by Howard Coster
cream-toned bromide print on card mount, 1934
19 in. x 14 5/8 in. (482 mm x 372 mm)
Given by the estate of Howard Coster, 1959
Artistback to top
- Howard Coster (1885-1959), Photographer. Artist associated with 9350 portraits, Sitter in 5 portraits.
Linked publicationsback to top
- Clerk, Honor, The Sitwells, 1994 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 14 October - 22 January 1995), p. 173 Read entry
Edith met the writer Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) in June 1917 when courting him for Wheels, her 'horrible production', as he described it to Ottoline Morrell. Edith succeeded in snaring him, and with nine poems in the second cycle he featured more prominently than any other contributor. Despite an ambiguous attitude to the Sitwells (it was Huxley who called them the Shufflebottoms), he became a close friend and familiar player on the Sitwell stage.
When Huxley's highly successful first novel, Crome Yellow was published in the autumn of 1921, however, it was apparent that the central characters not only resembled the Morrells of Garsington, but in Priscilla Wimbush's debts and Henry's taste for genealogy and antique beds, drew closely on Lady Ida and Sir George. This lèse-majesté went unpunished, as apparently did the use of Montegufoni, thinly disguised, in Those Barren Leaves (1925). The unpardonable offence, however, came in the form of a short story, 'The Tillotson Banquet', published in 1922, with its cruel depiction of Osbert as Lord Badgery (Hanoverian nose, pig's eyes, pale thick lips). It also trespassed on Osbert's literary territory, making use of the aged Edwardian raconteur, Harry Melvill, whom he had introduced to Huxley in Lucca. Osbert's anger and hurt were channelled into his first prose work, a short story entitled 'The Machine Breaks Down' (1922). This retaliatory version of the Melvill story features Huxley as as the smug journalist, William Erasmus, 'tall and thin as a young giraffe, with the small head of some extinct animal' and a magpie yen for other people's ideas. Osbert had found his true literary voice, and his ambivalent debt to Huxley was acknowledged in his autobiography: 'it was only because a friend of mine, a respected contemporary novelist, stole my stories, and because I resented the manner in which he twisted and spoilt them, and because I felt I could write them better myself, that I took to prose.'1
By the time of Coster's photograph Huxley was the author of a clutch of novels, including Brave New World (1932).
1 Osbert Sitwell, Laughter in the Next Room, p 59.
Events of 1934back to top
Current affairsSir Stafford Cripps represents the miners of Gresford Colliery in Wrexham at an inquiry into the recent gas explosion and fire which killed 263 miners, and three rescue workers in one of the worst mining disasters in British history.
Art and sciencePercy Shaw invents 'Cat's eyes'. The development of road reflectors increased safety on the roads at night and proved to be particularly useful during the wartime blackout. They are still used today.
Dylan Thomas published his first volume of poetry, 18 Poems.
InternationalStalin and Hitler consolidate dictatorial power by 'purging' their opponents. In the Soviet Union, members of the Communist Party and particular sectors of society such as the intelligentsia were targeted in the 'Great Purge', while in Germany Hitler murdered hundreds of potential opponents in the SA during the 'Night of the Long Knives'.
Thousands in the USA are forced to flee their homes to escape the Dust Bowl storms.