PHILIP MARSDEN Like Tolstoy's, her [Lesley Blanch's] sense of history is ultimately convincing not because of any sweeping theses, but because of its particularities, the quirks of individuals and their personal narratives, their deluded ambitions, their vanities and passions



THE GAME OF HEARTS, Harriette Wilson and her Memoirs

Edited & with an Introduction by Lesley Blanch

LESLEY BLANCH "Today, in America, the courtesan may be said to have been replaced by the psychoanalyst. In place of the alcove there is the analyst's office. But basically the functions of both courtesan and analyst have the same principle. Both offer escape, relaxation and individual attention; both are expensive. And the couch is still there"

The reigning courtesan of Regency London, Harriette Wilson's patrons included many of the distinguished men of her day, from the Duke of Wellington to Lord Byron. Hard-pressed for money in middle age, her looks and youth gone, all she had left to sell were her memories. Deliberately written with an eye to blackmail, she sold her memoirs after offering to edit out any lovers who paid her the sum of £200. "Publish and be damned!" cried the Duke of Wellington. She did and she was.

Biography. John Murray, 1957, illus. Current reprint, Weidenfeld & Nicolson/Orion Books, 2003. PB 480 pages £6.99 ISBN 1842126326

 

 


PAVILIONS OF THE HEART, The Four Walls of Love

The title of this book is taken from an Arab love-song which exhorts the beloved to leave the black tents of her tribe, since she has the Red Pavilion of her lover's heart. "I thought that houses in which people have lived and loved were interesting."

Lesley Blanch takes us across the world to visit fourteen different settings where lovers have united for a while, a night, or a lifetime. They range from a modest house near Wimbledon where Nelson loved; the estate of Woronince in the steppes of southern Russia from where Liszt and Princess Carolyne Sayn-Wittgenstein had to flee; and Sultan Murad's room in the Seraglio; to a prison in Siberia; a Portuguese nun's cell; and Kourdane, Aurélie Picard's sumptuous pavilion of the heart in the Sahara.
LESLEY BLANCH "Legends can be as convincing as the most documented history, and legendary characters, particularly those long-dead lovers who are the stuff of legends, can obtain an obsessive hold"

Biography. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1974, illus. HB 192 pages ISBN 0297766929

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ROMAIN, A Private View

Lesley Blanch's personal recollections of her husband, Romain Gary, and their time together from 1944 to 1962.

Diplomat and novelist, he won the Prix Goncourt twice (forbidden by its statues), as Romain Gary in 1956 and under the pseudonym Emile Ajar in 1975.

GAVIN LAMBERT [in a letter to Lesley Blanch dated 22/2/03] I wanted to tell you how extraordinary I found Romain, un regard particuler. It made clear for the first time a lot of things that often puzzled me about Romain, the personal contradictions, the way he could seem alternately remote and longing for contact, sometimes arrogant and sometimes very vulnerable and puzzled. It's such an affectionate portrait, yet full of sharp and sometimes disturbing insights. It was also such a pleasure to read a new book by you, and to hear your voice so unmistakeably ...

Biography. Actes Sud, 1998 PB 170 pages 14,94 ISBN 2742717498 Only ever published in France, translated from the original English by Jean Lambert.

 

 

 


UNDER A LILAC-BLEEDING STAR, Travels And Travellers

Under this unusual title, Lesley Blanch, a compulsive traveller and therefore, according to the Balkan saying, "born under a lilac-bleeding star," writes of life in Bulgaria at the end of the 1940s, and of her travels from Uzbekistan to Guatemala by way of North Africa and Siberia. Alongside her own vivid recollections of life on the move, she weaves in the journeys of Pierre Loti; the last Ruritanian Queen, Marie of Roumania, in her Balkan setting; Vernon Lee, and Laurence Hope.

Her artist's eye for detail and her vitality bring to life people and places. She is there and takes the reader with her.

Travel. John Murray, 1963 HB 208pp illlus

 

 

 

 

 


ROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY DISHES, The World Through The Kitchen Window

Seductive and piquant like its author, this guide to good food is "an appetizer for enthusiastic beginners" rather than a basic cookbook. When it was written, people in Britain still lived on rations and couldn't travel to taste exotic cooking. Blanch's gastronomic world tour starts with the words, "It is said that a nation is made by what it eats: undoubtedly diet affects character." Most of the eighty or so recipes are prefaced by an account of where they were first tasted, or with some amusing anecdote.

ELIZABETH DAVID Russia, Afghanistan, Turkey, America, Egypt, Romania and Bulgaria are just some of the countries where this adventurous and inquisitive traveller has investigated the cooking pots and enjoyed — or otherwise — the hospitality of the locals. An incurable romantic, Miss Blanch invests the food she describes with the aura of exoticism

THE LISTENER For frivolous reading, a book by a unique woman who describes her hobby as frivolous eating

Cookery. John Murray, 1955, with line drawings by the author. Reprinted, Grub Street, 2011 HB 200 pages £9.17 ISBN 1908117184

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