The Girls of Radcliff Hall


Adela Quebec [Lord Berners].

Printed for the Author for Private Circulation Only. c.1934. Paperback; wrappers with printed title to front wrapper. 100 pages. English. 180 x 125mm. 0.15kg. . Very good; light shelf wear to wrappers, some surface wear to front wrapper, some light marks to wrapper, light toning to spine, slight creasing to lower front forecorner; light foxing to pages.

A scarce first edition of Lord Berners' roman a clef, featuring many of the Faringdon circle. The Girls of Radcliff Hall was a direct parody of Radclyffe Hall's banned lesbian novel The Well of Loneliness, as well as being a spoof of the many school girl stories popular at the time. Lord Berners' characters are thinly disguised versions of his friends and set, and the book is a flawed but insightful record of the often complex relationships within his homosexaul circle. Cyril Connelly's copy identifies figures inspired by Lord Berners, Cecil Beaton, Peter Watson, Oliver Messel, David Herbert, Robert Heber-Percy, Tchelitchew, Christian Berard, Doris Castlerosse  and others. Despite publishing the book under the pseudonym of Adela Quebec, it was fairly obvious to those who knew Berners who the book was penned by and whom it was about. Noel Coward wrote to Berners 'I absolutely adored Les Girls. Oh dear! What a beastly little book.' Cecil Beaton couldn't fail to notice the story of Peter Watston buying a car for both Robert Heber-Percy and himself reflected in the novel.  Hugo Vickers, in his biography of Beaton, writes 'It is also a rare edition because apparently Cecil succeeded in destroying most copies. He believed himself the victim of the book because the plot revolves around his love of Peter Watson and Peter's various infidelities.'. John Byrne, editor of the 2000 reprint, believes instead that it was Heber-Percy who depleted the stock - 'Portrayed as a hectically cartwheeling gold-digger, he cannot have been delighted by the book, and none was better placed than he, under the same roof, to diminish the stock. Hence the rarity?' Copies are undoubtedly now scarce. The nature of the book, with it's small size, drab wrappers and coarse paper, did not help its survival. The book was reputedly printed by the author's local newspaper and was for 'private circulation only'. Byrne writes that he knows of only 6 or 7 extant copies. OCLC records 6 copies. [Zinovieff, Sofka. The Mad Boy, Lord Berners, My Grandmother and Me. 2014. pp. 112-115; Vickers, Hugo. Cecil Beaton. The Authorised Biography. 1985. p. 171; Bryne, John (ed.). The Girls of Radcliff Hall. 2000 reprint.]