A taste of honey turns to angry dust

Image (Wikipedia): “The honeyeaters are a large and diverse family, Meliphagidae, of small to medium-sized birds.”

By John Simkin (john@spartacus-educational.com) © September 1997 (updated January 2020):

“…After leaving university (Eric) Maschwitz became an assistant stage-manager at His Majesty’s Theatre in London. He was a regular visitor to the Café Royal where he became friends with Frank Harris, Augustus John, Christopher Nevinson, William Orpen, Mark Gertler, Michael Arlen, Ronald Firbank and James Agate. After meeting Michael Joseph he became assistant-editor at a publishing company. Maschwitz obtained a literary agent, Nancy Pearn, and had a novelette entitled The Little Lady , serialised in the Daily Mirror.

Eric Maschwitz became romantically involved with Michael Joseph’s wife, the actress, Hermione Gingold. They moved to the Porquerolles, an island off the Côte d’Azur. Over the next three months Maschwitz wrote a novel, A Taste of Honey. The book sold well and was able to rent a flat in Earls Court Road. However, the follow-up, Angry Dust, was a complete failure.

In 1926 Rebecca West introduced Maschwitz to the American journalist, John Gunther. He described Maschwitz as being: “Tall, 25, black hair falling over his forehead, tortoise shell glasses”. The two men became close friends and decided to go on holiday together in Paris. Eric’s wife, the actress, Hermione Gingold, also joined them on their visit. However, after a week Maschwitz ran out of money and was forced to return to London.

During the General Strike Maschwitz enlisted as a Special Constable. He later recalled “I enlisted more to fill the empty days with a little adventure than with an idea of opposing the workers of the world!” A week after the strike ended Maschwitz met an old friend, Lance Sieveking, who had just started work for the British Broadcasting Company. Sieveking introduced him to his boss who employed him on the yearly salary of £300.

Maschwitz got on well with the Director-General John Reith: “Much as has been said and written in criticism of the BBC’s first director-general, now Lord Reith. Six-feet-six in height, his dour handsome face scarred like that of a villain in a melodrama, he was a strange shepherd for such a mixed, bohemian flock… He had our respect (even if we made grudging fun of him in private); he was scrupulously just and, if you were not afraid of him, intensely human under his somewhat frightening exterior. He was always kind to me and I admire him still to the point of hero-worship.”

In October 1927 Maschwitz married Hermione Gingold. Maschwitz later recalled: “The bride, who carried for her bouquet, a penny bunch of Parma violets, wept bitterly throughout the ceremony. My dear father, who had with impeccable generosity forgiven me my various misdemeanours, behaved most beautifully to us both, though I detected eyebrows raised between my mamma and himself as we accompanied them along the muddy lane that led to our first abode. At the studio we were greeted by Hermione’s three cats, each with a cod’s head on a tin plate, the rain was dripping through the glass roof and so the wedding breakfast, although a friendly enough affair, was not what might have been termed a riotous success!”

Maschwitz was introduced to Jack Strachey, a composer of music. They decided to write songs together. One of their first attempts in 1936 was These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You). It has been claimed that the lyrics by Maschwitz was based on his love affair with the Chinese-American actress Anna May Wong. The song became a standard and writing in 1957 he claimed that he made £40,000 from the song…”

From Wikipedia:

“Maschwitz was married twice: first to Hermione Gingold, who was granted a divorce in 1945, and then immediately to Phyllis Gordon, who remained his wife until his death.”

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