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Beverley Nichols

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Beverley Nichols
Photo portrait, 1963
Born9 September 1898
Died15 September 1983 (1983-09-16) (aged 85)
Resting placeAshes scattered over St Nicholas's Churchyard, Glatton, England[1]
EducationOxford (BA)

John Beverley Nichols (9 September 1898 – 15 September 1983) was an English writer, playwright and public speaker. He wrote more than 60 books and plays.

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Between his first book, the novel Prelude (1920), and his last, a book of poetry, Twilight (1982), Nichols wrote more than 60 books. In addition to fiction, essays, theatre scripts and children's books, he wrote non-fiction works on travel, politics, religion, cats, parapsychology, and autobiography. He contributed to many magazines and newspapers throughout his life, notably weekly columns for the London Sunday Chronicle newspaper (1932–1943) and Woman's Own magazine (1946–1967).[2]

Nichols is notable for his books about his homes and gardens, the first of which, Down the Garden Path (1932), was illustrated by Rex Whistler, as were its two sequels. It went through 32 editions and has remained in print almost continuously. The trilogy chronicled the difficulties and delights of maintaining a Tudor thatched cottage in Glatton, Huntingdonshire, the village he fictionalised as Allways. The now Grade II listed house Allways was his home from 1928 to 1937.[3] The books are written in a poetic, richly creative style, evoking emotional and sensual responses, leavened with humour and irony.[4] The three books were so popular that they led to humorous imitations, including Mon Repos (1934) by "Nicholas Bevel" (a parody by Muriel Hine) and Garden Rubbish (1936) by W. C. Sellar and R. J. Yeatman, a satire on garden writers, which included a Nichols-like figure named "Knatchbull Twee."

Nichols' next garden and home book was Green Grows the City (1939), about his modern house and urban garden near Hampstead Heath, London. That book introduced Reginald Arthur Gaskin, Nichols' manservant from 1924 until Gaskin's death in January 1967. Gaskin was a popular character in the book and was included in Nichols' succeeding gardening books.

A second trilogy (1951–1956) began with Merry Hall, documenting Nichols' travails with his extravagant Georgian manor in Agates Lane, Ashtead, Surrey (fictionalised as Meadowstream), where Nichols lived from 1946 to 1956. The books often featured his gifted but laconic gardener "Oldfield". Nichols' final trilogy (1963–1968) chronicled his adapting to a more modest living arrangement, beginning in 1958, in a late 18th-century attached cottage ("Sudbrook") at Ham, near Richmond, Surrey. This was Nichols' final home and garden, where he lived for 25 years until his death in 1983. Illustrations and dust jacket designs for these later volumes were provided by William McLaren.

Nichols wrote on a wide range of subjects, always looking for "the next big thing". He ghostwrote Dame Nellie Melba's 1925 "autobiography" Memories and Melodies (he was at the time her personal secretary, and his 1933 book Evensong was believed to be based on aspects of her life).[5] In 1934, Nichols wrote a bestseller advocating pacifism, Cry Havoc!,[6] but by 1938, he had abandoned his pacifism and supported the Allies in the Second World War.[6] In 1966 he wrote A Case of Human Bondage about the marriage and divorce of writer W. Somerset Maugham and his interior-decorator wife, Syrie, which was highly critical of Maugham. He was disappointed by the reception of Powers That Be (1966), a book about spiritualism. Father Figure (1972), in which Nichols described how he tried to murder his alcoholic, abusive father, caused uproar and calls for his prosecution.

Nichols was also a competent mystery writer. His five detective novels (1954–1960) featured a middle-aged private detective of independent means called Horatio Green.

Apart from authorship, Nichols' main interest was gardening, especially garden design and winter flowers. His many acquaintances in all walks of life included some famous gardeners, such as Constance Spry and Lord Aberconway, President of the Royal Horticultural Society and owner of Bodnant Garden in North Wales. In 2009 Timber Press, which have reprinted a number of Nichols' titles, published a book called Rhapsody in Green: The Garden Wit and Wisdom of Beverley Nichols, edited by Roy C. Dicks.

Nichols made one film appearance, in Glamour (1931), directed by Seymour Hicks and Harry Hughes, playing the small part of the Hon. Richard Wells. The film is now lost.

Personal life

Nichols was at school at Marlborough College before proceeding to Balliol College, Oxford in January 1917. His education was interrupted by military service with the Intelligence section at the War Office, as an instructor to an Officer Cadet Battalion in Cambridge, and as aide-de-camp to Arthur Shipley on the British University Mission to the United States. Nichols then returned to Oxford, where he was President of the Oxford Union and editor of Isis.[2] In 1920 he passed the Shortened Honours degree in Modern History.[7]

He was homosexual and probably had a brief affair with the war poet Siegfried Sassoon, according to a Sassoon biographer.[8] Nichols' long-term companion was the actor and director Cyril Butcher, the main beneficiary of Nichols' will, amounting to £131,750.[9]

Nichols died on 15 September 1983 and his ashes were scattered over St Nicholas' Churchyard, Glatton, Cambridgeshire, England.

Selected bibliography


  1. ^ "Beverley Nichols the Author at his Thatched Cottage in Glatton". Sawtry Cambridgeshire Community Archive Network. Retrieved 1 May 2019.
  2. ^ a b Connon, Bryan (1991). Beverley Nichols: A Life. Constable. ISBN 1604690445.
  3. ^ Historic England. "Allways (Grade II) (1215420)". National Heritage List for England.
  4. ^ Down the Garden Path (1932) ISBN 978-0-88192-710-8
  5. ^ "The Mercury (Hobart) 5 December 1934". Mercury. 5 December 1934. Retrieved 4 December 2013.
  6. ^ a b Martin Ceadel, Pacifism in Britain, 1914–1945 : the defining of a faith. Oxford : Clarendon Press, 1980. ISBN 0198218826 (p.239).
  7. ^ 'Oxford University Calendar 1925', Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1925: 222
  8. ^ Jean Moorcroft Wilson (2003). Siegfried Sassoon: The Journey from the Trenches: a Biography (1918-1967). Psychology Press. p. 42. ISBN 978-0-415-96713-6.
  9. ^ "Beverley Nichols' will – Sunday 22 January 1984, p. 5". The Observer: 5. 1984. Retrieved 23 January 2018.

External links

This page was last edited on 14 May 2024, at 08:08
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