Beaton’s Shooting Star

It was an age of “parties.” There were “white” parties in which we shot down to the country in fleets of cars, dressed in white from head to foot, and danced on a white floor laid in the orchard, with the moonlight turning all the apples to silver, and then—in a pale pink dawn—playing races with champagne corks on the surface of the stream. There were Mozart parties in which powdered and peruked, we danced by candlelight and then—suddenly bored—rushed out into the street to join a gang excavating the gas mains at Hyde Park Corner. There were swimming parties where, at midnight, we descended on some municipal baths, hired for the occasion, and disported ourselves with an abandon that was all the fiercer because we knew that the press was watching—and watching with a very disapproving eye.

Beverly Nichols,
All I Could Never Be (1949)

Oh, to have been there.


Gracing the cover of the book I’m currently reading Bright Young People: The Lost Generation of London’s Jazz Age by D. J. Taylor is this exquisite portrait of Miss Nancy Beaton as a shooting star, taken by her brother, Cecil Beaton, in 1929. See The Era of Misbehaving.




~ by eaesthete on 11/24/09.

7 Responses to “Beaton’s Shooting Star”

  1. I adore this image by Beaton-some of my favourites of his are of his sisters-Nancy and Baba. Yes to have been there-as one of them. la

  2. Sotheby’s owns the Beaton estate. When I inquired about consigning some of my photos they advised me to wait. I love his work from 1920’s-1930’s, tableau vivant.

  3. In her book “His Other Half”, Wendy Lesser, editor of the Threepenny Review, wrote the most insightful appraisal I’ve ever read about Beaton. Thanks for your interetsing article. Love the photo – it makes me want to wear stars in my hair.

  4. I am completely obsessed with this era… the parties, the joie de vivre, the fashion…the music…I have just ordered a copy of D.J. Taylor’s book.. thank you for mentioning it has been my intention for some time now…

  5. What a different time.

    In the 1980’s a friend tried to emulate this decadence, hosting a ‘White Party’. Not quite as ethereal as Nancy Beaton, but there were certainly a few drama queens in attendance. XOV

    Thank you for your insights, as always.

  6. Is it that we lack imagination? Or are we too jaded? Perhaps it is because there are far fewer boundaries to transgress. Can’t wait to read my copy of “BYP.” It’s in the stack.

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