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Lord (Gerald Hugh Tyrwhitt-Wilson) Berners

Gerald Hugh Tyrwhitt-Wilson, 14th Baron Berners[1] (18 September 1883 – 19 April 1950), also known as Gerald Tyrwhitt, was a British composer of classical music, novelist, painter and aesthete. He is usually referred to as Lord Berners.

Lord Berners was educated at Eton College, travelled widely in his youth, and served as a diplomat before inheriting his title. As well as being a talented musician, he was a skilled artist and writer. His works included Trois morceaux, Fantasie espagnole (1919), Fugue in C minor (1924), and several ballets, including The Triumph of Neptune (1926) (based on a story by Sacheverell Sitwell) and Luna Park (1930). In later years he composed several songs and film scores, notably for the 1946 film of Nicholas Nickleby. His friends included the composers Constant Lambert and William Walton and he worked with Frederick Ashton; William Walton dedicated Belshazzar's Feast to Berners. Lord Berners suffered from depression for much of his life.

Lord Berners wrote several autobiographical works and some novels, mostly of a humorous nature. He is also known for his roman-à-clef The Girls of Radcliff Hall, (named apropos the famous lesbian writer), in where he depicts himself and his circle of friends, such as Cecil Beaton and Oliver Messel, as girls that are members of a school named Radcliff Hall. The indiscretions made in this novel (which was published privately and distributed the same), created an uproar among his intimates and acquaintances, turning the whole affair highly discussed in the 1930's. The novel subsequently disappeared from circulation, making it an extremely rare book among collectors of gay literature. Rumor has it that Beaton was responsible for gathering most of the already scarce copies of the book and destroying them. However, the book has been reprinted in 2000.

Lord Berners is a curious personality in the British literature circle of the mid 20th century. He is cited in many books and biographies en passant; always seemed to be present at some more famous person's party. He was portrayed as the delightful Lord Merlin in Nancy Mitford's The Pursuit of Love. He was notorious for his eccentricity, dyeing his Faringdon house pigeons in vibrant colors and at one point having a giraffe as a pet and tea companion. As a child, having heard that if you throw a dog into water it will learn how to swim, he threw his mother's canine companion out of the window on the grounds that if one applies the same logic it should learn how to fly. (The dog was unharmed, and he was "thrashed" by his mother.) At some point he also accused the dog of having a face like George Eliot. He lived in Rome during the fascism years and found himself in trouble after his return to England, for his friendship with fascists. He was also a great friend and supporter of Diana Guinness. He published many autobiographical accounts of his privileged childhood and teenager years.



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