the Duchesses in their high 
combs and mantillas, kneeling in stately dignity before the 
beggars, while the King and Queen passed down the line, 
washing and kissing the bare feet. She described the scene in 
enthusiastic detail in her book, Letters from Sfain. 

There were many other court ceremonies, and Elinor passed 
through Easter week and the two months following starry- 
eyed with delight There is something a litde pathetic about 
her longing for royal pageantry and her yearning to find in 
some modern capital the gorgeous court life of Versailles un- 
der Louis XV. She was fated ever to find such splendour only 
on the eve of its dissolution a dissolution which she was, by 
conviction and temperament, never able to foresee. 

King Alphonso XIII of Spain was a personal friend of hers; 
he himself on a visit to England climbed the four flights of 
stairs to her flat on the top floor of Shelley Court to see her. 
Now, in Spain, she specially approved of the dignified way 
in which he carried out his duties and upheld the cause of 

261 



Elinor Glyn 

noblesse oblige. She likened him, curiously, to the Prince of 
Wales, especially in his zeal for social improvements and re- 
forms, and she was unwise enough in her hook to prophesy 
a long and glorious future for such a popular monarch. 

She spent only two months in Spain, as compared with her 
six months in Russia and her year in America, and she was 
correspondingly less able to form a complete idea of the coun- 
try. As in Russia, she moved almost exclusively in court circles 
and her contacts were confined almost exclusively to the upper 
classes. She conceived a great admiration for the Spanish male, 
despite his undoubted cruelty, jealousy, and his frequent 
fickleness as a husband. He was invariably completely mascu- 
line, without even a trace of the feminine in him. 

There were, she found, two chief differences between the 
Spanish and Russian courts. In the Spanish court there was 
a strong atmosphere of piety and religion which found no 
counterpart in Russia. There was also, again in contrast to 
the rather hopeless cosmopolitanism of the Russian nobles, a 
feeling of intense personal pride which seemed to exist at all 
levels, and this showed itself in strange little ways. In Russia, 
for example, as in America, every servant's hand in hotel and 
private houses seemed to be held out continually for a tip; in 
Russia, Elinor had even had to tip the guards on the bends 
of the stairs in the royal palaces each time she passed. But in 
Madrid her attempt to tip the maid of the lady-in-waiting who 
had been assisting her caused only strong offence. 

She attended two bullfights. One was a big corrida before 
the King and Queen, in which both Belmonte and Joselito 
fought. Elinor watched it from the box of the Duke de Tovar, 
who had bred the bulls. She was considerably revolted by the 
sight the horses at that time were not padded and even 
more by the cruelty of the crowd, which was extended not 
only towards the horses and the bulls but towards the mata- 
dors themselves. However, her training in the control of her 
emotions stood her in good stead. 



Courts and Capitals 

Her second bullfight was a private one given for the Queen. 
This time they stood on a rickety plank gallery over the arena 
while young matadors fought young bulls. It was raining hard 
and, with the mud .and the blood, it was a gruesome scene. 
On the slippery ground the matadors had several escapes, one 
having part of his face ripped open, and Elinor was con- 
siderably relieved when the Queen, who herself hated bull- 
fighting, stopped the fight 

Even nastier to watch than a bullfight, Elinor found, was 
a cockfight, though there was the consolation here that the 
cocks were fighting to the death not at the instigation of a 
human master but for their own reasons. And she could not 
help being struck by the courage and the pride of the birds. 

I was obliged to sit there and watch three maines, and 
really, horrible and even disgusting as it was, no one could 
fail to admire the courage and endurance of the birds: and 
what superlative belief in Self! For the fight is not caused 
by previous personal hatred for the adversary, but by re- 
sentment that any rival could exist! They do not hesitate 
a second to fly at each other once they are in the matting- 
covered ring, never having met before. Vanity and egotism 
are evidendy the chief characteristics of cocks,* 

Elinor was lavishly entertained as usual, going to a large 
number of private parties and balls: a concert and reception 
by the Duchess de Fenian Nunez; a tea with the celebrated 
Spanish dancers of the Countess de Casa Valencia; the Duke 
de Tovar's private entertainment at the opera; and the balls 
of the Countess Romanones and the Duchess de Parsent. Eli- 
nor had been warned jbeforehand that Spanish society was 
extremely exclusive and that she would probably not see the 
inside of any private houses, so she was especially pleased and 
gratified by the warmth of her reception. She was also sur- 

* Letters from Spam. 

263 



Elinor Glyn 

prised to find that BO one sat down to dinner till ten o'clock 
in die evening. 

She was shown over the Prado and the Escorial the last 

she found grim and depressing. She also stayed in country 
houses and visited Cordova, Seville, and Toledo. 

You never enter a French village with its pollarded trees 
in the square in front of the Mairie, without some feeling 
that on f te days it will be gay; but you cannot think of any 
gayety in these grim towns of Spain. Romance may linger 
behind those barred windows, but of lightness there is no 
trace. Solemnity and resignation are in all faces. 

What can the lives of the people be who live there? 
Their grave faces show no emotion whatsoever and oh! 
what quantities of priests everywhere. 

Again I say, why are priests generally so fat? 

The countryside she thought gaunt and desolate, but she ap- 
preciated the architecture, especially where the Moorish in- 
fluence was prevalent. The cathedral at Avila she admired 
gready. 

Best of all was Seville, with its wild feria. Her romantic 
spirit was completely overwhelmed by the Garden of the 
Alcazar, with its scents and sounds and lights. 

Oh! such a garden! Fine tiled walks amid a riot of 
orange trees in full bloom, of roses, of jasmine and every 
voluptuous sweet-scented thing. What wonderful creatures 
those old Moors were! Even in the thirteenth century they 
knew how to construct the finest water works. You step on 
certain stones in the paths and set in motion litde fountain 
sprays to cool each walk in front of you. Then there is the 
mysterious bath of the ladies of the harem, below the Palace. 
A cool place filled with glamour which Pedro the Cruel gave 
to the only creature he loved and was very good to, his 
adored mistress. The scent of the orange-blossom mingling 

264 



Courts and 

with the roses and jasmine simply intoxicates you when 
you come out again into the garden. 

How anyone can keep from desiring to be young again 
and walk there with a lover I cannot imagine! The whole 
of Seville is passionately romantic, but the Royal garden is 
the concentrated note of it. 



265 



BOOK SEVEN 

The Film Producer 

1920-1929 



I. 

In June 1920, soon after Elinor's return to Paris from Spain, 
she received a letter from Hughes Massie mforming her that 
the representative of one of the principal Hollywood film com- 
panies, Famous Players-Lasky, was in Europe and wished to 
come to see her* There had been discussions going on for 
some time about the possibility of the sale of the film rights of 
Three Weeks, and Elinor assumed that the visit would be in 
connection with that. 

The representative, however, a Miss Mayo, did not seem 
particularly interested in the film rights of Three Weeks, but 
sounded Elinor as to whether she would be willing to write 
original stories for films. Apart from one or two war films 
Elinor had seen no moving pictures at that time but, unlike 
many authors and literary people, she did not despise the new 
medium and saw at once its artistic and romantic possibilities* 

The sequel to Miss Mayo's visit came shortly afterwards, 
when Hughes Massie transmitted an invitation from Mr. 
Lasky for Elinor to go to Hollywood and study the technical 
and other problems of moving pictures in the studios. She was 
then to write a scenario specially for filming and herself super- 
vise its production as a moving picture. For this she was to 
receive ten thousand dollars plus travelling expenses plus the 

269 



Elinor Glyn 

prospect of the renewal of the contract on better terms if the 
picture should prove a success, 

Elinor accepted at once and she sailed for America that 
autumn on the Mauretania. At the bottom of the gangway, she 
recalled later, she paused for a moment, appalled at what 
she was doing. She was a lonely widow, almost fifty-six; she 
was uprooting herself from her familiar, well-loved back- 
ground in London and Paris, and she was turning her back 
on her family and her friends; she was going, not to visit, but 
to live in a strange, utterly different world six thousand miles 
away, where she knew practically no one; she was going to 
try to master a completely new medium in severe, merciless 
competition with a crowd of talented people half her age. 

She stood on the quayside staring up at the funnels of the 
liner, for almost the first time in her life scared and unsure 
of herself. Then she pulled herself together and went on 
up the gangway. 

She had never been one to miss an opportunity for travel 
or adventure and this was just the sort of opportunity that 
appealed most to her. Not only was she going to a strange new 
challenging country but she had also been given the chance 
to open up a great new field for her stories and ideas, in par- 
ticular for those romantic ideals which had seemed to her in 
the past so woefully missing in America. She had also the 
prospect of making a lot of money. Though she was by now 
accustomed to living from hand to mouth, she was uncomfort- 
ably aware that the moment must come when her skill, her 
energy, and her popularity must wane and she had no savings 
upon which to fall back. 

At the moment, however, she had on hand as much work as 
she could manage and Hughes Massie had to send her a letter 
as she sailed reminding her of all her literary commitments. 
The Hearst press were taking advantage of her presence in 
America, not only to publicise her, but to sign her for a series 
of articles. There were a number of series of articles for Eng- 

270 



The Film Producer 

lish journals to which she was committed. There was her 
scenario for Lasky and there was also her yearly novel for 
Duckworth. 

She was met in New York by a representative of Famous 
Players-Lasky and a fill blare of publicity. It was suggested, 
on the strength of Elizabeth Visits America, that she was go- 
ing to California because she preferred the Far West to the 
eastern seaboard. Elinor, however, tactfully but firmly, refused 
to make any such invidious 'distinctions. A few days later she 
arrived at the Hollywood Hotel, a homely place run by an old 
lady of over eighty. There she met the other authors whom 
Lasky had also invited to Hollywood: Maeterlinck, Edward 
Knoblock, Somerset Maugham, Gouverneur Morris, Gertrude 
Atherton, and an old friend, Sir Gilbert Parker. 



It is difficult now, more than thirty years later, to re-create 
the extraordinary topsy-turvy atmosphere of HoUywood in 
1920. The lusty young film industry was finding its feet and 
was full of boisterous self-confidence. Everyone connected with 
the studios was firmly convinced that he or she knew all about 
everything, even ways of life far removed from his own, con- 
firmed in this belief by the large box-office returns brought in 
even by the primitive silent films then being made. 

They all believed they knew exactly what the public 
wanted and were perfectly capable of supplying it without 
any outside advice. Their efforts, however, were met with 
uncompromising hostility from almost all dramatic critics and 
a great number of distinguished people in the world of letters 
and art. The heads of the studios were pained by this criti- 
cism, to which they seem to have been particularly sensitive, 
and it was to combat this distrust and contempt for moving 

271 



Elinor Glyn 

pictures in general that Lasky had invited his eminent authors 
to Hollywood. 

It did not take the authors long to discover that their pres- 
ence in Hollywood was only window-dressing. It was their 
names and not their literary abilities which were required by 
the studios. Elinor wrote in her memoirs : 

The blatantly crude or utterly false psychology of the 
stories as finally shown upon the screen was on a par with 
the absurdity of the sets and clothes, but we were powerless 
to prevent this. All authors, living or dead, famous or ob- 
scure, shared the same fate. Their stories were rewritten 
and completely altered either by the stenographers and 
continuity girls of the scenario department, or by the As- 
sistant Director and his lady-love, or by the leading lady, or 
by anyone else who happened to pass through the studio; 
and even when at last, after infinite struggle, a scene was 
shot which bore some resemblance to the original story, it 
was certain to be left out in the cutting-room, or pared 
away to such an extent that all meaning which it might 
once have had was lost, 

One by one all the imported authors departed in varying 
conditions of rage, disappointment, or sorrow. Maugham did 
not even stay to watch the shooting of his script but moved 
on quickly to his more familiar stamping-grounds across the 
Pacific, Elinor alone stayed on to fight it out. 

There was, of course, another side to the story. Some of 
the authors whom Lasky had invited to Hollywood were no 
longer able or willing to learn their trade all over again. 
Their skill and their reputations were founded upon their mas- 
tery of words and they found it difficult now to adapt them- 
selves to a wordless medium. Maeterlinck's first scenario was 
"a charming little tale about a small boy who discovered some 
fairies. I'm afraid/' wrote Mr. Samuel Goldwyn, "my reactions 
to it were hardly fairy-like." Maeterlinck's second effort was 

2-72 



The Film Producer 

a love story so daring that no censor could have passed It, and 
he returned to Europe in high, dudgeon. 

U A versatile woman, Elinor Glyn, [wrote Mr. Goldwyn] 
and one whose name will always figure in any history of the 
film colony though she didn't think much of Hollywood.** 

It may well be thought that Elinor's success there, under 
the given conditions, was the most remarkable achievement of 
her whole career. 



Her first script, The Great Moment, was carefully devised 
for the silent screen and depended on plot, strong situations, 
vivid scenes, and clear-cut characters rather than the subtle- 
ties of human relationships. The Kine Weekly said of it : 

It is a highly-coloured, semi-sensational society drama but 
it has many good points to recommend it, including an orig- 
inal plot, definite characterisation, dramatic situations, a 
strong love interest and plenty of interest particularly suited 
topicturisation. 

Sir Edward Pelham, a reserved, conventional English dip- 
lomat, has, in a moment of ecstatic passion, married a Russian 
gipsy girl, and in terror in case their daughter Nadine should 
grow up as wild as her mother, now dead, he keeps her virtu- 
ally imprisoned in his English country house during her 
childhood. He also arranges for her to marry his distant cousin 
and heir, Eustace Pelham, a dull, pompous young man. Na- 
dine, in her loneliness and yearning to escape, dreams con- 
tinually of a Knight Bayard who will come and set her free. 
She sees from her bedroom window a handsome young man 
whom she imagines to be Eustace coming to propose but is in 
fact the manager of her father's American gold mine, Bayard 
Delaval. 

273 



Elinor Glyn 

Nadine is deeply disappointed by the real Eustace, who ar- 
rives later, but accepts him. She falls ill, and on the doctor's 
recommendation she, her fiance, and her father go to Nevada 
to inspect the mine and to have a holiday. There, of course, 
she meets Bayard again and falls in love with him. Riding 
back with him from the mine across the desert, she is bitten by 
a rattlesnake, and Bayard in anguish saves her life by carrying 
her to a shack of his near by and pouring a botde of whisky 
down her throat. Nadine becomes very drunk and, her gipsy 
blood coming out, she makes passionate love to him. At this 
strong and compromising situation, her father and fianc6 ar- 
rive on the scene. 

Sir Edward is outraged and tells Nadine he never wishes 
to see her again; he leaves her with the man whom he im- 
agines to be her seducer. Nadine falls unconscious, and when 
she wakes she does not recognise Bayard. He, suddenly realis- 
ing that her love the night before was only due to gipsy blood 
and the whisky, and not to love for him, sends her quickly 
away after her father, who forgives her a little bleakly. Poor 
Nadine, not understanding at all why her beloved Bayard 
should send her away so brusquely, is very unhappy. She goes 
to Washington to stay with friends and gets into the worst set. 
A millionaire called Hopper wishes to marry her and gives 
vast parties for her which turn into orgies and at which Nadine 
makes an exhibition of herself in her general misery and 
frustration. 

However, through the influence of friends who understand 
the true story, Bayard arrives to claim her just before her mar- 
riage to Hopper. Nadine is radiandy happy, even at the 
thought of spending the rest of her life in a shack in the Ne- 
vada desert; and Bayard keeps as a surprise for her the knowl- 
edge that he is now retiring, a rich man, from gold mining 
and is taking Nadine to live at his ancestral home in Virginia. 

As was later conceded, The Great Moment was admirable 
material for a Hollywood silent film of 1920. It was, however, 

274 



The Film Producer 

at first treated with contempt, and the continuity writer pro- 
ceeded to cut the story to ribbons. The director, Sam Wood, 
"in order to increase the suspense," decided to treat part of the 
film as a knockabout farce, and there were moments when 
Elinor herself was on the verge of packing her bags and re- 
turning to England. 

One day, at a conference on the, set, the director remarked, 
"Say, boys, I guess you all think you know just what ought 
to be done, but I certainly can't think how to end this story 
myself.** In the moment of silence that followed, Elinor sug- 
gested tentatively that perhaps, as the author, she could sug- 
gest an ending. Cecil B. de Mille, one of the most powerful 
of Lasky's producers, was walking through the studio at that 
moment and he caught Elinor's eye and laughed out loud. 
That one laugh, Elinor later realised, did her film career more 
good than anything else. With de Mille's support and influ- 
ence she was In a far stronger position to battle on for the 
Ideals and objectives which had brought her to California. 

The Great Moment was a considerable success at the box 
office, even in Its mutilated, farcical form. This was due partly 
to the story Itself, the hard core of which was still apparent, 
and partly to a vivid performance by Gloria Swanson as Na- 
dine, wilful, passionate, bewildered, half child, half woman. 
Lasky was pleased and Elinor was signed on for a further pic- 
ture on an improved contract. 



She had by now seen enough of Hollywood studios to know 
that, even with de Mille behind her, she was powerless to 
prevent her stories being altered almost beyond recognition. 
But at least she could do something to make the sets a little 
more realistic. Indeed, this aspect of film making seemed to 
her even more important than the story itself . 

275 



Elinor Glyn 

Few of the art directors, the scene designers, the costumiers 
or the hairdressers of Hollywood had been outside the States, 
but they would accept no advice or suggestions from Elinor. 
She was appalled to think that millions of Americans and Brit- 
ons were going to see such travesties and presumably believe 
'them to be accurate. In vain she protested that English Duch- 
esses did not wear their hair like frizzy golllwoggs; that the 
drawing-rooms of English country houses did not contain 
bamboo tables, aspidistras, or the various knickknacks usually 
associated with seaside lodging-houses; that ducal castles did 
not have a line of spittoons, even gold ones, down the middle 
of the drawing-room. 

Elinor had always a passionate love of truth, and she could 
not bear now to see the scenes she knew and loved so well 
misrepresented and held up to derision, even unintentionally. 
She was the sole representative of European high society in 
Hollywood and she felt her responsibility keenly. 

It has often been said that Hollywood is a difficult place in 
which to retain a sense of proportion; Elinor found it as diffi- 
cult as anyone else. One can sympathise with her indignation 
at seeing such travesties of English high life enacted on the 
sets, but at the same time one must feel that she often could 
not see the wood for the trees and that it would have been 
better had she conserved her combative efforts for broad prin- 
ciples and general atmosphere rather than for details of scen- 
ery or clothes. However, one has only to recall many of the 
Hollywood films of the thirties, with their greater desire for 
accuracy not only of sets and clothes but also of speech, at- 
mosphere, and character, to realise how far the cinema pro- 
gressed in those ten years, at any rate in authenticity. And for 
that progress Elinor must be given a good deal of the credit. 



276 



The Film Producer 



"Elinor Glyn's name [wrote Mr. Goldwyn] is synonymous 
with the discovery of sex appeal for the cinema." 

Elinor herself disliked the term "sex appeal/* much pre- 
ferring her own a it. w But "it** was a quality which one either 
had or had not and which could never be acquired. Romance, 
that spiritual disguise so necessary to human happiness, was 
the teachable quality. In 1907 she had been shocked by the 
lack of romance in America, by the indifferent, mercenary at- 
titude of American men and women to love, and although the 
pendulum was now swinging the other way, she felt that a 
great deal still could and should be done to bring romance 
into the lives of ordinary people and to teach all gold-digging 
girls that true love meant giving unconditionally and not re- 
ceiving or bargaining. 

But she was soon made to realise that American girls were 
not wholly to blame for this attitude. 

I had not been long in Hollywood before I discovered 
that what I had always suspected was true; American men 
of those days simply could not make love! Not even the 
leading screen actors had any idea how to do it then. One 
after another screen tests of handsome young American film 
stars were shown me for approval, but in every case I con- 
sidered that the performance was lamentable! I christened 
them all woolly lambs and besought the studio managers to 
find me someone who could treat differently, in front of the 
camera, the actress who was supposed to be his sweetheart 
from those who were supposed to be his aunts and sisters. 

The best of them was Rudolph Valentino, not yet at his 
full fame, but even he had a lot to learn from Elinor in the 
art of making love convincingly before a camera. "Do you 

277 



Elinor Glyn 

know,** she would murmur in later years, Tie had never even 
thought of kissing the palm, rather than the back, of a 
woman's hand until I made him do itf 



6. 

It is not quite clear who suggested Beyond the Rocks for 
Elinor's second film. Lasky himself had considerable misgiv- 
ings about it and, indeed, the book with its very slight plot 
would not seem to be good silent-film material. However, the 
story was approved and production started early in 1922. 

Unlike The Great Moment, the whole action of Beyond the 
Rocks takes place in France and England, and this gave almost 
unlimited opportunities for those anachronisms and solecisms 
which Elinor so much abhorred. She and Sam Wood had dis- 
agreed many times in the first film; they were completely at 
loggerheads now and appalling rows went on between them 
on the set, each giving as good as received. Miss Ruby Miller, 
the Gaiety Girl, who was in Hollywood at the time, recalls 
that she went down to lunch with Elinor on the set, to find her 
in full battle over a shooting-party which was assembled in 
hunting pink before a cottage on which rambler roses were in 
full bloom. By the time Elinor had sorted this out to her satis- 
faction, the day was almost over and neither she, Miss Miller,, 
nor anyone else had had any lunch. 

Like a lot of other women I know [wrote Mr. Goldwyn] 
she liked her own way, though it didn't always follow that 
she got it with me. She not only wrote the scenarios, but 
insisted on designing the dresses and arranging the draw- 
ing-room as a replica of her own room in London. When 
someone remonstrated with her about this, she retorted: 
"Do you think they would know how to arrange a gentle- 
woman's room but for me?" 

278 



The Film Producer 

The principal shortcomings in the completed picture of Be- 
yond the Rocks were not in the settings, but in the acting 
and direction. The charm of the book, it will be remembered, 
lay in the effect of Theodora's innocence and purity upon 
Lord Bracondale's jaded man-of-the-world attitude. Both the 
principal actors seemed to misread their parts: Gloria Swan- 
son played Theodora as a sophisticated minx and Rudolph 
Valentino, for all his charm and passion, portrayed Lord 
Bracondale as a young boy going through his first love affair. 
The continuity writers had taken every possible liberty with 
the story to introduce sensational effects. The scene at Ver- 
sailles, in which Lord Bracondale tells Theodora the fairy 
story, was played in eighteenth-century clothes in and out of 
a sedan chair. Josiah, instead of dying quietly of a broken 
heart, was sent off big-game shooting in Africa to be brutally 
murdered by natives. There were also some rather surprising 
shots of Lord Bracondale galloping about a desert in a burnous, 
the studio having decided to put in some unused sequences 
from Valentino's previous film, The Sheik. 

Altogether Beyond the Rocks was not, artistically, a great 
success. But with those stars and that author it could not fail 
at the box office. Exhibitors were advised to "Boom the Au- 
thor!" 

Conjure with the name of Elinor Glyn! The fact that the 
author has supervised this film may be mentioned but if it 
allows patrons to think that the book has been faithfully 
followed, they may be disappointed. 



Soon after her arrival in Hollywood, Elinor began to make 
a series of new friendships to replace those she had left be- 
hind in Europe. Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford were, 



Elinor Glyn 

of course, the uncrowned king and queen of Hollywood at that 
time and Elinor, a connoisseur of queens, found in Mary Pick- 
ford the same gracious regal qualities she had found in the 
courts of Europe. The so evident love of this famous couple 
for each other was very moving, a thing utterly apart from 
anything else in the glossy, false-fronted life of Hollywood. 
There was an atmosphere of peace and happiness in their 
home, Pickfair, and some of the happiest hours of Elinor's 
years in Hollywood were spent there. 

The parties there, always lively, were especially gay when 
Charles Chaplin was present. Elinor had met Chaplin a few 
days after her first arrival in Hollywood at Goldwyn's house. 
Chaplin had had a sudden fit of depression about his recently 
completed film, The Kid, and Goldwyn gave a small private 
party to show the film to a number of selected friends, in- 
cluding the authors so recently arrived from Europe. The Kid 
was the first Chaplin film that Elinor saw and she was deeply 
impressed. Her spontaneous words of admiration to him in 
that moment of misgiving began a warm personal friendship 
founded on mutual admiration. 

Other close friends of Elinor's during those years were 
Gloria Swanson and Marion Davies, and she was a frequent 
guest at both their houses. She was also on pleasant if less in- 
timate terms with a whole host of other Hollywood luminaries. 

Hollywood parties at that time have come down to us with 
the reputation of being veritable orgies. There was certainly 
a great deal of drinking, particularly during Prohibition, but 
the notorious excesses did not take place at the parties given 
or attended by the more famous of the stars. But their parties 
were, all the same, unusual affairs. Married couples, or couples 
who were, in the slang of the time, "going with each other/' 
sat determinedly side by side at meals, holding hands under 
the table. The conversation, especially when Chaplin was 
present, would range nimbly over a wide variety of subjects, 
controversial and intellectual. 

280 



The Film Producer 

After dinner everyone would do turns or play parlour 
games, charades, dumb crambo, act Impromptu scenes, or make 
one-minute speeches on abstruse subjects. Elinor was amazed 
that people who had spent the whole day acting In the studio 
should want to continue doing it in private in the evening. It 
was part, she supposed, of the hectic, restless atmosphere of 
the place. 

The speeches and scenes set were often very exacting and 
left no doubt in Elinor's mind that being a leading film star 
needed not only appearance, personality, and acting ability but 
also a more-than-average share of brains. She herself loved 
any form of amateur theatricals or charades and she threw 
herself into these entertainments with extreme enjoyment. 
She recalled one of these charades in her memoirs: 

Charlie [Chaplin] drew me as his partner and from the 
bowl I picked our subject which was "Hate." Our turn was 
last and as all the rest had treated their themes in a comic 
vein, Charlie decided that we would be serious. By some 
magic he got himself up into an alcove behind which the 
supports of the window appeared like a cross. He wore noth- 
ing but a cloth twisted round him and spread out his hands 
as if crucified. I knelt, draped in a white sheet, at the foot 
of the alcove, to represent the Mourning World, while 
Charlie's Japanese servant lit up the whole scene with a 
single candle, held low from the side where he could not 
be seen. The room was otherwise in darkness and the effect 
was extraordinarily moving. I remember the sudden rev- 
erent hush as the audience first saw his face, so wonderfully 
filled with agony and resignation. 

Elinor was also a popular figure at the bigger and rather 
less intellectually strenuous parties. She had always been at 
her best in social company and now, even in that throng de- 
termined to outglitter each other, her great beauty, her regal 
presence, and her personality made her, effortlessly, one of the 

281 



Elinor Glyn 

outstanding figures. Her gift of quick and amusing conversa- 
tion, practised and perfected at so many Louse parties in Eng- 
land, made her a welcome guest. 

It was in Hollywood that she first actually met William 
Randolph Hearst in person, and she went many times to his 
amazing ranch, San Simeon, where each guest had his own 
Spanish villa and everyone ate in a huge tapestried dining-hall 
off one of the longest refectory tables ever seen. The tatle and 
all the room were crowded with the relics of European culture. 
Furniture, painted ceilings, Gothic choir stalls, complete Tudor 
rooms lay about or remained in partly opened packing-cases. 
It was aB very bewildering to Elinor, who venerated English 
stately homes strongly and could not reconcile herself now to 
seeing so many of their treasures jumbled together as if in a 
huge antique shop. The pick of the antique sales of the world 
was here, higgledy-piggledy, uncatalogued, some pieces, it was 
said, bought by mistake twice over. The noise, too, was terrific, 
with a crowd of minor film stars shouting and laughing, and 
gramophones blaring; and in the middle of all the hubbub was 
Hearst himself, conducting his business with his secretaries. 

Although they were so very different in character, Elinor 
and Hearst took to each other. She had always admired strong 
characters and she certainly found one in Hearst. She found 
him, too, a generous and thoughtful host and a kind employer. 
He, in his turn, liked Elinor, admiring her work and her per- 
sonality, and finding her a social asset at his parties. He also 
acted at times as her business advisor, cautioning her against 
various deals and speculations to which she was being tempted. 
Had his advice been more continually available, she might 
well have ended a much richer woman than she did. 

It was on her way to stay with Hearst in Mexico that Elinor 
experienced another of her bedroom farces. A storm had 
washed away the road and she, Chaplin, and his new wife, 
Lita Grey, had to spend the night in a double-bedded shack. 
It was filthy and very uncomfortable, but nothing else was 

282 



The film Producer 

available at two o'clock In the morning. Chaplin and his wife 
bickered continually about the amount of bed the other was 
taking up. At last, just as Elinor, in a child's cot, with her feet 
on a packing-case, was dropping off to sleep, Chaplin suddenly 
sat up and said in a deep, sepulchral voice, "My God! Think 
of Charlie Chaplin and Elinor Glyn in bed together in the 
wilds of Mexico! 19 

Elinor burst out laughing and, thus stimulated, Chaplin de- 
livered a long monologue, reciting imaginary press paragraphs 
describing the scandal, mimicking the voices and different re- 
actions of all those who might read the news. Never had Elinor 
known him more brilliant and she felt quite weak from laugh- 
ter. Finally, as dawn was breaking, they decided to get some 
sleep. Elinor was just dropping off when the sepulchral voice 
announced, "My God! There's a bug!" And he started all 
over again. This time the laughter and noise was so great that 
other members of the party who were sleeping in the saloon 
or in cars outside burst in to see what the trouble was and 
whether there had been a holdup. 

It would, however, be a mistake to think of Elinor's time 
away from the studios being filled with continual parties. She 
had far too much work to do for that, and most evenings she 
would spend quietly in her room at the Hollywood Hotel, 
reading Plato in a dogged and rather touching effort to try to 
retain her sense of values in that crazy looking-glass world. 
She was only too well aware of the dangers to the human 
personality of what she called the "Calif ornian Curse,* and 
of which the most flagrant and tragic example was the breakup 
of that seemingly perfect love idyll between Douglas Fair- 
banks and Mary Pickford. 

The Curse is nothing less than that of the Evil Fairy in 
the old stories, who was able to banish the real personality 
of those whom she bewitched, forcing them against their 
wills to carry out her commands, to forget the land of their 



Elinor Glyn 

birth, die purpose of their journey and many of the princi- 
ples which they had hitherto held most dear. 

The early symptoms of the disease, which break out al- 
most on arrival in Hollywood, are a sense of exaggerated 
self-importance and self-centredness which naturally alien- 
ates all old friends. Next comes a great desire for and belief 
in the importance of money above all else, a loss of the 
normal sense of humour and proportion and finally, in ex- 
treme cases, the abandonment of all previous standards of 
moral value, 

By her foreknowledge, by her determined concentration 
upon what she conceived to be the eternal verities, she was 
able for a while to ward off and delay the effects of the Cali- 
fornian Curse. As will be seen later, even she was not able 
to escape it altogether. 



8. 

During 1922, Elinor was approached by another film com- 
pany, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, who proposed that, when Be- 
yond the Rocks and her contract with Famous Players-Lasky 
were completed, she should join MGM to supervise the film- 
ing of Three Weeks. For years Elinor had been hoping that 
she would one day be given an opportunity to film her best- 
seller and she accepted the tempting new offer with alacrity 
too great alacrity for the contract she might have won from 
them by harder bargaining. 

The production was scheduled to begin in March 1923, and 
meanwhile Elinor decided to return to Europe to revisit her 
family and friends and familiar scenes. Her absence in Amer- 
ica had prevented her, to her distress, from being present at 
either of her daughters' weddings, Margot's to Sir Edward 
Davson, and Juliet's to Sir Rhys Rhys-Williams, both of which 

284 



The Film Producer 

had taken place in 1921, Now she was able to be present at 
a great family reunion and to meet her first two grandchildren 
(one of them myself), for whose schooling, with her newly 
acquired wealth and her instinctive generosity, she immedi- 
ately started insurance policies. She installed her mother in a 
comfortable flat in Embankment Gardens and reopened her 
house in the Avenue Victor Hugo, Paris. She also went with 
Margot to Cannes, made another trip to Spain, and gave a 
series of lectures in Norway, Denmark, and Sweden. She was 
back again in Hollywood at the end of February 1923, living 
now in a suite on the sixth floor of the Ambassador Hotel, Los 
Angeles. 

During her visit to Europe she had been working on the 
film version of Three Weeks, and we may with some justice 
regard the finished scenario as a considerable achievement, a 
yardstick of the degree to which in her first two years in Holly- 
wood she had mastered the art of the silent film. Horniman 
had discovered how difficult it was to cast Three Weeks into 
a dramatic version. The greater part of the book, it will be 
remembered, is virtually one long love scene, and to get this 
across without any dialogue and without lapsing into either 
offensiveness or ribaldry made a considerable demand on Eli- 
nor's skill. To break up the love scene, and in the interests of 
clarity, she was obliged to insert some sequences of the Balkan 
background, to show briefly the King's depravity, his unpopu- 
larity, and the love and respect in which the Queen was held. 
She also put in, to increase the suspense, a fight on the edge 
of a Venetian canal between Vasili and one of the King's spies, 
but otherwise she stuck closely to the book, except that, at the 
demands of the studio, she was obliged to put in a brief reunion 
between Paul and the Queen in the villa before the final trag- 
edy. The English part she left unaltered. 

Her scenario, however, tested to the utmost the resources 
even of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's experienced continuity writer. 
For the scene in the Queen's boudoir in Lucerne where she 

285 



Elinor Gfyn 

lies on the tiger skin, quivering with emotion and passion, he 
wrote, a little helplessly : 

SCENE 137 CLOSE-UP INTERIOR THE LADY*S SUITE 

Better than describe this scene, I will simply mention 
that Mrs. Glyn will enact it for Mr. Grassland on the set. 
The lady malces her decision to accept Paul as her lover. 
She hears Paul outside and indicates for him to come in. 

Elinor enjoyed working for MGM more than she had for 
the Lasky studios, finding the art department, under the di- 
rection of Cedric Gibbons, more amenable to her insistence 
on accuracy and beauty of setting. She cared terribly that 
Three Weeks should be worthily produced and several times 
she had scenes, which still dissatisfied her, reshot at her own 
expense. 

There was also the shadow of the censor falling across this 
particular film. Elinor had cherished a faint hope that, in the 
interests of verisimilitude, Paul might be allowed to play the 
final love scene on the night of the full moon in pyjamas; but 
she was soon made to realise that this would never be per- 
mitted, and in the approved version the Queen tiptoed away, 
wracked with sobs, leaving Paul asleep on the couch of rose 
petals, still in full evening dress, his hair smooth and his white 
waistcoat uncrumpled. As a consolation for this MGM allowed 
Elinor real rose petals for the couch . 

The part of the Queen was played by Aileen Pringle, look- 
ing astonishingly like Elinor, who had coached her assiduously. 
She gave a beautiful performance, dignified, regal yet passion- 
ate. Conrad NageFs Paul was adequate, if a little weak, but 
the actor who played the King unfortunately burlesqued his 
part. As one critic remarked, the story as a whole could do 
with a little humour, but not in that particular character, 

Three Weeks, however, fully deserved its enormous suc- 
cess at the box office. In England the censor made a large 
number of cuts, including, rather strangely, the tide, which 

2,86 



The FUm Producer 

was not allowed to appear even on a by-line. But despite this 
handicap The Romance of a Queen did very well and provided 
a strong resurge of interest in the original novel. 

Three Weeks has never been filmed as a talking picture, 
though a proposal from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to do so in 
1933, with Gloria Swanson as the Queen and Irving Thalberg 
as director, reached an advanced stage before it was abandoned 
in deference to a "cleaner fihns w campaign then sweeping 
America. 

It had occurred to several people that Three Weeks was 
well suited to musical treatment. In 1908 the book had been 
suggested to Puccini as a possible libretto, and we may well 
think that the intensity, the drama, and the passion of the 
story might have fired Puccini to write some of his most ap- 
pealing music. He himself gave the book serious consideration 
but rejected it in the belief, erroneous as it turned out, that 
The Girl of the Golden West would have greater attraction 
in America. In any event, however, the projected operatic ver- 
sion must have encountered serious difficulties over the vexed 
question of the ownership of the American dramatic rights of 
ThreeWeeks. 

In 1924 the Shubert brothers proposed to present the work 
as an operetta in New York. A musical score was commissioned 
and completed before the venture foundered on the unseen 
rocks that bar the way for so many Broadway productions. 



Elinor's views about American women, and perhaps the 
women themselves, had changed considerably since 1908* 
They were no longer the "fluffy little gold-diggers"; on the 
contrary, they were as capable of love as European women. 
Now they wrote to her in their hundreds, following the pub- 
lication of her newspaper articles, asking for help and advice: 

287 



Elinor Glyn 

How were they to win the man they loved? How were they to 
hold his love? How could they rekindle his earlier love, now 
seemingly dead? 

The popularity of Elinor's own novels, of Rudolph Valen- 
tino's films, showed only too clearly how desperately hungry 
the women of America were for love and romance; and Elinor 
thought it pitiful that they could find it only in print and in 
celluloid. Real life, she was convinced, was as full of potential 
romance as any book or film; but it was so easily smothered 
by dull, matter-of-fact routine, by sordidness, or by excessive 
familiarity. She had been puzzled, even in the days of Three 
Weeks, as has already been shown, by the way the marriage 
ties so often proved fatal to love itself; her own marriage had 
been a case in point. Her cynical, disillusioned spirit had, in 
The Damsel and the Sage, accepted this seemingly inevitable 
consequence of marriage with a shrug and a pout. It had al- 
ways been so and would probably always remain so. 

But her romantic heart rebelled. It should be possible, she 
argued and the whole of her creed of life was based upon 
this premise for men or women of any nationality to find all 
the romance they wanted in their own lives, not only before 
but even after marriage, without having to resort to novels and 
films provided ttat they had the necessary skill and wisdom. 
And it was to provide this skill that she wrote for her Ameri- 
can readers The Philosophy of Love. 

The book contained many of the thoughts and conclusions 
of her own life, and much of it was taken from articles she had 
already written on the subject. It dealt with many aspects of 
love and marriage, and especially with the problem of how 
to make love last. She coined a new word, to "revulsh": less 
strong than to disgust, stronger than to put off, it covered all 
those little points of habit, speech, and hygiene, those mi- 
nute pinpricks, all of them almost negligible, which cumula- 
tively killed love far more completely than the greater 
matrimonial crimes of cruelty or infidelity. This point has since 

288 



The Film Producer 

been made by many others in books and newspaper articles. 
She also campaigned against the touching and "petting* 
which had become so prevalent since her first visit and which 
was partly a reaction from the chaperoned austerity of those 
days and pardy, no doubt, the social consequence of the wider 
ownership of small, closed cars. 

Don't cheapen all agreeable emotions by being so physi- 
cally friendly with every girl that is, touching her at every 
moment, taking arms and so on, when you are not the least 
interested in her, or she in you. 

Touching ought to be reserved entirely for the loved one 
that is, if you want to feel any thrills; and this advice 
applies to girls also. This continuous and promiscuous 
familiarity of pawing each other, is the first step towards 
destroying the capacity to love. 

Quite apart from the practical results of disillusionment 
such pawing was, in Elinor's view, "servants* behaviour," and 
she fought against it unwearyingly for the rest of her life. We 
can imagine that she must have regretted the passages in 
Elizabeth Visits America in which she urged American girls to 
be less grudging and miserly with their kisses. 

The Philosophy of Love also includes an extended analysis 
of the male and female characters and contains her division of 
the female sex into three parts, lover-women, mother-women 
and neuter-women; the characteristics of one or other group 
should, Elinor contended, be discernible even in early child- 
hood. 

The book is, on the whole, sensible and constructive, and 
is free of those wilder and more controversial theories about 
life which both enrich and mar Elinor's other works. It is full 
of earnest, practical advice, some of it dull and a little obvious, 
other parts strong and outspoken. It was written in a sincere 
attempt to bring romance into the lives of young Americans, 



Elinor Glyn 

particularly young American women, and for that reason it 
deserved the astonishing reception that America gave it. 

When it was published in England, under the title Love 
What It Means to Me, it caused no great stir. But the Amer- 
ican nation has an almost inexhaustible thirst for books of 
practical advice upon human relationships. The Philosophy 
of Love sold a quarter of a million copies in its first six months 
of publication and its ultimate American sale was second only 
to that of Three Weeks, 

The consequences of the book's widespread popularity were 
twofold. One was an enormous increase in Elinor's own mail 
letters from girls, young husbands, young wives, asking her 
further advice upon some particular point, and to each of 
which Elinor replied fully and conscientiously, despite the de- 
mand which they made upon her severely limited time. She 
found herself, in effect, running singlehandedly a marriage- 
advice bureau and she continued this up to her departure from 
America in 1929. She liked the insight which it gave her into 
people's lives and problems, the feeling that she was bringing 
her romantic ideals into widespread practice, and especially 
the thought that she was repaying to the American people 
something of the kindness and hospitality they had always 
shown to her. 

The other consequence of the success of The Philosophy 
of Love was more spectacular: an engagement to appear in 
vaudeville in New York, giving ten-minute talks on love, at 
a salary of five hundred pounds a week. This engagement she 
carried out during the winter of 1923; and one may wonder 
if, while she was waiting in the wings for her cue, she ever 
recalled the days when she would not have allowed anyone 
connected with the stage inside her house. 



290 



The Film Producer 



10. 



Elinor's second film for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, His Hour, 
was produced early in 1924, and the making of dais film was 
one of die happiest experiences Elinor had during her stay in 
Hollywood. She found her new director, King Vidor, a con- 
genial person, and for once there was no difficulty about the 
authenticity of the sets. Hollywood swarmed with emigre 
Russians earning their living as film extras, and Elinor was 
both pained and amused to find several of them playing in 
her film very nearly the same parts they had played in St. 
Petersburg in real life. 

The story was only altered very slightly, the duel between 
Gritzko and Boris in the darkened room playing a rather more 
important part, and the climax in the hunting-lodge being 
made a litde less risque. Aileen Pringle acted Tamaxa on rather 
a subdued note, as if she were determined to emphasise the 
difference between Tamara and the Queen in Three Weeks, 
John Gilbert as Gritzko showed very nearly as much a it w as 
the original Gritzko himself a vivid, passionate performance 
in the Valentino manner which raised him at once to the 
heights of stardom. 



n* 

Elinor had always thrived on admiration. Any form of dis- 
paragement or deflation was fatal to her self-esteem and her 
creative impetus. During her visits to America she had always 
moved in a spotlight of admiration, the greater part of it gen- 
uine. But, like so many others who feed on admiration, she 
could never tell the real praise from the false; she could never 

291 



Elinor Gljn 

detect the unscrupulous flatterer among tie crowd of sincere 
admirers. 

We cannot wonder now that, alone in Hollywood, six thou- 
sand miles from her family and friends and her familiar back- 
ground, intoxicated by the success and fortune she was making 
in her new career, stimulated by her fame and popularity 
among hundreds of thousands of Americans, she should have 
been specially vulnerable to smooth dishonesty or glossy sharp 
practice. She had never had any kind of business sense, and 
now, with the thought of her large film earnings behind her, 
she launched into a variety of projects, speculations in land, 
gold mines, companies, and investments, from only some of 
which Hearst managed to dissuade her. "Everyone tells me," 
she wrote rather touchingly in one letter home, "what a won- 
derful business woman I have become/ 1 In blissful self-con- 
fidence over her deals she was robbed on all sides. She forgot 
her original intention to salt away a proportion of her earnings 
in gilt-edged investments against the time when she would 
retire. 

Her personal expenses were also high, though perhaps not 
excessively so in view of the standard required to be main- 
tained by successful people in Hollywood. She was also very 
generous to a large number of her compatriots who had been 
less fortunate than she. The full extent of these benefactions 
will never be known. 

As always, she signed any contract laid before her, and be- 
came increasingly entangled with varying agents of conflicting 
interests, some of them of dubious integrity. One contract she 
signed entitled an agent to a 50 per cent commission on all her 
earnings from her books and films, past as well as future. 

Something drastic had to be done, and in the summer of 
1924, Juliet and her husband, Sir Rhys Rhys-Williams, a 
noted barrister, travelled out to Hollywood to disentangle El- 
inor's affairs. The first step was to free her from her commit- 
ments to these agents, in particular the one who was taking 

292 



TJxe Film Producer 

a 50 per cent commission. Rhys-Williams interviewed him and 
the man produced triumphantly the signed contract. Rhys- 
Williams explained that Mrs. Glyn always honoured her con- 
tracts and would no doubt do so in this case, but he must ask 
for the contract to be published. Rather than do this, the agent 
tore it up. 

Rhys-Williams then turned to the tougher business of nego- 
tiating an improvement in Elinor's contract with Metro- 
Goldwyn-Mayer. This involved some hard bargaining with 
Mr. Louis B. Mayer, and in the end a satisfactory solution 
was achieved. Elinor was to make further films for MGM and 
to be paid not only lump sums for the purchase or lease of the 
film rights, and expenses, but also a royalty on the box-office 
takings, with a guaranteed minimum of ten thousand pounds 
per picture. 

It was, however, not enough merely to get Elinor out of 
her mess. Steps had to be taken to prevent or at least to reduce 
the likelihood of such a position recurring. It was not easy to 
persuade her to agree to any safeguards, for her belief in her 
own judgement and abilities was unshaken. Finally it was 
decided that she should become a limited liability company, 
which would hold the copyrights of all her works and receive 
all royalties arising from diem. Juliet was the secretary of this 
company and various members of the family its directors. Eli- 
nor herself was not on the board, and it was hoped by this 
means, if not to prevent altogether, at least to reduce the com- 
mitments into which she might rashly enter. 

A more immediate result was that what remained of the 
fortune Elinor had made in America could now be invested 
for her in annuities. 



12. 

In 1924 the effects of Prohibition began to reach serious 
proportions due to the extensive indulgence in "hooch" or 

293 



Elinor Glyn 

"moonshine" alcohol even by some of the lesser stars and film 
technicians. The whole level of character and intelligence of 
the rank and file of the film industry sagged badly, and on 
several occasions shooting at the studio had to be suspended 
for a whole day or more while some vital member of the cast 
or technical staff slept off the effects of his or her overintoxica- 
tion. Elinor herself was furious at such behaviour. She was 
abstemious by nature and made it a point of honour to be 
punctual on the set every morning. The studio authorities 
would censure mildly the miscreant for the time and money 
wasted, but Elinor was deeply distressed to note that among 
the lesser people such behaviour was regarded with admiration. 

Coinciding with the rise in drunkenness was an increase 
in lawlessness. Elinor heard continually of terrifying holdups, 
violent robberies, and strange, unexplained murders. The 
Chief Constable of Los Angeles told her that crime was far 
worse than anyone knew and that more murders took place in 
Los Angeles and Hollywood in a month than in the whole of 
France in a year. She had no means of confirming the statis- 
tical accuracy of this statement, but she was well aware of 
the prevalence and violence of the crime wave. 

Practically every one of her friends had been held up and 
robbed at some time or other. All the leading stars were fol- 
lowed all the time by armed guards and their houses were 
patrolled by guards at night. Elinor grew accustomed to hiding 
her rings and her pearl necklace in her stockings before driving 
about at night. After an evening at Pickf air, Douglas Fairbanks 
would always send a car to follow her own car back to her 
hotel if there was no other guest going that way. 

On one occasion Elinor, Chaplin, and Marion Davies 
emerged from Elinor's suite in the Ambassador Hotel to find, 
just outside her door, a murderer in the act of killing a man. 
Before anyone could realise what was happening, the lift ar- 
rived filled with police, who hurriedly removed both the mur- 
derer and the corpse. Elinor expected that the police would 

294 



The Film Producer 

call and question her and that she would be subpoenaed as a 
witness. But nothing at all happened, nor was there any ref- 
erence to the crime in the papers. She asked the manager 
about it, but he brusquely denied that any such event had 
taken place. Only an obstinate bloodstain on the carpet out- 
side her door, which defied repeated scrubbings, reminded 
her that the whole thing was not a mere figment of her im- 
agination. 

On several other occasions she heard shots and screams 
from the garden under her balcony, and she became accus- 
tomed to finding that nobody knew anything about them the 
next day. 

During the summer of 1924 she herself began to receive 
anonymous letters and mysterious telephone calls threatening 
her life. She felt disinclined to do battle with a murder gang, 
and on her son-in-law's advice she gave the letters to the hotel 
detective, promising a large reward if they could be stopped. 
The detective smilingly announced a few days later that the 
letters had been traced to a madman who had now been re- 
captured and that she would not receive any more of them. 
Elinor did not believe the story for a moment, but she paid 
up meekly and the letters duly stopped. 

Looking back later, Elinor was horrified, not so much by 
the crime wave itself, which was in due course brought under 
control, but by her own placid acceptance of the normality 
of such events and the way in which they were hushed up. 
This stifling of her conscience, this blunting of her moral 
scruples she considered as yet another manifestation of the 
effects of the Calif ornian Curse. 



In 1925, Elinor produced a film version of Man and Maid 
for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. This followed the story of her 



Elinor Glyn 

novel, but a silent film could not carry all the subtle overtones 
of character and relationships which had distinguished the 
hoot, and the film showed simply and rather sentimentally a 
poor typist marrying a rich hero. The settings included some 
glittering French interiors and the film was adequately acted 
by Lew Cody as Nicholas and Harriet Hammond as Alathea. 
There was also an excellent little performance by Renee 
Adoree as Suzette. 

For her next film, Love's Blindness, which was made at the 
end of the same year, Elinor reverted to her English settings. 
Hubert, Earl of St. Austell, is involved in a spectacular money 
crash, and to save himself and, even more, his friends, he 
agrees to Benjamin Levy's conditional offer of help. Levy has 
social ambitions and his condition is that Hubert should marry 
his daughter Vanessa. Hubert, trapped and humiliated, loathes 
the thought of Vanessa; he does not notice her beauty, which 
is derived from her aristocratic Italian mother, and treats her 
with icy contempt. Vanessa, however, knows nothing of her 
father's machinations; she has adored Hubert from afar for 
some time and imagines that he is now marrying her for love. 
Hubert's treatment of her, the unconscious partner and wit- 
ness of his degradation, breaks her heart and gives her a mis- 
carriage. The final happy ending comes as something of a jolt. 

The film's settings were costly and elaborate and evocative 
of an English country house, but it was acted by Pauline 
Stark and Antonio Moreno with almost excessive restraint, 
and it aroused little enthusiasm among either the critics or 
the public. The book version of the story was published by 
Duckworth in February 1926 and was called by The Times 
Literary Supplement a "capable romance/' 

For her next film, The Only Thing, which was the last 
that she made for MGM, Elinor turned again to a Balkan 
kingdom. She put in popular and well-tried ingredients : the 
heroine, the beautiful Queen; the old, unattractive King; 
the handsome English diplomat in love with the Queen; 



The Film Producer 

the Queen's charming American girl friend, Sally; a hand- 
some, upright Balkan politician in love with Sally; a sinister 
blind beggar, the embodiment of evil, who stirs up the mob to 
revolution, killing the King and throwing the Queen and the 
diplomat into prison. Elinor had in the past five years learned 
a great deal about negotiating with Hollywood film compa- 
nies, and at this point her draft synopsis breaks off abruptly 
with the words: 

The rescue from the prison and the final great situation 
which is very dangerous and exciting I do not propose to 
tell anyone, until the contract is made, as it is a unique and 
great situation. 

Mr. Mayer accepted the bait thus held out to him, the con- 
tract was signed, and Elinor revealed the missing scene, a new 
version of the manage de Nantes in which the Queen finds 
herself tied in the sinking barge to the diplomat, who is dis- 
guised, to her unspeakable horror, as the blind beggar himself. 
This scene was to be shot partly under water by a method 
devised by Elinor herself. The closing sequences of the story 
were to show the Queen and the diplomat married, living 
quietly in his English country home, while the people of 
die Balkan state acclaim their new republic and their new 
President and his wife Sally a startling denouement for such 
a royalist author. 

The film was made in the summer of 1926, with the 
manage de Nantes just as Elinor conceived it But the 
American continuity writers took out Sally and the republic, 
and turned the diplomat, whom Elinor had made a commoner, 
into a Duke. 



14. 

The Khys-Williamses' efforts to minimise Elinor's general 
expenditure and the possibility of further commitments were 

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Elinor Glyn 

only partially successful. She engaged a young man as secre- 
tary and personal agent, the Intention being that he should 
obtain further lucrative contracts for her and in general man- 
age her business interests. For this he was to be paid a salary 
of five thousand pounds a year. 

The directors of Elinor Glyn, Ltd., appalled, cabled from 
England that this was an English Cabinet Minister's salary 
and surely there must be some mistake. Elinor replied su- 
perbly that she thought the figure entirely reasonable for the 
work he was doing, and the directors had no option but to 
pay this salary, to the considerable detriment of Elinor's bank 
balance, 

Elinor had at this time virtually turned her back on the 
Old World, becoming more and more imbued with the tech- 
nique and aspirations of the inhabitants of Hollywood, with 
the belief that wealth and notoriety were in themselves worthy 
ambitions. She was full of supreme confidence in her own 
judgement, abilities, and the tightness of all her actions, and 
she tended to treat with a certain amount of contempt any 
dissenting voice from the Old World, merely because it was 
the Old, and in her present view obsolescent, World. 

A momentary check in this rising megalomania was pro- 
vided by the arrival in Hollywood of Lady Ravensdale, on a 
tour round the world. Elinor was delighted to see her again; 
her mere presence brought back memories of Crag and Hack- 
wood and Montacute, the gracious society world now so far 
away. Elinor showed her round Hollywood, introduced her to 
everyone she wished to meet, and gave a party for her. To- 
gether they attended Rudolph Valentino's amazing funeral. 
Later that night Elinor went to condole and discuss the Great 
Lover with Pola Negri, who, though never his wife, was wear- 
ing the blackest of widow's weeds. 



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The Film Producer 



One of Elinor's principal literary activities at this time was 
a series of articles called The Truth, which she wrote for the 
Hearst press. There were more than two hundred and fifty of 
them, and they dealt not only with love and marriage, hut 
with almost every other subject under the sun. 

She adopted in these articles an uncompromising^ forth- 
right style, a ruthless didacticism, deliberately intended to 
strip away all self-deception and prevarication. She herself was 
both hurt and enfeebled when her own self-deceptions were 
stripped from her, but of these, her own self-deceptions, she 
was for the most part unaware. She had no compunction, 
when truth and honesty demanded it, in letting others see 
themselves and their actions in the cold light of realism. 

But the most important and the most consequential piece of 
literary work which Elinor produced at this time was her fa- 
mous conte, tf It/ * In length " It* * is more a short novel than 
a short story. It was serialised in the Cosmopolitan and was 
published the following year by itself in America and by 
Duckworth in a volume containing four other short stories, 
*Tt'* was deservedly a great success and one must regard it 
not only as the cream of her American literary output, but 
as one of the most striking pieces she ever wrote. 

"It/" as the tide suggests, is a study in personal magnet- 
ism. Since The Man and the Moment there had been in her 
novels and articles, letters, diaries, and even, it is understood, 
in her conversation, several mentions of "it/* And now in her 
new story she defined it once again. 

To have "it," the fortunate possessor must have that 
strange magnetism which attracts both sexes. He or she 
must be entirely unself-conscious and full of self-confidence, 



Elinor Glyn 

indifferent to the effect he or she is producing, and unin- 
fluenced by others. There must be physical attraction, but 
beauty is unnecessary. Conceit or self-consciousness destroys 
"it* immediately. In the animal world "it" demonstrates in 
tigers and cats both animals being fascinating and mys- 
terious, and quite unbiddable. 

Both the hero and the heroine of the story possess "it" to 
a marked degree. The hero, John Gaunt, has raised himself 
by Ms own exertions from the depths of the Bowery to the 
head of a prosperous New York business, but despite this and 
despite his attraction for women he realises that there is 
something missing in his life. The girl, Ava Cleveland, is well 
born, proud, impoverished, "a little sister of the rich/* in con- 
tinuous difficulties mainly through the financial irresponsbility 
of her scapegrace but charming brother, Larry. 

Gaunt, deeply attracted to her, has mentioned that he will 
give her a job if ever she needs it, and finally in desperation 
she takes it. She finds herself sitting at a desk immediately 
outside his door, sorting press cuttings at a large salary, re- 
sented by the other girls in the office and the supervisor, and 
acutely aware of her humiliating and invidious position. She 
is as strongly attracted to Gaunt as he to her, but she holds 
him firmly at arm's length. 

Larry, also an employee of Gaunt's, continually runs up 
bills, and Ava knows that her fate and Larry's are now com- 
pletely in Gaunt's hands. 

Gaunt names the price that he will require for forgiving 
Larry. Ava puts on her loveliest evening dress and goes to 
dine with Gaunt alone in his house, ready to pay the price. 
The scene that follows is perhaps the strongest that Elinor 
ever wrote. All through the dinner, behind their fencing and 
sparring, lies their acute awareness of each other's "it," and 
this gives a sharp tang to their words. After dinner Gaunt 
suddenly offers Ava her brother s freedom and pardon with- 

300 



The film Producer 

out demanding any price. Ava, almost overcome with longing 
for Gaunt, replies that her class does not accept favours from 
his, and that she prefers to pay. 

He took her forward into the apricot-rose bedroom. It 
had evidently been prepared for someone to stay there for 
the night; for filmy, gossamer raiment lay ready on the bed. 

Intoxication filled Ava's brain a divine madness perme- 
ated her being Her ears but dimly heard, but her heart 
registered that John Gaunt's deep voice was saying sternly 
"Tell me the truth Is it for your brother or for a cat- 
like desire for the conquest of a man? Is it for the pride 
of taking me from another woman, that you are here? 
Or is it just for the love of me Ava?" 

Her eyes, wet with dewy tears, looked up at him, while 
her willowy body grew limp in his embrace. His passionate 
regard devoured her His head drooped closer and closer 
to her Then his lips met hers in utter abandon of desire, 
which filled them both. 

"Ah, God!" at last, she said divinely 'What do I care 
for a price or tomorrow or the afterwards I carne because 
I love you John Gaunt!" 

All the dreams of heaven which he had dreamed of as a 
child when once he had strayed from the Bowery, all dirty 
and ragged into St. Patrick's Cathedral and heard High 
Mass sung, now seemed to return to him Here was his 
heart's desire, won and in his arms His to have and to 
hold from now for henceforth till death them do part- 
Given of herself without reservations, without bargainings, 
without vows. 

Then he gave her a number of presents, her creditors* bills, 
paid and receipted, her treasures redeemed from the pawn- 
broker, and last of all, a glorious necklace of virgin pearls. 

"These" he said as he fastened the diamond clasp "are 

301 



Elinor Glyn 

for the lady I have always intended to marry 1 * Then when 
he saw that all the soul of love was gazing at him through 
Ava's tender eyes, suddenly he released her from his arms, 
and kneeling down, he kissed her ivory hands. 

The Times Literary Supplement reviewer in the course of 
his notice wrote : 

The first story gives us a situation much favoured by 
Mrs. Glyn in which a powerful and wealthy lover subdues 
the persistent coldness and reluctance of the girl he means 
to win. Ava, with her coolness and restraint, reminds one 
a little of the heroine of Mrs. Glyn's novel The Career of 
Katherine Bush. Despite the author's slipshod English and 
a curious feeling one sometimes has that she is burlesquing 
her own style, these stories certainly let themselves be read. 

From this view there can be few dissenting opinions. 



16. 

In March 1927, Elinor paid a brief visit to England, during 
which Laszlo painted, in only three hours, the lovely sketch 
of her on the jacket of this book. In this sketch, hurried and 
unfinished though it is, the artist has captured not only Eli- 
nor's own appearance but also her personality far more suc- 
cessfully than in the formal and finished portrait which he 
had painted thirteen years earlier. 

But as we look at the sketch, our chief feeling must surely 
be of astonishment that it should be a picture of a woman of 
sixty-two. There are, however, many photographs taken of 
her at this time to prove that Laszlo did not flatter her. Ever 
since her girlhood she had devoted much of her time and 
energy and thought to preserving her beauty, unlined and 
unwasted by the passing of time. She fought all her life a 

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grim, implacable delaying action against old age, a "battle 
which she came as near as anyone ever has to winning. She 
never disdained the use of artifice, employing everything from 
the secret treatment of El-Zair to the more commonplace face 
creams. In Hollywood in 1926 she had undergone a facial 
treatment so painful that her arms had had to be strapped to 
her sides for ten days. She would rise very early in the morn- 
ing so as to have plenty of time to complete her elaborate 
toilet and beauty treatment, and, incidentally, to do some writ- 
ing before going to the studio* 

Whether the time and energy Elinor devoted to her ap- 
pearance were worth while is a moot point. But worth while 
or not, we cannot, after looting at Lasdo's sketch, deny the 
effectiveness of her methods; and we may think that it was 
exactly because she was still, even in her middle sixties, so 
beautiful, and able to command such a quantity of spontane- 
ous admiration, that she could carry out so successfully such 
a large and taxing programme of work. 

Also in March 1927, Duckworth published The Wrinkle 
Book, a slim volume giving some extremely practical and up- 
to-date advice about face massage and exercises. It was in the 
preface to this book that Elinor produced two of her more 
startling aids to beauty. One was to scrub the face hard with 
a dry nailbrush till the skin glowed crimson. The other was 
always to sleep with ones head to the magnetic north. Both 
these treatments she faithfully carried out herself; die latter 
one, she explained, was "pure common sensed 



17. 

Elinor's last three films in Hollywood were made for her 
old company, Famous Players-Lasky, which was by now re- 
named Paramount. The films were all light comedies, a new 
genre in films for her. The first, Ritzy , was easily the worst 

33 



Elinor Glyn 

of the three. It was founded very remotely upon a short story 
of Elinor's of the same name, about a bumptious American 
girl who tried to teach Paris society a lesson and got severely 
snubbed. In the film only the heroine's nickname and her dis- 
likeable character remain. Ritzy Brown longs to marry a Duke, 
but to her annoyance falls in love with a commoner. The 
Duke and the commoner, however, turn out to have ex- 
changed roles, to teach her a lesson, and so Ritzy gets it both 
ways. It says a good deal for the ingenuity and skill of all 
concerned that any laughs were got out of such a wretched 
little plot 

The second film was "It" Once again there was no ob- 
vious resemblance between the film and the original story 
except the tide. But this time Elinor wrote the screen play 
herself. In the book the dominating character had been John 
Gaunt, but the Paramount studios wanted the chief part, the 
character who had "it," to be the girl. Further, it was to be 
a light comedy, and not, like the book, a tense study in human 
relationship. 

For a while Elinor felt puzzled, but after she met Clara 
Bow, who was to play the heroine, she saw her way clear 
before her; and under the considerable stimulus and inspira- 
tion of Clara Bow's own personality Elinor produced the 
scenario of her most famous and successful film. 

In synopsis form the story seems very slight. A New York 
store proprietor, Cyrus Waltham (played by Antonio 
Moreno) is strongly attracted by one of his shopgirls, the 
'pert and unabashed" Betty Lou Spence (Clara Bow). Going 
to call on her in her modest home, he finds her minding a 
friend's baby. He jumps to the conclusion that Betty Lou is 
an unmarried mother and offers her his protection. She is 
indignant at this supposed insult, but after some gay misun- 
derstandings the story finally reaches a happy conclusion on 
Cyrus's yacht. The film was sparHingly directed by Clarence 



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The Film Producer 

Badger, and was in the words of one critic, iW as entertaining 
as it is disarming." 

The screen's most piquant star [wrote the Kine WeeMy] 
in an Elinor Glyn story, demonstrating the presence of an 
indefinable attraction. The comedy situations are excel- 
lently handled and the treatment is light, bright and 
vivacious. 

"It" grossed more than a million dollars at the box office, 
at that time a prodigious figure for a film. It also boosted the 
reputations of all those concerned with the film, principally 
Elinor herself, who also reaped large financial rewards. The 
Bioscope wrote in a rather sardonic paragraph : 

Few authors have boomed themselves so successfully as 
Elinor Glyn. Her latest effort is as astute as it is likely to 
be effective. Having written a book called It, she proceeds to 
get a picture produced explaining what "it" is, and inci- 
dentally appears in the picture and tells the hero what 
"it" is. Then for the past year she has been lecturing on 
"it," and the new cult has spread across the continent to 
the east coast. 

Elinor's fan mail had been large ever since the publication 
of The Philosophy of Love. Now it swelled to proportions 
reminiscent of die days of Three Weeks. All over the world 
girls wrote asking exactly what "it" was and how they could 
acquire it. To this last question, of course, there was only one 
answer that "it" could never be acquired. Elinor also wrote 
numerous articles on the subject, listing some of the well- 
known figures who had "it,"* and trying to show the difference 
between those who had it and those who had not. The press 
could not leave the subject alone and were for ever inter- 
viewing her about "it"; and Elinor was deeply gratified, find- 

* These included the Prince of Wales, Gary Cooper, and Lord Beaver- 
brook. 

305 



Elinor Glyn 

ing herself back on the peak of fame and fortune, as high if 
not higher than she had reached twenty years hef ore. 

The film also made the reputation of Clara Bow. She was 
later to play many other parts of very different character, but 
lor the rest of her career she was always thought of primarily 
as the "It" Girl. She herself was keenly conscious of the debt 
she owed to Elinor. When she came on her honeymoon to 
see Elinor in England, she wrote on a photograph of herself, 
To Elinor Glyn, whom I respect and admire more than any 
other woman in the world/' 

EBno/s last Hollywood film, Red Hair, was made by the 
same team, author-producer, director, and actress. The film, 
which was in colour, was designed as a vehicle for showing 
Clara Bow's versatility and for illustrating the passion in- 
herent in redheads. The heroine was a little manicurist, who 
received presents from three male admirers, of whom one 
saw her as a demure young miss, one as a "vamp* and one as 
a temperamental young woman. She herself reformed when 
she met the right man, who was the nephew of two of her 
admirers and the ward of the third. They attempted to in- 
terfere with her new romance, but the handicap of their own 
pasts and the heroine's fiery temper frustrated them. The 
final and rather daring scene took place on a boat, in which 
she undressed and returned them their presents of dothes in 
each other's presence, to their great consternation, before go- 
ing off with the right man. 

Once again the story provided a series of nicely contrived 
comic scenes, expertly directed by Clarence Badger, and once 
again Clara Bow was in excellent form. Red Hair was almost 
as successful as "It,* grossing nine hundred thousan^ dollars 
at the box office, and Elinor decided wisely to relinquish her 
Hollywood career on this note of triumph. 

She had successfully achieved her triple objective, for 
which she had first come, to Hollywood seven years before. 
She had spread her romantic ideals, not only through her 

306 



The Film Producer 

films but through her books and articles far wider through 
America than she had ever dared to hope. She had made her 
fortune. She had acquired a large number of new friends, 
and a considerable insight into the American way of life. And 
she had re-established her fame in a way she had never even 
dreamt. Now, at last, she could afford to retire and lead a more 
leisured existence. 



18. 

Elinor had never pulled her punches about America, either 
in the early days of Elizabeth Visits America or more recently. 
She had never been one to indulge the shortcomings of others, 
except, perhaps, her husband. Though she was not so un- 
gracious as to stint her admiration for the good aspects of the 
American scene, she never hesitated to pass severe and some- 
times scathing comment on the parts which pleased her less. 

She had during her seven years in America consciously re- 
sisted all efforts to Americanise her. In her books, especially 
The Flirt and the Flapper, we may note that she had a con- 
siderable command of American slang, but she never used a 
single Americanism in her own conversation. There was no 
trace of an American accent in her voice. 

We cannot be surprised at this. It would, indeed, have been 
surprising if she, her habits, manners, and speech trained in 
the style and tradition of the English and French aristocracy, 
should have moved so far from her rigid and proudly held 
standards as to adopt, even for protective colouring, a form of 
outward behaviour, habit, and speech which she had once 
thought uncouth. But underneath the purely outward, formal 
standards there had been a considerable change. In mind and 
in spirit she was now far closer to the American way of life, 
more nearly attuned to American ideals and geared to Ameri- 
can tempo. She had also, not unnaturally, become very fond 

307 



Elinor Glyn 

of a country and a people which had given her such splendid 
opportunities and which had rewarded her efforts so lavishly. 

And so we find that when the moment came in 1927 when 
she was free to leave America and return to England, she 
found suddenly that she could not bear to go* She wanted, 
however, to leave California, even though she had so many 
friends there, and she went to live in New York, taking a flat 
on the top floor of the Ritz Tower, at that time the tallest 
inhabited building in the world. 

Elinor loved the view from her flat, which had windows 
on all sides, the strange lights and shadows, the lightning and 
thunder and high winds around her and, especially on calm 
nights, the city lights twinkling far below her as if they were 
stars reflected in a lake. She lived there for nearly a year, 
writing articles for Hearst and magazine stories. 

One of these stories, Such Men Are Dangerous, she sold 
for six thousand pounds, and it was the first of her stories 
to be produced as a talking picture. The story dealt with an 
immensely rich and rather unattractive man, married to a dull 
wife and longing for romance. In the middle of a flight across 
the Channel he jumped out of the aircraft and disappeared 
for ever. In fact, he parachuted down and was picked up by a 
midget, two-man submarine* which he had arranged to be at a 
certain spot* He then went to Vienna and placed himself in 
the hands of a plastic surgeon, who lifted his face, remoulded 
his nose, altered the shape of his hands, stretched him on a 
rack, carried out a difficult operation on his shoulder muscles 
to alter the set of his shoulders, and gave his vocal chords and 
hair drastic treatment. The millionaire was now unrecognis- 
able in every way and he set out to find romance. His wife, 
in the meantime, had brightened herself up and in due course 
the millionaire met her, fell in love with her, and married 
her all over again, without ever telling her the true story. 

* This was a remarkably prophetic invention of Elinor's for which 
some of the critics laughed at her. 

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The Film Producer 

The film followed the story in outline, if not in detail, and 
Warner Baxter gave a good performance as the millionaire. 
Elinor took no part in the production, but she was pleased by 
the finished picture, especially by the meticulous accuracy of 
the sets. 

In the summer of 1928, Elinor returned to Hollywood, stay- 
ing with Marion Davies at her beach house. She thoroughly 
enjoyed luxuriating in her new-found idleness in the warm 
California climate and seeing her friends again, and at Mar- 
ion Davies' stern insistence she stayed there for six weeks be- 
fore leaving for Washington. 

Washington had always appealed greatly to Elinor, with 
its old houses, its cosmopolitan atmosphere, and its diplomatic 
society. Elinor had many friends in the city and she now de- 
cided to make her home there. She bought a pleasant house 
of the 1790 period in Georgetown and spent the whole of 
the autumn and winter of 1928 redecorating it. 

Her ideas of house decoration, never austere, had been en- 
couraged in Hollywood by the sumptuous sets she had de- 
signed for her films. It was many years since she had last 
decorated a home of her own, and in Washington now, secure 
in her newly acquired wealth, she gave her ruling passion and 
her lavish ideas full rein, denying herself nothing, however 
extravagant. The house in Georgetown was the costliest that 
she ever decorated for herself, and, ironically, it was the only 
one that she never lived in. 

Shortly before she moved in, in the spring of 1929, she 
paid a visit to England, intending to spend a few weeks with 
her family and friends. In fact, she remained there for the 
rest of her life. 



BOOK EIGHT 

The Legend 

1929-1943 



I. 



In considering Elinor Glyn's life and career one is struck 
by the way in which the pattern repeats itself. In 1908 she 
had returned from America flushed with her triumph, her 
pockets hulging with her earnings, her head turned by the 
adulation she had received, intransigent, indifferent to cau- 
tionary advice, her judgement unstable and unreliable. In 
1908 her intransigence had been tempered, one might almost 
say her character redeemed, by the sudden shock of financial 
adversity. Twenty-one years later, the pattern repeated itself 
almost exactly, with the colours, if anything, a little height- 
ened. 

Elinor's American fortune was no longer as large as it had 
once been or as she herself still believed it to be. Much of it 
had disappeared in Hollywood without trace, melted like hoar- 
frost in the sun. She had been profligate with money, both 
in New York and in Washington, and there were, too, sudden 
large demands for income tax, for which she had made no 
provision and which she tended to ignore, vaguely thinking 
it unjust. 

Her family rapidly appraised themselves of this true posi- 
tion of her finances and pressed her strongly not to return to 
America. There was no particular reason why she need live 

3*3 



Elinor Glyn 

there now and she was quite capable of continuing her jour- 
nalistic work there from England, where her family would 
be able to keep a closer watch upon her expenditure. Elinor 
herself was deeply affected by her return to familiar scenes 
and faces, and by a strong desire to live in closer contact with 
her growing family, and especially with her mother, who had 
had a stroke; she wanted, too, to pick up her old friendships 
and her own life. 

A house, Wolsey's Spring, near Kingston, had been pre- 
pared for her return, and Elinor now settled in there. As a 
permanent residence it was not altogether ideal. It was too 
far from London to be convenient, although it was hardly 
remote by American standards. Elinor had been deprived, per- 
haps fortunately, of the opportunity of supervising the com- 
plete redecoration of the house and she felt a little aggrieved 
at this. It was large and there seemed to be too many servants 
about for her liking; apart from her personal maid in her own 
rooms Elinor always preferred the rest of the staff to be as 
little in evidence as possible. The house was also rather ex- 
pensive to run. However, it provided, for the moment, a suit- 
able milieu as well as the standard of living which she wished 
and still thought she was able to afford. 



2. 

In 1908, Elinor had brought back with her from America 
a number of new ideologies of dubious value, the chief of 
which was New Thought. In 1929 she returned home under 
the strong influence of spiritualism and the occult in general. 
She had always had an interest in occult and psychic matters. 
All her life she had been keenly attentive to, if not actually 
influenced by, the predictions of soothsayers and clairvoyants; 
she had worried over her children's horoscopes and tried hard 
to find a scientific basis for astrology. 

3*4 



The Legend 

She knew, too, that she was unusually imbued herself with 
psychic powers. Many times she had premonitions and fore- 
bodings which were so definite as almost to amount to second 
sight and which were usually fulfilled with uncanny accu- 
racy.* Her first experience with ghosts took place when she 
was still very young* She had been staying in a country house 
in Hertfordshire, the owner of which lay seriously ill upstairs. 
At a quarter to one in the morning Elinor and several others, 
though by no means all, of the household,, heard the passing 
bell toll from the neighbouring, deserted, and securely locked 
church. The owner of the house died twenty-four hours later, 
exactly to the minute. 

Elinor had many other experiences of this sort both in Eng- 
land and France* In Kilkenny Castle she heard a disembodied 
voice sighing in the corner by the fireplace, a sigh which could 
be heard by those who were completely deaf. In one French 
chateau a weird white figure arose and wailed at the end of 
her bed. If there was a ghost about, Elinor usually saw or 
heard it, and these experiences cannot be attributed merely to 
her vigorous imagination, for in each case there was a strange 
story about the house or the room which she did not learn 
till the following day. 

She was interested but not frightened by these experiences, 
regarding them as yet another example of her own susceptibil- 
ity to waves and vibrations. The two ghost stories which she 
wrote herself* lack the eery, chilling quality of the great 
masters of the macabre. 

Elinor's main interest in 1929, however, was not in ghosts 
but in spiritualism and all such efforts to make contact with 
departed spirits. She joined a circle of spiritualists and at- 

* She warned the MoDisons in 1933 that their plane, the Seafarer, 
would crash on its forthcoming Atlantic flight unless it were painted 
some colour other than black. Mrs. Mollison explained why it was 
impossible to repaint the plane another colour, but she thanked Eli- 
nor for her warning. The plane duly crashed. 

* "The IrtonwoocT Ghost" in The Contrast and Other Stories and 
"Why D" in It and Other Stories. 

3*5 



Elinor Glyn 

tended several seances with a good medium, making contact 
with Clayton and many friends of hers who were now dead. 
At first Elinor was considerably impressed* The seances 
seemed to be perf ectly genuine, and on one occasion she took 
a secretary with her to make sure that the words were actually 
spoken and were not merely imagined by her. Messages from 
Clayton and her friends contained references which could 
not be known possibly to any third person. There were also 
forecasts about the future which were sometimes correct. 

Automatic writing was a variant which she also practised, 
and for which she found she had a gift. She would take up a 
pencil and block, make her mind as blank as possible, and 
after a little while she would find the pencil writing by itself 
in her hand. The handwriting was utterly different from her 
normal one, and once again messages came through from 
Clayton and others which were very difficult to explain if 
they were not genuine communications. The official explana- 
tion of automatic writing is, of course, that it is the expression 
of the subconscious. But Elinor refused to believe this. Not 
only were many of the messages extremely distasteful to her, 
but also, when she first experimented with automatic writing 
in Egypt in 1920, she wrote several pages of faultless Arabic, 
of which she knew not a word. She could not credit her sub- 
conscious with the power to write faultless Arabic when her 
conscious found it difficult enough to write faultless English. 

After a while Elinor noticed that all the messages, whether 
addressed to her or to other members of her circle, no matter 
from whom they were supposed to come, were always in ex- 
actly the same style pompous platitudes, minute instructions 
about ornaments or other trivia, detailed but quite useless 
remedies for her rheumatic knee, elaborate prophesies about 
the future which were usually quite misleading. Just as Elinor 
refused to think her own subconscious responsible for such 
utterances, so did she also decline to believe that Clayton, 
Wynne Finch, and her other friends could have lost their 

3x6 



The Legend 

sense of humour and proportion so completely when they 
"passed over." In his lifetime Clayton had detested pompous, 
dramatic slogans and cliches; he had never been particularly 
interested in the ornaments in Elinor's bedroom or, for that 
matter, particularly concerned about her health. Nothing 
about the messages bore the hallmark of their senders' per- 
sonalities and gradually Elinor came to believe that they were 
fakes, sent perhaps by some imp or sprite of the half -world in 
the intent of teasing and making mischief among gullible 
people like herself. She became sick of the whole business as 
her incredulity and her sense of humour reasserted them- 
selves, and in due course she gave it up altogether. 

At that time table-turning, planchette boards, and other 
minor manifestations of spiritualism were popular after-dinner 
entertainments at some house parties. Elinor participated in 
them with the utmost reluctance. Though her belief in die 
efficacy of such communications was fading, she still believed 
in the strength of her own pyschic powers and regarded them 
as too dangerous for use in casual parlour games. In one house 
party in Yorkshire, Elinor was at last persuaded to take part 
in a session at the planchette board. In her hand the trolley 
prophesied the death within a year of another member of the 
party, specifically named. This prophesy, which turned out to 
be correct, caused a good deal of consternation among the 
party and marked the end of Elinor's experiments in spiritual- 
ism. 

Automatic writing, however, remained a considerable temp- 
tation, and it required a strong effort of will not to sit back and 
idly watch the pencil writing of its own accord when she 
should have been busy upon an article or a story. 



3*7 



Elinor Glyn 



The British film industry at this time was at a particularly 
low ebb. With the end of the silent films many studios had 
dosed down and actors and technicians were thrown out of 
work. Little finance was available for equipping either studios 
or cinemas for talking pictures, which themselves, by re-erect- 
ing the language barrier, had cut potential film producers from 
their lucrative foreign markets. 

Elinor's re-entry into the world of films was largely 
prompted by a genuine desire to rehabilitate British films by 
placing her experience and her reputation as a film author at 
the industry's disposal. She also hankered again for the fame 
and fortune her Hollywood films had brought her. By making 
films herself in Britain, she told herself she would not only 
help to revitalise British films, now receiving some belated 
assistance from the recently passed Quota Act, but also create 
a new outlet for herself and her stories, and restore her fortune 
again to the pinnacle from which it had so sadly slipped in 
the past few years. 

Accordingly she formed a small company, Elinor Glyn Pro- 
ductions, Ltd., and rented studio space at Elstree. She en- 
gaged a production manager who had been well recommended 
and placed the lighting and photography in the hands of the 
man who had been Mary Pickford's cameraman for eleven 
years. She asked Edward Knoblock, who had been one of her 
fellow authors in the early days in Hollywood, to collaborate 
with her on the script. United Artists guaranteed a release 
and promised a large advance payment on delivery of the 
negative. The prospect for the moment seemed fair and the 
production, which was financed entirely by Elinor herself, be- 
gan in the autumn of 1 929. 

The film, Knowing Men, was based on a story Elinor had 

318 



The Legend 

written for Clara Bow but which had been rejected in favour 
of Red Hctir. It was a very slight and improbable comedy 
about an heiress who pretended to be a poor companion to 
her aunt so as to discover the real characters and intentions of 
her male admirers. Several of the scenes were rather risque 
and the critics found them shocking. Elissa Landi played the 
Clara Bow part with great charm and Carl Brisson did his 
best for the stupid but athletic hero; the cast also included 
Helen Haye and Jeanne de Casalis. H. Fraser-Simson wrote 
a catchy theme song and Elinor herself directed her first talk- 
ing picture. 

The production went smoothly and was finished in only 
two days over the scheduled time, to the amazement of the 
Elstree studio manager. The first night took place at the Regal 
Cinema (now the Odeon), Marble Arch, in February 1930. 
For years Elinor had been protected and insulated from the 
blasts of criticism by the organised publicity campaigns of the 
big film studios and she had not realised what it was like to 
be entirely on her own. She was aware that the film was not 
as good as her Hollywood productions, but she hoped that the 
reviewers would be indulgent, as it was her money that she 
was spending. In this she was sadly disappointed. 

She had been unwise enough to appear in a prologue to the 
film delivering a scathing speech about the failings of the male 
sex, and this alienated the audience from the start. The no- 
tices that Knowing Men received were so bad as to be news 
in themselves. One of the kinder of the critics wrote : 

Neither plot nor direction display originality and the pic- 
ture suffers from the writer's deep and apparently incurable 
mistrust of men, first displayed thirty years ago when she 
introduced Elizabeth, the child of her fancy, to a sniggering 
public. 

We may note with some surprise that the critic's hostility was 
so widespread as to envelop in retrospect Elinor's first novel, 

319 



Elinor Glyn 

which had been so highly praised by the critics of the time 
and which was not at the moment under review. 

The morning after the disastrous first night Edward 
Knoblock obtained a temporary injunction preventing the pic- 
ture being shown again, and the film had to be taken off 
after one performance, pending the hearing of the case. 
Knoblock lost the case and a permanent injunction was re- 
fused, but the damage was done and the release missed. Ex- 
cept for the guaranteed advance, the film was a dead loss. 

In London at the time was the head of United Artists, Mr. 
Schenk, and he thought sufficiently well of Knowing Men 
to urge Elinor to make further films, which he would dis- 
tribute for her. He even spoke hopefully of an American re- 
lease. Elinor was riled by the treatment that Knowing Men 
had received and allowed herself to be persuaded by his sug- 
gestions. 

The Price of Things was chosen for her second film in 
the hope that a more dramatic story would appeal to those 
critics who had taken exception to her comedy, but despite 
Mr. Schenk's promises no release of any kind was forthcom- 
ing and it too was a complete loss to the litde company. 



Elinor was now back where she had been twenty years be- 
fore, reduced to writing novels in haste to pay off her debts, 
and in the next four years she published four novels and a 
book of short stories. To live on, she had only the annuity 
which the Rhys-Williamses had bought for her out of the 
savings from her first four American films and it was obvious 
that a policy of severe retrenchment was necessary. Wolsey's 
Spring was sold and Elinor moved into a small flat in Hert- 
ford Street, near Shepherd's Market, Mayf air . 

She could also no longer support her mother. The flat in 

320 



The Legend 

Embankment Gardens was given up and Mrs. Kennedy went 
to live at Miskin Manor, the Rhys-Williamses* country home 
in Glamorgan. Here she remained for the last seven years of 
her life. 

They were in some ways the happiest years since Douglas 
Sutherland's death. Mrs. Kennedy had her own suite of rooms 
where she lived with her devoted maid, Frances, and from 
which she could see across the fields to the bluebell wood. 
She would come down ceremonially to lunch and dinner each 
day, a manner of life which reminded her nostalgically of 
the better days at Lamberts. Especially pleasant were the mo- 
ments in the summer and at Christmas when there was a 
large family gathering in the house. 

Following her stroke her memory was strangely elliptical. 
She remembered only the happy days of her life and a few of 
the minor unpleasantnesses the journey in the schooner to 
South America, the smell of the slave ships in Rio. The major 
horrors, the winter journey home from Turin to England with 
her dying husband, his death, the whole of her marriage to 
Mr. Kennedy, were effaced altogether. 

She died on April zo, 1937, at the age of ninety-six. 



Elinor lived in her Hertford Street flat till 1934, when she 
moved to a larger one in Connaught Place, Bayswater, with 
a lovely blue and gold drawing-room overlooking Hyde Park. 
Both these flats she filled with her own taste and personality. 
Her fine collection of French furniture and pictures, her beau- 
tiful silks and brocades, her tiger skins gave her drawing-room 
a unique and piquant atmosphere. One American visitor com- 
plained later that "There wasn't a darned chair in the room 
you could relax in/' but Elinor herself, except when she was 
curled up on a sofa, always sat upright in a chair. 



'Elinor Glyn 

There were five of her tigers on view: "Paul" (the original 
one from Lucerne), "Curzon," "Milner," and two anonymous 
ones. She loved them, for their own sakes, but their presence 
invariably stimulated reporters, who came frequently to in- 
terview her about love, marriage or "it," into keeping the tiger- 
skin legend alive. 

Elinor also acquired about this time a pair of marmalade- 
coloured cats whom she named Candide and Zadig, as a trib- 
ute to Voltaire. They were beautiful, proud, independent 
creatures of enormous character and "it," in many ways very 
like their mistress. Elinor was devoted to them and they be- 
came as much a feature of her life as her tigers. 

She was at this time continually in the public eye, an almost 
lengendary person, a red-haired, green-eyed Queen of Pas- 
sion, who spent her day, so it was supposed, reclining on her 
tiger skins. The "it" vogue showed no signs of abating, and 
hardly a day passed without some reference to this personal 
quality in some paper or magazine. Her opinion was sought 
on all sorts of current controversial problems, and she con- 
tributed a large number of articles both to the British and 
American press on topics of the day, principally, of course, 
love and marriage. Her own name was another factor, a 
fortuitous one, in keeping her name before the public, and 
jokes about Nell Glyn pattered regularly from variety come- 
dians. 

Although it was now thirty years since she had published 
her first novels, her books, in particular the earlier ones, 
showed no signs of waning popularity. In 1933 Ray Smith's 
Twopenny Library reported, with a certain amount of sur- 
prise, that the three women authors most in demand were 
still Ethel M. Dell, Elinor Glyn, and Marie Corelli, in that 
order. The overseas demand for Elinors novels was also well 
maintained. In the same year a Lisbon statistician stated that 
the seven novelists of any nationality most widely read in 
Portugal were Edgar Wallace, Rafael Sabatini, Conan Doyle, 

322 



The Legend 

A. E. W. Mason, E. M. Hull, P. G Wren, and Elinor Glyn. 
Elinor's own taste in books had altered little in the last sixty 
years. She read no modern or recent fiction other than her 
own novels. Her favourite books, to which she turned again 
and again, and which she now possessed in sumptuous calf- 
bound copies, given to her by Curzon, were the ones which 
she had come to love during her childhood in Jersey: the 
Greek classics, Sterne, Chesterfield, La Rochefoucauld, Vol- 
taire, and, pre-eminently, Kingsley's The Heroes. To these 
she had later added Syrnonds' Renaissance in Italy, Pater's 
Marius the Epicurean, Lander's Pericles and Aspasia, and 
James Bain's A Digit of the Moon, the latter's thoughts on 
reincarnation coinciding strongly with her own beliefs. 



6. 



Elinor had little difficulty in re-establishing herself in her 
old background, and during these last years she went out and 
about a good deal, staying with friends in the country, going 
to lunch, dinner, and cocktail parties in London, attending 
first nights, lunching, as so often before, with friends at the 
Ritz. She loved dancing, but her enjoyment of this favourite 
pastime was reduced by her rheumatic left knee, which was 
often very painful. A heavy fall from a bus which moved on 
while she was still climbing on board damaged this knee 
severely, and she was obliged to spend most of 1932 on her 
sofa. 

She went several times to stay with Hearst at St. Donates 
in Glamorgan, where he had bought the old castle. Into the 
thick castle walls he had built dozens of new bathrooms and 
decorated them lavishly with genuine mediaeval tapestries 
and suits of armour. Downstairs gramophones blared and 
minor film stars shrieked; and presiding over everything was 

3*3 



Eli-nor Glyn 

the genial but autocratic figure of Hearst himself, resplendent 
in bright pink tie and Tyrolean hat. 

Elinor was a popular figure at these gatherings. The starlets 
called her Grandmamma and liked to think they were shock- 
ing someone who had herself shocked an earlier generation. 
Elinor was by this time practically unshockable, but she duti- 
fully pretended to be shocked by their clothes and behaviour, 
and everyone was pleased. 

She was, however, considerably surprised at the way the 
members of the house party chose to amuse themselves. They 
played ceaselessly a game called Monopoly, and Elinor, who 
was bored by most games, was very puzzled. 

"They play all night as well," she commented on her re- 
turn to London af ter one of these visits. "The boredom of it! 
And not even for money P 

It had not been thus in the great days at Easton. 

Elinor also did a certain amount of entertaining herself. 
These parties were pleasant occasions, for she was a good 
hostess, able to listen to two or three separate conversations 
simultaneously and careful to see that no one was left out in 
the cold. One might expect to find there a cross section of the 
different worlds in which she had lived: peers and peeresses, 
politicians, diplomats, soldiers, university professors, foreign 
royalty, American film stars a wide and varied circle of 
friends. There were always as well a large number of young 
people, partly because Elinor liked to have their company 
and partly because she remembered how much she had owed 
to the kindness of Lady Fitzharding in her youth. She would 
take special trouble over debutantes in their first season, ad- 
vising them on hair styles, clothes, and make-up, introducing 
them to eligible young men or to any others of her friends 
whom they might specially wish to meet. 

It was a pleasant pattern of existence, a serene and golden 
sunset after the tempestuous, crowded life she had lived 
earlier. The only dark cloud was the eternal problem of fi- 



3*4 



The Legend 

nance. The income from her annuity was adequate for simple 
living, tut Elinor found it difficult to cut her cloth accordingly. 
Over her chief mania, house decorating, she was as Incor- 
rigible as ever, and her family were for ever persuading her 
out of her yearly plan to make a fresh home for herself some- 
where else. 

"Money!" she exclaimed at one family inquest into her ex- 
penses. "Don't let's any of us ever mention the subject again. 
We get on much better when we don't/ 

It was finally decided that she must no longer have control 
of her own bank account. For the last eight years of her life 
she never signed a cheque. The bank paid all standing ex- 
penses, such as the rent of her flat, and doled out the rest to 
her in cash. With this she paid for everything, and by this 
means she was constrained to live within her income. It was 
typical of her financial scrupulousness that she should have 
accepted this ignominious and inconvenient arrangement so 
completely. Not once did she attempt to evade it, although 
she could have obtained credit anywhere with ease. One must 
feel that Clayton Glyn's reaction to such a plan would have 
been very different. 



"Vanity," Elinor wrote in her commonplace book, "is one 
of the hideous burdens the gods imposed upon mankind, 
knowing that it would for ever keep human beings out of 
Olympus." 

All her life Elinor inveighed against vanity. It was, she 
considered, responsible for those shortcomings of human be- 
haviour that she despised so much shyness, bumptiousness, 
self-consciousness, affectation. These were all forms of bad 
manners, she considered, owing their origin to vanity. It was 
because the person was vain and preoccupied with the im- 

325 



Elinor Glyn 

pression he was making on the other person rather than with 
the person himself that he became tongue-tied or loud- 
mouthed, clumsy or precious, whichever way his self-con- 
sciousness took him. The characters, both in real life and in 
her books, whom she admired most she called sans gene- -at 
ease. It was the mark of a gentleman to be always poised and 
without affectation, completely unaware of the excellent im- 
pression he was making. 

Yet it would take a brave man to declare Elinor herself free 
from vanity. She was always deeply conscious of the effect she 
was creating. She longed for admiration and thrived on it, 
and one may well feel that she herself ought to have been 
the very last person to despise vanity. 

But it would be harsh to regard this as simply an example 
of practising herself what she condemned in others. We may 
think it more just to look on it as yet another contradiction 
of the two sides of her character, her dramatic instincts at 
war once again with her eighteenth-century training in self- 
restraint. 

Elinor herself would have had no difficulty in explaining 
the inconsistency. It was merely the difference between van- 
ity and pride. She wrote in her commonplace book : 

Vanity is the desire for the esteem of others, which, sub- 
consciously, we know that we do not deserve. 

False pride is the result of sub-conscious knowledge of 
inferiority which makes the individual experience a pro- 
found urge to receive all the outward and standardised 
proofs of honour. 

Real pride is the consciousness that there is God's image 
within us, which must not be degraded. 

"It is vanity which makes you cry/' she would observe to 
a child sobbing after a rebuke. "Pride would prevent it/' 

When R. J. Minney, the playwright, was going to Holly- 
wood, Elinor gave him a number of letters of introduction to 

326 



The Legend 

her friends there, including one to Irving Thalberg, the pro- 
ducer. 

"And tell him," went on Elinor, producing a copy of Lytton 
Strachey's Elizabeth and Essex, "that this is to be the subject 
of his next film. And I wish to play Queen Elizabeth/ 1 She 
went on to illustrate the various gestures and expressions she 
would use to portray Queen Elizabeth's various moods. 

When Minney got to Hollywood, he duly passed on Elinor's 
lighthearted message to Thalberg. Thalberg commented : 

"Well, it's quite an idea. She could certainly manage the 
part. Why, she's always acting." 

This remark was not passed back to Elinor and her reaction 
to it cannot be judged. She might have taken it in the same 
frivolous spirit in which she had sent her own message, or 
she might have been hurt. To be "always acting** was hardly 
consistent with being natural or sons gine. 

Thalberg's comment, though at first sight true enough, is 
too simple and sweeping. Elinor, undoubtedly, was usually 
playing a part, adopting a pose; but she did it for reasons very 
different from the usual reasons. People who are "always act- 
ing" normally borrow their poses from others they admire in 
order to hide some inadequacy, some interior hollowness. Eli- 
nor borrowed her poses from no one. She drew them up out 
of the rich storehouse of her own personality. 

There were four principal poses and we have met them all 
already. The one which fortunately predominated was her 
Elizabeth pose gay, witty, sophisticated, and affectionate. 
There was also a pose of queenly passion reminiscent of 
Three Weeks. There was the Halcyone pose, fey, simple, 
naive, openhearted. And, fourthly, there was the Ambrosine 
pose, a particularly tiresome one, full of misunderstood self- 
pity. She adopted one or other of these poses as the mood or 
the occasion suited her, changing it as easily as a dress, some- 
times to the bewilderment of her friends. 

But her poses were not artificial; they were the products of 

327 



Elinor Glyn 

the many-sidedness of her own personality. They were, if the 
contradiction in terms may be allowed, genuine poses. And in 
so far as she was "always acting/' she was acting and we may 
think sometimes burlesquing the part of Elinor Glyn. 

Nor was there any interior hoUowness to conceal. A great 
number of people have testified that even a single meeting 
with her was an unforgettable experience. A few minutes' 
conversation with her was enough to reveal a highly charged, 
full-blooded personality, with a richness and a vitality rarely 
encountered in any walk of life. 



8. 

In 1931, Elinor went to Hungary at the invitation of Baron 
and Baroness Rubido-Zichy, staying for about two months^ 
and getting background for a new novel which she was plan- 
ning. 

Hungary had been a republic ever since the breakup of 
the Austrian Empire in 1918, but Elinor found, to her great 
pleasure, that many of the aristocracy hoped that the mon- 
archy might be restored at a not too distant date. Hungarian 
society was the most exclusive that she had yet met. Despite 
the general impoverishment of the landed classes after the 
Treaty of Versailles, it was not yet possible for any upstart, 
however rich, to buy himself into the aristocratic set, an ex- 
clusiveness of which she approved. 

There were, she discovered, two separate aristocratic circles 
in Hungary, One was rich and cosmopolitan, at home in Buda- 
pest or Cannes or Paris, The other comprised members of the 
old and famous families who had not had the means to travel 
abroad. Their behaviour towards Elinor was equally courteous 
and well bred, but because of the narrowness of their ex- 
perience and interests it was difficult, even when they spoke 
English well, to keep up a long conversation with them. 

3** 



The Legend 

The Hungarian people as a whole she found surprisingly 
different from all their neighbours; practical, unlike the 
Austrians; casual about financial gain; proud, independent, 
and still, at that time, completely feudal. No Hungarian lord 
would dare treat his servants or his peasants in the curt, 
peremptory manner Elinor had observed in Russia and Aus- 
tria; and no Hungarian peasant, no matter how poor, would 
dream of letting his wife work for hire. 

The Hungarian people, Elinor decided, were, If anything, 
nearer to the British people than to anyone else in their atti- 
tude toward life, in their mutual respect between the various 
classes, in their love of sport, and above all, in their love of 
horses. Hungary was, she discovered, the land of horses. Every- 
one seemed to be a born rider and the advent of the motorcar 
had apparently made no difference. There were statues of 
horses in the streets of Budapest; everyone took a keen in- 
terest in racing, hunting, polo, and driving. On the country 
estates the horse was supreme. 

Elinor's Hungarian novel, Loves Hour, which was pub- 
lished in March 1932,, was, as the tide shows, intended to 
echo her best-selling Russian novel of twenty-two years be- 
fore. There are, indeed, many points of similarity, in the 
delineation of minor characters, in the construction, and es- 
pecially in the evocation of a country, a people, and a society, 
which was the chief feature of His Hour. If the picture of 
Hungary seems less striking, that is perhaps due to the fact 
that life in a Hungarian chateau was not so very different 
from life in an English country house. 

But Elinor's gift of description never failed her and we take 
away from Love's Hour an impression of a civilised, aristo- 
cratic, if once again, rather idle society; Budapest at night; 
gipsy music and Tokay; plains and castles; stags roaring in 
the deer forests; above all, horses those well-groomed, high- 
mettled thoroughbreds handled by their masters with such 
complete expertise and sympathy. It is difficult, as one reads 

3*9 



Elinor Glyn 

the descriptions of horses in Loves Hour, to remember that 
Elinor was, even in Hungary, a confirmed and unswerving 
horse hater. 

Had Love's Hour remained a love story told against this 
colourful background, it might have deserved the same fame 
and success as its predecessor. But unfortunately it misses the 
simplicity and bold sweep of His Hour. It is cluttered up with 
a motley collection of Elinor's other ideas and interests, which 
were now so deeply imbedded in her personality. She tossed 
them In casually, hardly noticing that she did so, not realising 
how inappropriate some of them were to a Hungarian love 
story reincarnation, Greek philosophy, French furniture, 
noblesse oHige, the need for aristocracy, the law of the boom- 
erang, the hunting instinct. The book gives one a compre- 
hensive picture of Elinor's mind, but the story and the 
background are in consequence often a little blurred. The ro- 
mantic pair, both of them rather unreal characters, are paying 
off their "karmic debts" incurred in a former life, and the 
strange, occult atmosphere, which Elinor tried with some suc- 
cess to establish in several scenes, does not mix well with the 
detailed factual descriptions elsewhere. 

There are, however, some magnificent moments of passion. 
The English heroine is, as so often, haughty and disagreeable, 
a Circe enslaving all men's hearts and despising them, and in 
desiring her the hero gives a remarkable example of the vigour 
of the Hungarian hunting instinct. 



The visit to Hungary was the last of Elinor's journeys, for 
we cannot count the several visits to Paris she made in the 
remaining years of peace. She had in her life travelled far 
and wide, from California in the West to Russia in the East, 
usually in the cause of her art, always with relish. She be- 



330 



The Legend 

lieved strongly in the educative influence of travel, in its 
broadening effect upon the mind, illustrated so completely by 
the two Hungarian societies. It was vital, she thought, to meet 
people of other races, other ideas, other customs, even though 
in her case she so often saw foreign countries from the same 
queenVeye view. 

But, wherever she went, her chief interest was in the pur- 
suit of the romantic ideals which were, to her, an essential 
to true living. She herself admitted that the search for ro- 
mance, her felicitous definition of which is printed in the 
first pages of this book, was the guiding principle of her life 
and she was prepared to travel far and wide in her quest. 

She summarised her conclusions about one aspect of ro- 
mance in a characteristic passage in her commonplace book, 
though one must think that it was derived more from general 
observation and deduction than from firsthand experience. 



American 

French 

Austrian 

Hungarian 

Scandinavian 

Russian 

Spanish 

Italian 

English 

German 

All the Near East 



As Lovers- 
Fatherly and uncouth 
Passionate and 'petit-maitre 
Sentimental and feckless 
Passionate and exacting 
Psychological and scientific 
Passionate and unstable 
Jealous and matter-of-fact 
Romantic and fickle 
Casual and adorable 
Sentimental and vulgar 
Passionate and untrustworthy. 



10. 



Elinor's appearance during these years was as astonishingly 
youthful as ever. Miss Christina Foyle recalls that at a literary 



33* 



Elinor Glyn 

luncheon in 1939, a young man asked to be introduced to "the 
beautiful young girl/' Even when one was close to her, there 
were no visible telltale signs to show that she was in her mid- 
dle seventies. 

The number of her admirers, too, showed no signs of fall- 
ing off, and she was carrying on at this time an amorous cor- 
respondence with a Polish Prince in America, an Austrian 
Prince in Vienna and, of all people, Field-Marshal Manner- 
heim of Finland, whom she had known both in St. Petersburg 
and in Paris. These affairs, if they may be so called, never 
progressed beyond the correspondence stage, and Elinor 
treated them with lightheartedness, although she answered 
the letters gravely and carefully (observing of the Austrian 
Prince, "One has to be so careful with Austrians, they com- 
mit suicide so easily") She was, however, considerably grati- 
fied to think that even in her seventies Princes and Field- 
Marshals still wished her to fly with them. 

Her heart was never engaged. After the Curzon episode 
she was never again capable of supreme self-denying love. 
The most she could achieve was fondness and affection, no- 
tably for Milner. She had been badly hurt once and she was 
thankful to find that she was never so vulnerable again. 

The effect upon her of her relationship with Curzon is 
more evident at this stage than immediately after its end. 
Then there had been no outward or visible effect. We may re- 
call a phrase from her diary quoted earlier in this book about 
a friend of hers similarly forsaken: "But she is a person of 
the old school and she gives no sign." It was the same with 
Elinor. It would have been unthinkable to give any sign. Pri- 
vate emotion, private suffering must be held in an iron self- 
control and must be concealed from the world. That had been 
the teaching of Mrs. Saunders; it was Elinor's own teaching,, 
too. 

She bore no resentment against Curzon. Rancour was an 
emotion of which she was always wholly incapable. His qual- 

332 



The Legend 

ities never seemed to Her less than admirable, and during these 
last years she spoke of him frequently, not as the great love 
of her life, but as the most interesting of her many friends; 
and it is in this guise that he appears briefly in her autobiog- 
raphy. 

Curzon's influence upon her may be seen in the fact that 
she now took it for granted that all young men should wish 
to be exactly like him. He was the beau ideal. She assumed, 
as a matter of course, that her grandsons would wish to follow 
in his footsteps, would enter politics, and would be inspired 
by the Curzonian triple crown of ambition Captain of the 
Oppidans at Eton, Viceroy of India, and Prime Minister 
the last tier of which had eluded even him. (Three of her 
grandsons did achieve this position at Eton. But none of them 
have gone into politics, and the viceroyalty of India is no 
more.) 



11. 



Elinor's autobiography, Romantic Adventure, was pub- 
lished in June 1936. She had had a serious illness and opera- 
tion the previous year and it was a considerable effort and 
achievement to deliver the manuscript on time. There were 
many aspects of her life and career with which, of course, she 
could not herself deal and she could not be expected to ex- 
amine, except by implication, her character or her work with 
the objectivity that has been possible here. But at the same 
time she was able to give a spirited account of her vivid and 
varied life, and it would be ungracious for me not to acknowl- 
edge here the great help I have received in writing this book 
from Romantic Adventure, especially in the early chapters, 
where few other sources of information are available. 

The book was well received by the critics. The Times 
Literary Supplement atoned for many early blows with a 

333 



Elinor Glyn 

charming review, appreciating the solace she had given to in- 
numerable readers and wishing her many adventures and 
much more romance. The side of herself which she revealed 
in her autobiography came as a considerable surprise to her 
public, who, in default of any other information about her 
private life, had vaguely identified her with the heroine of 
Three Weeks. For the first time they learned something of 
the true background of her life; of the aristocratic circles in 
which she moved and the eighteenth-century standards and 
manners which she maintained so inflexibly; of her hours of 
adversity and the courage with which she always met them; 
of the various adventures of her life which she entered upon 
so gayly; above all, of the sheer, slogging hard work that lay 
behind her success. 

It was very far from being the popular picture of Elinor 
Glyn. Mr. Beverley Nichols wrote at this time in an article 
in the Sunday Chronicle: 

I looked again at the beautiful woman who was still 
beautiful because of her strict and almost Spartan respect 
for her body and her looks. It was Elinor Glyn. 

Reputations are curious things. I suppose if you asked 
the average young man in the street what sort of woman 
Elinor Glyn was, he would tell you that she spent most of 
her time on a tiger skin, smoking scented cigarettes, writing 
passionate passages with a purple pen and occasionally sip- 
ping a liqueur. 

This is so exacdy the opposite from her normal mode of 
life that it is worth noting. 

Elinor Glyn does not loll about on tiger skins, nor on 
anything else. She sits bolt upright on a hard chair. Hence 
she has the shoulders of a young girl, although she is a 
grandmother. She does not drink liqueurs. She drinks water 
lots of it 

is the rhythm of 



334 



The Legend 

Elinor Glyn*s life. Mental discipline as well as physical 
because she is one of the few women I know who goes 
daily to the fresh stream of the classics for her inspiration. 
And yet in the popular imagination, she is a whirlwind 
of eroticism. 



12. 



During the summer of 1936, Elinor rented a cottage near 
Taplow and the following year, still temporarily bored with 
London, she took a flat at Saltdean, near Brighton. This she 
redecorated in her own individual style, impervious to the con- 
trast between the square block of flats, with its low rooms and 
modern doors, and her Louis XV furniture. The ceilings she 
painted the same bright colours as the walls, a technique of 
decoration which in such small rooms caused an almost pain- 
ful intensity of colour. 

Both at Taplow and at Saltdean she would wander about 
the village, talking to the people, learning about their lives 
and families in a way she had never done in Essex. She was 
much mellower now. The haughtiness, the arrogance, the 
class-consciousness were almost all gone. She was more toler- 
ant, too, of shortcomings, even in the things that mattered 
most to her, though from time to time her old self would still 
flash out. To her thirteen-year-old granddaughter, who came 
to see her without wearing gloves, she observed icily, "Are 
you especially proud of your hands? " 

Elinor's health had been weakened by the operation and 
she no longer had the same buoyant energy, the same creative 
urge. She still wrote her diary and long, amusing letters to 
friends, but her literary career, as far as the public was con- 
cerned, was almost over. Her knee, too, continued to pain her 
and restricted her activities. She liked, however, to walk along 
the front at Saltdean, getting as near as possible to the great 

335 



Elinor Glyn 
waves which crashed against the cliffs during the equinoctial 



storms. 



In February 1939, Elinor returned to Jersey for the first 
time since Mr. Kennedys death in 1888. It was something 
of a triumph; parties and receptions were given for her, both 
at Government House and elsewhere. The Bailiff of Jersey 
presented her with the Great Seal of the Island, The shops 
where she had dealt in her youth sent presents; autograph 
hooks arrived Ly the hundred. The Rotary Club gave a lunch 
for her and she wrote in her diary : 

They were delighted with my speech apparently. Not 
one person made me any compliments or expressed surprise 
that I looked so young, or said anything personally ap- 
preciativealthough what I must have looked like among 
them I can't think! All hats too big in the head and rammed 
down, like ten years ago. Just too comic and behind the 
times. I wore my brown suit and my sables as it was too 
warm for the mink coat, and the fur hat that Margot likes. 
They, however, clapped to the echo. They are awfully proud 
of me as their own! 

Elinor also met some relatives of her last governess who 
had died shortly before, aged ninety-five. The governess ap- 
parently had prided herself on having taught Elinor Glyn, 
who was such a brilliant child, a verdict at variance with her 
expressed views at the time. 

When Elinor was not attending functions or receptions, she 
would travel about the island, reliving the memories and re- 
visiting the haunts of her youth. 

We passed all the old landmarks. The college high on 

33* 



The Legend 

the hill, up on top of It along the parapet was where I 
received the first kiss from my "Eton boy! P I remember 
I felt obliged to be very insulted and angry and not to 
speak to him for some days, but I really enjoyed the ex- 
citement very much! ! 

No. 55 Colomberie had been pulled down, but Richelieu 
was still there, strangely naked with all the ivy pulled off. 
She searched for, but did not find, the house where she had 
been born. But there were many other things for her to show 
Margaret, her maid. 'That house where an actress once 
stayed we were not allowed to look up when passing/' She 
could not help mourning the spoliation of the green island 
in the last fifty years, the shacks and bungalows spreading 
like a blight along the shore. 

Elinor stayed at Government House and noted sadly the 
decline from the earlier standards of elegance. The atmos- 
phere of the place was changed. 

The nil admirari note strong! The whole atmosphere 
with no deference to the Governor or the hostess was just 
too astonishing in contrast to the etiquette of our day. We 
just walked anyhow into dinner and the Governor indicated 
that I was to sit on his right hand. No ceremony at all, or 
names by plates. I am not saying whether this change is 
for the better or worse, nor do I mean any snobbish 
criticism. I am merely putting down the astonishing change. 
To us the Governor meant the representative of Queen 
Victoria and as such was reverenced and we paid him 
homage. Now everyone is "hail fellow well met!" 

The exclusive Government House set, of which the Ken- 
nedys had been such jealous members and to which entry 
was only to be obtained by having the correct introductions, 
was gone. Elinor saw, with mixed feelings, that both the 
Lieutenant-Governor and his wife were now, in Mrs. Saun- 

337 



Elinor Glyn 

ders* phrase, 'familiar with the wrong people." Guests were 
BOW invited to Government House who would not have been 
permitted inside the grounds fifty years earlier. All the 
splendour, all the sacrosanct etiquette seemed to have gone, 
though Elinor noted thankfully that the loyal toast, "The 
Duke,* 3 (of Normandy) was still drunk at dinner. 

Most shocking of all to Elinor was the realisation of the 
petty rivalries and spiteful gossip which went on and from 
which the Kennedys, in their aloof and exclusive society, had 
been to some extent insulated. 

The impression grew and grew upon me that the whole 
island is now full of bad, petty and envious vibrations. I 
found it almost impossible to concentrate upon my prayers 
and golden light, as if some dirty mist were between. 

We must have been really strong characters under Gran's 
[Mrs. Kennedy's] aloof influence, always to have struggled 
away from the small petty gossips and never to have be- 
come as the others were. "I want to get out, I want to get 
out*' like Sterne's starling, I always used to cry! Lucy mar- 
ried really for no other reason but to get away. I remem- 
ber now feeling on the boat in 1888 when we finally left, 
that prison doors were opening at last. It cannot be good 
for human beings to be on so small an island with no out- 
side interests. I never wish to go back again. 

But I only found kindness and welcome and honour in 
my short time there now. For good or ill I was born there 
and spent the years there, on and off, from 1873 to 1888. 

This was my last night in Jersey. We left for St. Malo 
early next day with bouquets of violets and homage, and 
France seemed free and wonderful on landing. 



33* 



The Legend 



14. 

The outbreak of the Second World War found Elinor at 
Saltdean. Her reaction to the news was characteristic. The 
passing of time and the buffets of life had left her idealism 
undimmed and her view was simple and unshakeable. Part 
of her diary entry for the fifth of September, 1939, re ads: 

1 7 A Curzon House, Saltdean. 

War was declared on Sunday last with Germany that 
pagan doomed country ruled by a mad upstart, evidendy 
under the strong influence of very evil forces. So that it is 
not like an ordinary war waged between greedy human 
beings. This seems to be the first war since the inspired 
Crusades, which on our side is for purely altruistic reasons. 
So that we shall certainly win it presently, if we learn the 
lesson of it in time. 

It may be the means of removing for ever oppression and 
class-hatred and selfishness and injustice. The last war gave 
great liberty from custom and convention. It broadened 
people's outlook, but the misery had been so great that 
many of orthodox religion lost faith and seemed afterwards 
to drift. Immediately after, the younger generation seemed 
to become putrid. Vices never spoken of openly before were 
chaffed about and thought quite ordinary. To say a young 
man was a "pansy" was no longer a crushing disgrace. But 
while all that generation grew more and more disgusting, 
education was advancing and gradually a keener under- 
standing of everything began to appear and now the very 
young seem to be splendid people. The Forces of Good are 
fighting upon our side against the forces of evil. So the end 
is sure to be glorious. We have only to bear the terrible 
intermediate period. Thus, at nearly 75, I look on with, I 
hope, wise, experienced eyes. 

339 



Elinor Glyn 

Equally typical was an incident which she recorded later 
in the same extract. 

On Sunday, just as I was going to Rottingdean to have 
lunch with Margot and the boys, an air raid warning 
sounded. A foolish woman was creating a mild panic in 
the hall. I am afraid I snubbed her, but immediately calm 
was restored. 

One can imagine the withering scorn with which she must 
have castigated the woman. Her lack of self-control, her out- 
burst of "servant's behaviour*' would have been deplorable at 
any time. Now, with a war on, it was not to be passed over 
in silence. 

In due course Elinor returned to London, to her new flat 
in Carrington House, Shepherd's Market, the part of London 
which she loved most. In this flat, smaller than her ones in 
Connaught Place or Hertford Street, she established her own 
characteristic milieu, and it remained her home for the rest of 
her life. Her move was fortunate and well timed, for both the 
Connaught Place and the Saltdean flats were severely dam- 
aged in later air raids. 

October 17, 1939, was Elinor's seventy-fifth birthday, and 
she attended a large celebration lunch at the Berkeley. Al- 
though she fought the appearance, mind, and habits of old 
age as resolutely as ever, it was not part of her attitude to 
conceal her real age. She was rather proud of the advancing 
years and of the little mark they left upon her. One of the few 
signs of the passing time may be detected in the increasing 
terseness of the daily entries in her diary. The entry for the 
seventeenth of October concludes : 

"Dozens of roses. People so kind. Lose gas-mask/' The gas 
mask had had a short and inglorious career; she had never 
been much interested in it. 

The blackout, however, intimidated her a good deal. Two 
days later she wrote : 

34 



The Legend 

"Have fall in black-out by stupidity of Sir A. .* 

And the following day : 

"Not well enough to go to wedding* Sir A. brings flowers 

because of having been so stupid." 

The fall damaged her knee again, and for the rest of that 
winter she went out as little as possible at night. Instead she 
wrote a new novel, her last. The Third Eye was her only 
attempt at a thriller and was inspired by the stories of secret 
service which had been related to her by Sir Paul Dukes, 
a close friend at this time. 

Elinor's other literary work were her occasional articles in 
the British press and, more notably, her regular contributions 
to the Hearst press in America. She was the only British writer 
admitted now to the columns of the Hearst newspapers and 
she liked to think that her articles about wartime England 
were doing something to help the war cause. 



When invasion was feared in May 1940, her family sent 
Elinor, protesting, to the Rhys-Williamses* country house, 
Miskin Manor, in South Wales, There she remained for sev- 
eral months. She recognised that her presence in London was 
a liability and an anxiety to her family but this did not prevent 
her feeling bored and out of things, suddenly cut off from the 
social intercourse which had always formed such a part of her 
life. 

When other members of the family were there on leave 
from the Army, or on holiday from school, the atmosphere of 
the house was, even under the war conditions, almost as agree- 
able and gay as it had been in the old days. But for much of 
the time she was alone there with her adolescent granddaugh- 
ter, to whom she gave continual advice about poise and de- 
portment. Out of sheer boredom she came to adopt far more 

341 



Elinor Qlyn 

frequently than usual her Ambrosine pose, till it almost 
ousted her normal Elizabeth mood. 

Sometimes, however, other moods would show themselves. 
The house was being requisitioned by the Army for a field 
ambulance unit and an R.A.M.C major came to inspect it. 
Partly to amuse herself and partly as a demonstration to her 
granddaughter of feminine attraction, Elinor set herself out to 
bewitch the unsuspecting major. Assuming her Three Weeks 
pose and dressing with elaborate care, she sat under a mag- 
nolia tree and greeted the major on his arrival with that special 
mixture of imperiousness and hidden passion which she had 
captured so successfully in her best seller. She commanded 
the major to sit down beside her and in her most dramatic 
manner she read Three Weeks aloud to him. She had lost 
none of her own charm and the major left a few hours later, 
having made only the most perfunctory inspection of the 
building, but deeply impressed by Elinor Glyn. 

It was not, however, boredom or loneliness which finally 
drove Elinor away from Miskin, but horror of old age. Her 
mother had lived the last seven years of her life in the rooms 
at the end of the big passage and her aura still hung about 
them. Mrs. Kennedy had never resisted old age as her daugh- 
ter did. Indeed, she had almost seemed to welcome it. She was 
a gracious, serene old lady, lace-capped and ebony-sticked, and 
she had been like that for the last forty years of her life, 
hardly changing in outward appearance. In that house, in 
that passage, Elinor, her daughter, could see the shape of 
things to come only too clearly. The image was already materi- 
alising for her, ghost-like, photographed upon the air, herself 
with lace cap and ebony stick, white-haired, fumbling. 

It was to her the ultimate horror and she shrank from it. 
Better anything, better bombs than that. She must get away 
from Miskin now, quickly, before old age got too firm a grip 
upon her. 



34* 



The Legend 



16. 

The air raids were now at their full violence, but Elinor, 
back in London, was not daunted by them and was happy at 
her return to her well-loved setting. She was even able to 
pick up something of her old life. On the twelfth of Sep- 
tember, 1 940, she wrote to Margot : 

The raids are truly too interesting! One has to keep say- 
ing "I am not dreaming, this is really England and not a 
wild west show of incessant shooting.* Irene's [Lady 
Ravensdale's] house was hit on Monday night. 

The Foyle luncheon was very interesting yesterday. Duff 
Cooper made an excellently worded speech but he has no 
magnetism or good voice or delivery. Now we must get 
ready for invasion I suppose! The curious thing is that every- 
one is speaking of it just as if it were a new oyster season 
opening or some quite natural ordinary thing! 

I am enjoying it all! Fondest love to you all, darling. 

Her general health, however, was weaker. In her diary 
there are an increasing number of mentions of feeling ill: 
"Did not feel well" or "Too tired to go out." 

This physical ill-health and weariness brought with it a cer- 
tain amount of mental and emotional depression. But, as ever, 
she kept this concealed, as far as possible, from her family 
and friends. In the company of visitors she was stimulated 
into being her normal, buoyant Elizabeth self, ready to dis- 
cuss the war news, or Greek philosophy, or eighteenth-cen- 
tury furniture, or love with all comers. I remember visiting 
her on her birthday, bringing her some oysters. She was in 
rather low spirits when I arrived and was staying in bed that 
big bed with the silk canopy which was the most striking 

343 



Elinor Glyn 

feature of her bedroom. As we talked, she blossomed out into 
her old self, ending by measuring my Sam Browne belt to 
compare it with her own waistline at the same age. 

During the summer of 1942 she fell ill again, this time 
more seriously. On September 20 she wrote to Marion Davies 
in Hollywood, in a handwriting so weak and shaky that it is 
hardly decipherable : 

Marion darling- 
How good you are sending all these lovely things. W.R. 
[Hearst] so kind too with the two packets. I know you 
will forgive me writing so badly. I have been very ill. I had 
a kind of sudden turn (not the usual old age stroke or high 
blood pressure). Just a turn of faintness. However, I am 
much better now, so I thank you as soon as I can hold the 
pencil. 

This ugly war! It is getting a turn for the better so per- 
haps the end may come soon. I shall always carry on and say 
Cheerio! till the end anyway. I know we shall win all right. 
Fondest love and oh do thank W.R. Ill write when I 
can. I am grateful. 

Elinor 

The flesh was now very frail but the spirit was still as vital 
as ever. 

She recovered from this illness, but old age, so trium- 
phantly held at bay for so long, was now coming in on the 
flood tide. Neither her memory nor her concentration was as 
it had been. When one talked to her, one had often the im- 
pression that her mind was a long way away, that her spirit 
was already beginning to move out of her failing body. 

In the summer of 1943 she fell ill again, and on September 
15 she was removed to a nursing home. On the evening of 
the twenty-second of September she lost consciousness and 
she died in the early hours of the following morning, the 
twenty-third of September, 1943, a few weeks before her 



344 



The Legend 

seventy-ninth birthday. Her funeral took place at Golders 
Green Crematorium. 



Despite the severe restriction on the size of newspapers 
and the demands of their space, The Times wrote a full, 
thoughtful, and appreciative obituary notice, surveying Eli- 
nor's life and works and ending: 

At first she dealt in scarlet passions and risque innocence; 
but beneath her pretensions to sophistication and dalliance 
with "naughtiness" she was an incurable romantic. She de- 
fined romance as "spiritual disguise created by the imag- 
ination with which to envelop material happenings and 
desires and thus bring them into greater harmony with the 
soul." In accordance with that conception she regulated 
both her life and her work. She was by nature intense and 
lived every moment of a long and adventurous life. Despite 
some foibles and petty vanities she was a vital and coura- 
geous woman. 

It is by her own standards that she should be judged. In 
My Religion she wrote, "I believe Deception, Lying and 
Cruelty are the three deadly sins. And Love, Understanding 
and Courage the three greatest virtues." She sometimes de- 
ceived herself but she never consciously deceived other people; 
nor can one imagine her, under any circumstances, lying or 
cruel. 

Of the three virtues that she prized so highly, she some- 
times failed in understanding. But her courage and her love 
never faltered that love which embraced not only those who 
were nearest and dearest to her, but also her uncountable 
readers, whom she had tried so hard to help and to whom she 
had given so great happiness. 

345 



SOURCES AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS 



This book is derived from the following sources : 

Elinor Glyn's published books and articles; the synopses, 
scenarios, and continuities of her films; certain preliminary drafts 
and unpublished manuscripts. 

The diary which she kept intermittently from 1879 to 1942 
and which she used to record thoughts and impressions rather 
than the events of her life; the journals which she kept on special 
journeys; the notebooks which she used for miscellaneous rec- 
ords and descriptions; the commonplace books in which she 
wrote aphorisms and definitions. 

The recollections of her own family and friends; information 
supplied by those who had business dealings with her; my own 
memories of her during the twenty-one years that our lives over- 
lapped. 

The letters which she wrote to the members of her family 
when she was away from home, and the bulk of which have been 
preserved; such of her business and personal correspondence with 
her friends as has survived; certain other relevant family papers. 

The contemporary press notices of her books and films; various 
newspaper and magazine articles about her. 

I am deeply grateful to all those who sent me information and 
reminiscences, or who allowed me to come and ask questions, and 
in this connection I would particularly like to thank the Baroness 
Ravensdale, Lady Moore-Guggisberg, Miss Mary Dixon, Miss 
Alice Head, Miss Christina Foyle, Miss Ruby Miller, Miss Evadne 
Price, Mr. Alan Arnold, Mr. Jonathan Cape, the Honourable 
Mervyn Horder, Mr. George MUsted, and Mr. R. J. Minney. My 
thanks are also due to Miss Joyce Weiner for valuable suggestions 

347 



Elinor Glyn 

and advice, and to the librarians and staff of the British Museum 
Newspaper Library and the National Film Library for kind and 
patient assistance. But my principal debt is to the members of my 
family for much encouragement, for a wealth of reminiscence and 
factual material, for entrusting me with a mass of family papers, 
and for reading and checking this book in typescript. It is a debt 
that cannot be adequately acknowledged in one sentence. 

I must, however, make it clear that this book is not intended as 
a family tribute to Elinor Glyn. I have tried to see her as objectively 
as possible, consistent with the demands of filial piety, and I am 
solely responsible for the selection and the arrangement of all ma- 
terial and, except where otherwise indicated, for all opinions ex- 
pressed. 

My thanks are also due to Elinor Glyn, Ltd., Gerald Duckworth 
Co., Ltd., Ivor Nicholson & Watson, Ltd., and The Amalgamated 
Press, Ltd., for permission to quote from Elinor Glyn's published 
books and articles; to Harper & Brothers for Mark Twain's letter to 
Elinor Glyn, previously published in Mark Twain's Letters, edited 
by Albert Bigelow Paine; to The Times for an extract from Elinor 
Glyn's obituary notice; to Mr. Beverley Nichols and the Sunday 
Chronicle for part of an article by Mr. Nichols; and to the News 
of the World for some sentences from an article by Mr. Samuel 
Goldwyn. 

For permission to quote from private correspondence I must 
record my gratitude to the Viscountess Milner; Mrs. Gerald Duck- 
worth; Elinor Glyn, Ltd.; Hughes Massie & Co., Ltd.; and Apple- 
ton-Century-Crof ts, Inc. 



34$ 





The drawing-room at Connaught Place, 1936. 
Elinor, aged 72, two Persian cats and three 
tiger skins. 



Elinor with the Nevada miners, 1908. 



Drawing of Elinor in Three Weeks pose, 1907. 




ilinor in the stage produc- 
o( Three Weeks, 19GB. 




Shooting Beyond the Rocks, '\ 
Hollywood, 1922. Elinor 
and Rudolph Valentino. 



Le Chat Nelly by Jacques 
Emile Blanche, Dieppe, 
1894. 



128721