Edith Olivier - Muses & The Beau Monde
Edith Olivier, born 31 December 1872, was an English writer. She was also noted for acting as hostess to a circle of well-known writers, artists, and composers, her home Daye House becoming an artistic sanctuary.
Her home became this destination after she lost her sister Mildred in 1923. She started to engage a broader social circle. It was then that she formed a profound friendship with Rex Whistler and acted as a frequent hostess to an elite, artistic, and social set which included Cecil Beaton, Siegfried Sassoon, William Walton, and Osbert Sitwell. She describes them vividly in her journals:
Cecil Beaton: ‘a marble face and voice’
John Betjeman: ‘cleaner than I expected… loves Georgian churches’
Lady Diana Cooper: ‘I have never seen anyone else really look what I think Helen of Troy must have looked’
Siegfried Sassoon: ‘such fun to tell things to. Laughs so utterly’
Edith Sitwell: ‘bitter against the world in general, and very comprehending towards individuals when she knows about them’
Stephen Tennant: ‘dazzling in his inspired wit and vision’
William Walton: ‘a very domestic man, ready to help in all household emergencies’
Rex Whistler: ‘a reincarnation of Breughel’
She wrote her first novel, The Love Child in 1927, which was followed by further novels, non-fiction and biographies, and her own autobiography Without Knowing Mr Walkley.
A Curious Friendship, the story of a Blue Stocking and a Bright Young Thing, written by Anna Thomasson tells the story of the friendship between Edith and Rex:
The winter of 1924: Edith Olivier, alone for the first time at the age of fifty-one, thought her life had come to an end. For Rex Whistler, a nineteen-year-old art student, life was just beginning. Together, they embarked on an intimate and unlikely friendship that would transform their lives. Gradually Edith's world opened up and she became a writer. Her home, the Daye House, in a wooded corner of the Wilton estate, became a sanctuary for Whistler and the other brilliant and beautiful younger men of her circle: among them Siegfried Sassoon, Stephen Tennant, William Walton, John Betjeman, the Sitwells and Cecil Beaton - for whom she was 'all the muses'.
Set against a backdrop of the madcap parties of the 1920s, the sophistication of the 1930s and the drama and austerity of the Second World War and with an extraordinary cast of friends and acquaintances, Anna Thomasson brings to life, for the first time, the fascinating, and curious, friendship of a bluestocking and a bright young thing.