Writing letters is becoming a lost art outstripped by emailing, tweeting and the artsy instagraming of personal photos posted for public consumption. Image, image, image: but there’s nothing quite as rich and rewarding as private letter-writing for truly getting to know each other, well out of the spotlight, wherever you may be.
Beaton and Blanch first met in London at British Vogue in the 1940s where she was features editor; again in Hollywood in the 1950s; and they remained lifelong friends.
Blanch worked at a desk strewn with books, papers and household bills in the living room. She wrote longhand and could not type. Despite the fire that destroyed much of her house and library in 1992, all was not lost. The surviving letters, postcards, artist’s sketches and writer’s notebooks, photos and other memorabilia are at the Beinecke Library, Yale.
Research notes in lined exercise books, and sections of manuscripts written in longhand, notably for her great work of narrative non fiction, The Sabres of Paradise: Conquest and Vengeance in the Caucasus, first published in 1960, are housed in the library at New College Oxford.
The first of our selection of hitherto unseen private correspondence from the Lesley Blanch Archive, is an undated LETTER from Cecil Beaton to Lesley Blanch written in the month of May (“cuckoo time” as he poetically puts it).
It is followed by a POSTCARD featuring the Sanctuaire de Notre-Dame de Laghet (Alpes Maritimes) sent by Lesley Blanch to Cecil Beaton from Menton, (1972-78)
I was so touched to receive your own letter. Your writing is still as baroque + elegant as ever. Bravo! Mine is getting wilder every day, with writer’s cramp. I’m deep in Loti. What a character! I’m so sick of people smiling patronizingly and saying, “Oh, Loti − I haven’t read him since I was a child . . .” Well, it’s their loss. I’m tangled in his deep roots of childhood − all the later man is there. I get up at 7 go on all day till dusk − hardly an eye for the birds, yelling to be fed. I’ve disconnected the telephone, such bliss – don’t go out or see anyone. Don’t even get dressed, some days. Restful sluttishness prevails. Djellaba over a nightgown is the only way to work, for me + no hairdressers + all that tra-la-la. But the appearance suffers − so does the figure. I sit, sit, sit + eat delicious brown bread with tidal waves of butter.
There you have my life to date. Will write after I’ve seen the Sutros who, with Rory, are the only comfort here. I’ve discovered its full of people either too urban, or too suburban.
Much love, Lesley
P.S: We shall soon paint such ex-votos if ransomed from being hostages. It’s the new danger!
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