Noël Coward said, “The only thing that really saddens me over my demise is that I shall not be here to read the nonsense that will be written about me and my works and my motives . . . There will be lists of apocryphal jokes I never made and gleeful misquotations of words I never said. What a pity I shan’t be here to enjoy them!”
Here is a book that Noël Coward did write; jokes he did make . . . No gleeful misquotations here . . . only the best of Coward’s best.
Barry Day, editor of the acclaimed Letters of Noël Coward, who knows more about Coward and his writing than almost anyone, has brought together in one volume a Coward reader any Coward reader—or Coward appreciator—will delight in.
It’s hard to believe that, to date, there has never been a Noël Coward reader; this volume marks the very first.
Here are scenes from Coward’s plays, The Vortex, Blithe Spirit, Private Lives, and Design for Living . . . from his film screenplays, Brief Encounter and the previously unpublished script for In Which We Serve . . . from his only published novel, Pomp and Circumstance, as well as four of his best short stories.
Included, as well, is his verse, in which Coward reveals the “secret heart” behind the surface wit of his more formal work . . .
And here, too, are the lyrics of his sublimely Coward songs: “Mad Dogs and Englishmen” . . . “The Stately Homes of England” . . . “I’ll See You Again” . . . “Someday I’ll Find You” . . . “Mad About the Boy” . . . “Sail Away” . . . “Mrs. Worthington” . . . and much more that embodies what Coward hoped would be his epitaph: “He was much loved, because he made people laugh and cry.”
Eddie Cantor said Noël Coward was “the British George M. Cohan . . . The most brilliant contribution England ever made to American show business.”
The Noël Coward Reader is a must-have book for those who luxuriated in the collection of his letters; for those who adore his work and those who are just discovering the delights of his writing.
Kenneth Tynan said of Coward, “Theatrically speaking, it was Coward who took sophistication out of the refrigerator and put it on the hob . . . Even the youngest of us will know, in fifty years’ time, precisely what is meant by ‘a very Noël Coward sort of person.’ ”
Those who read The Noël Coward Reader will agree: this is a very Noël Coward sort of book.
Barry Day was born in England and received his MA from Balliol College, Oxford. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA), a Trustee of the Noël Coward Foundation and was awarded the Order of the British Empire “for services to British culture in the U.S.A.” He lives in New York, London, and Palm Beach.