05 March 2011

More Edith

Edith Olivier at 54

There was a lot of response to the Edith Olivier post. Again, I can't believe that I never posted about Olivier before. I also failed to mentions some obvious or perhaps I should say, pertinent facts about Edith. The great thing about blogging is that you may leave something out, but your readers always remember. And we are all better for our collective knowledge.

Home Before Dark pointed out that "Olivier" was not only Edith's family name, but one she shared with her distant cousin Larry. A quirky detail I left out but HBD caught: "Edith Olivier was distantly related to the actor Laurence Olivier. I think Edith’s uncle Henry was Sir Laurence’s grandfather. "

Just the type of weirdness I love and left out! Shame on me.

Edith Hope who has a wonderful blog wrote to point me toward her recent post on lunching at the Tate Gallery and visiting "Epicurania" a world created in a 1927 trompe-l'oeil mural by Rex Whistler. The mural was a collaboration with Edith Olivier depicting the story of seven people on an "Expedition in Search of Rare Meats." The Tate, Olivier, Whistler and Rare Meats, what could be more fun!

I was not obvious enough in my post. While Edith Olivier was closely connected to the "Bright Young Things" of Britain's 1930's, she was a bit older than that group whose exploits occurred largely in London. As I pointed out in my somewhat rambling post on Ashcombe, it would seem that much of the BYT's came to Wilton.

Cecil Beaton in the bathroom at Ashcombe

The young Rex Whistler became Edith Olivier protégé.

Handmade "monogrammed" envelope from Rex Whistler to Olivier

It was Olivier who first found Ashcombe for Cecil Beaton. She was a kind of den mother to this passionate and artistic bunch that came to Wilton for their weekends. The guests who came and went are a cavalcade of characters from Harold Acton to Elinor Wylie with a sprinkling of Guinness, Sitwell and Huxley thrown in for good measure. Penelope Middelboe, Edith's great great niece, edited selections from Edith's journals.

The cover features a painting of Edith by Rex Whistler. The journal entries are a fascinating counterpoint to books written during this period. As I said, most of the books about Britain in the 1930 are based in the cities, but Olivier remained in the country. While she was entertaining Oliver Messel and Stephen Tennant she was active in Women's Institute. The journals offer incite into the English countryside juxtaposed against a who's who of the artists that became household names.

Before I got any comments on Edith, I realized I had posted on Ashcombe, who's jacket was done by Rex Whistler and then on Olivier. I thought my next post should really be about Rex Whistler. And maybe it will.


  1. Dear Lucinda, What an enchanting and informative posting which I have much enjoyed reading. The photographs which you have chosen to illustrate your writing are a delight. I did not know of the Journals edited by Penelope Middelboe previously and will now certainly try to seek them out.

    Thank you for the very kind and over generous mention of my weblog. I shall now hope that you will, as you say, post on Whistler.

  2. Lovely post! Any chance on some posts about the Bright Young Things? I would love to read about Diana Guinness Mosley.

  3. Just want to say what a great blog you got here!



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