Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Anthony Berkeley again


A striking number of readers of this blog were as intrigued as I confess I am. by the fact that Anthony Berkeley married his agent’s ex-wife. This may actually be a unique event in the history of British literature!

Berkeley does fascinate me, for many reasons. He was a very clever writer, and also an intriguing man. Malcolm Turnbull wrote a good biography, Elusion Aforethought, which is well worthe seeking out.

Some of the books are dated, but all of them have something a little unusual about them. You may also be entertained by this brief time-line:

1930 – Berkeley dedicates The Second Shot to his agent.
1931 – Berkeley dedicates Malice Aforethought to his first wife – and proceeds to divorce her.
1932 – Berkeley marries his agent’s former wife, and dedicates Before the Fact to her.

It’s not just the sequence of events, I think, it’s the pace of change that is remarkable...

His second marriage failed, too. But Berkeley, a complicated and rather mysterious fellow who claimed to dislike everyone, remained on surprisingly good terms with both his exes. He left money in his will to his first wife. And his second wife moved into a London flat on the floor just below his. As well as continuing to do his washing....

9 comments:

Mason Canyon said...

A very intriguing man in deed. But, I'd have to say both of his ex-wives were also interesting.

Mason
Thoughts in Progress

Margot Kinberg said...

Martin - Thanks for this most interesting post! Berkeley really was a fascinating person, and I'm glad that you added another post about him. I had to laugh at his dedications, too. Sometimes it's interesting to go "behind the scenes" with an author, especially one with a very colourful life.

seana said...

Berkeley and Co. seem to be an illustration of the fact that what we think life is like and what it really is like are often very different...

Fiona said...

Fascinating! If ever your writing muse fails, Martin (and may heaven defend us from such a calamity) I'm sure you could scoop the market on a crime version of Trivial Pursuit.....

You may like to know that there's a shop named Francis Iles in , I think, Kent which sells art and craft materials; I haven't dealt with them but every time I see their advert in a craft magazine I wonder about the connection.

Dorte H said...

Now this is really funny!

But if it had been a thriller, he would have dedicated the novels - and KILLED the person in secret afterwards.

He really sounds like a peculiar person.

Deb said...

The second wife continued to do the laundry and still got nothing in the will? There's no justice in the world....

A bit of a side note, but Berkeley's personal life made me think of it: I've just finished Antonia Fraser's MUST YOU GO?, about her marriage to Harold Pinter. Much of the book is in the form of diary entries that she made over the 30-plus years she and Pinter were together. The thing that intrigued me was that, over the decades, every time Salman Rushdie was mentioned, he was married to a different woman. Now there's someone with a complicated personal life!

Martin Edwards said...

Glad you liked this post!
Fiona, Francis Iles was a real life smuggler and ancestor of Berkeley.
Mason and Deb, fascinating points.
Thanks.

vegetableduck said...

Martin, there seems to me to be a definite streak of misogyny in Cox's work: the abundance of sexist comments in The Wychford Poisoning Case (which I believe House of Stratus declined to reprint), the murders of the objectionable women in Jumping Jenny and Trial and Error and the sadism of Before the Fact (a novel for women!) come to mind. This is distinct from the general streak of misanthropy, of course....

Everything I've found on Cox seems to indicate that people found him a clever yet trying individual!

Doug Greene said...

Clarice Carr told me quite a bit about Berkeley for the Carr biography, and her photo of Berkeley is reproduced in the book. What she most remembered about him was that he was a skinflint -- amazingly tight with money.