Edward James


Biography of Edward James

Edward William Frank James (1907–1984) was a British poet known for his patronage of the surrealist art movement.

Edward James was born on 16 August 1907, the only son of William James, an American railroad magnate who moved to England and married Evelyn Forbes, a Scots socialite, who was reputedly fathered by the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII). He had four older sisters: Audrey, Millicent, Xandra, and Silvia. James was educated briefly at Eton, and then at Le Rosey in Switzerland, then at Christ Church, Oxford, where he was a contemporary of Evelyn Waugh and Harold Acton. In 1912 he inherited the 8,000-acre (32 km2) West Dean House in Sussex, on the death of his father.

James' first sponsorship of note was in publishing John Betjeman's first book of poems when at Oxford. He worked with Brian Howard on the Glass Omnibus. After Oxford, James had a brief career as a trainee diplomat at the embassy in Rome. He was asked to send a coded message to London that the Italians had laid the keels for three destroyers, but got the code wrong; the message said "300 destroyers". Shortly after this he was sent "on indefinite leave".

In the early 1930s, James married Tilly Losch, an Austrian dancer, choreographer, actress and painter. He had several productions created expressly for her, the most notable of which was Les Ballets 1933, which included Kurt Weill, Lotte Lenya and George Balanchine. He and Boris Kochno commissioned that year Brecht and Weill's last collaboration, The Seven Deadly Sins, which Balanchine produced, directed and choreographed.

James divorced Losch in 1934, accusing her of adultery with Prince Serge Obolensky, an American hotel executive; her countersuit, in which she made it clear that James was homosexual, failed. James was in fact bisexual. After the divorce, James joined a social set in England which included the Mitford sisters and the composer Lord Berners.

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A New Friend

Shot in a night of impeccable injustice.
Overflowed with torment and forgiveness.
Placed directed towards my head and waiting.
Pushing through the morbid crowd.
Bright and radiant and shining through,
To talk and save me and open up new doors.
Oh what new things I can learn and love, through this,
This new friendship.

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