Party like it’s midsummer

From: Ritz and Escoffier: The Hotelier, The Chef, and the Rise of the Leisure Class (2018), by Luke Barr:

“(Baden-Baden, 1888)…Cesar Ritz was a great believer in flowers – vast, extravagant quantities of them…

He hired an orchestra, designed the menu, and then basked in the delight of the prince and his guests. The scene was magical, transporting the diners into a kind of Midsummer Night’s Dream stage-set fantasy, and the evening, despite all the logistical hurdles, was a stunning success…

(D’Oyly Carte) owned the Savoy Theatre on the Strand in London – this was “Theatreland,” they called it, a raucous stretch of the Thames Embankment that was the center of bohemian London’s nightlife…

…There were plenty of large hotels in London (the Langham, the Westminster Palace), but their food and service were mediocre…as for the leading restaurants, they were banal. Stolid chophouses mostly, along with a few decent French restaurants, such as the Cafe Royal and Kettner’s, both favoured by the literary set…

Now, amid the trees and ferns and roses at the Restaurant de la Conversation…, Prince Radziwill holding court at the center of the room, Richard D’Oyly Carte…was offering Ritz a job…

Ritz had only smiled…They all ate at their private clubs, or entertained at home, either in town or at their country estates…

…First and foremost, “the Marlborough House set – Lord Rosebery, Lord and Lady Elcho, Lord and Lady Gosford, Lord and Lady de Grey, the Sassoons.”

From Paul Taylor’s review for The Independent (6.12.17) of the Southwark Playhouse production of J.M. Barrie’s Dear Brutus:

“A bemused group of strangers have been invited to a house party deep in the English countryside. The host is Puck, now a mysterious old man known as Lob. The guests include a rash philanderer, his neglected wife and his current lover; a snooty aristo; and an alcoholic artist who has turned into a waster (as) he mourns his childless marriage. Premiered to great acclaim in 1917, J M Barrie’s play has deliberate echoes of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. There are rumours of an enchanted wood that materialises in these parts on Midsummer Eve. Encouraged by the scheming Lob, the guests feel compelled to enter this moonstruck terrain in the middle act where they are given a second chance to negotiate better the twists of fate on which they have blamed the failure of their lives. When they emerge, it is to acknowledge, in the main, that it’s their idiosyncrasies of character that cause people to take the same wrong turnings. The title of the piece comes pointedly from a speech by Cassius in Julius Caesar: The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars/But in ourselves

…As the child of a mother who was in constant mourning for his dead older brother and as a childless adult whose failed marriage was, in all likelihood, unconsummated, Barrie was peculiarly frank and recklessly self-revelatory about his obsession with arrested development and his grief for what-might-have-been…”

The closing sentence of Michael Billington’s review for The Guardian (6.10.2000) of the Nottingham Playhouse’s production of Dear Brutus:

“…One of Jeremy Sams’s best interpolations is to have her (the fantasy-daughter of the childless artist) return at the end and beat vainly on the locked drawing-room windows. That moment, with its obvious echoes of *Peter Pan, reminds us that Barrie was the 20th-century’s supreme poet of arrested development”.

*Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up, J M Barrie’s stage play of 1904.

Charles Dennis wrote in the Los Angeles Times of 12.01.2002:

“…Novello’s presence in “Gosford Park” (set in 1932) is far from haphazard. Screenwriter Julian Fellowes used this commoner posing as a nobleman to underscore the serious theme of this deceptively entertaining thriller.

“I’d already written the screenplay in 2000 when Bob Altman said he wanted to use Ivor Novello’s music throughout and have Ivor as an actual character,” Fellowes said. Novello is very much a chorus figure, both with his beautiful melodies (see below) and as a symbol of England’s class wars.

“If you’re not born into the upper classes, you’re never one of that crowd,” says Fellowes. “Ivor accepts the fact that he’s the ‘Jester.’ When [a character in the film] asks how he can put up with these weekends where he’s basically the unpaid entertainment, playing piano on request, he replies poignantly: ‘I make my living impersonating them.’”

From Wikipedia:

(Early 1920s) Noel Coward, six years Novello’s junior, was deeply envious of Novello’s effortless glamour. He wrote, “I just felt suddenly conscious of the long way I had to go before I could break into the magic atmosphere in which he moved and breathed with such nonchalance”.

Rosemary Hume, in Party Food and Drink (1950):

“To give a party at this lovely time of the year is irresistible and surely no better night could be chosen than Midsummer Eve. For the perfect setting, one would ask for a moonlit night in a rose-scented garden by the river, and perhaps as it is Midsummer Eve this might conceivably be possible, but the weather may dictate the safer choice of a verandah or the house itself.

At any rate the food and drink should be in keeping…”

From: The Land of Might-Have-Been, by Ivor Novello and Edward Moore (first performed in Our Nell, 1924; performed in “Gosford Park” by Jeremy and Christopher Northam):

Shall we ever find that lovely land of might-have-been?

Will I ever be your king or you at last my queen?

Days may pass and years may pass and seas may lie between

Shall we ever find that lovely land of might-have-been?

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