Stephen Wallingford died intestate in 1990, aged 86, and has in recent times become a cult figure. He appears in numerous biographies about the 1920s and 1930s and was the model and inspiration for the 1938 dramatic novel by George Headland Those Beautiful, Beautiful People. In his early youth he entertained his friends at his family home of Arches and it was here he lived for many years until his death. He was photographed by many of the greatest artistes of his time and become one of the typical images of 1920s and 1930s "beautiful" young people. He would be seen with painted lips, powder on his face and gold dust sprinkled through his hair. But putting aside all the endless parties and various love affairs, Stephen was actually a very lonely man. Disowned later in life by his two sisters he survived on the friendships of few people including his mother and socialite and fellow writer Agatha Dewsbury.
He sought freedom and expression in his writings and published works which are all still in print today. Later in life he became a former shadow of himself, a recluse, obese, redecorating Arches with fishnets, pink satin and golden conch shells. His hair was long and dyed mauve, he wore caftans and many gilded bangles. He became an embarrassment to the few surviving friends he had left and was cut off from his remaining family, so in retaliation and defiance, he decided to shut himself away from the real world and write his memoirs, which were never published in his lifetime.
Agatha Dewsbury’s name is no longer one to conjure with but for a time, in the late 1920s and 30s, the name was all over the papers, for she was one of the 'bright young people'. Agatha, with her best friend Stephen Wallingford and some chums, began the vogue for practical jokes, treasure hunts and fancy dress parties that attached the word 'roaring' forever to the 1920s. Stealing policemen's helmets, dancing all night at the Ritz and, on one occasion at least, breaking into a country house and setting fire to the nightdress of a duchess, this was the essence of brightness.
Born in the early part of the twentieth century and the social upheaval that followed the end of the first world war, Agatha kept the press entranced at the time and has fascinated readers and writers ever since. There was a period where Agatha Dewsbury could do no wrong; she was a moderately successful novelist, she had friends in high places and finished her education at a finishing school. But she was also what fellow writer Gertrude Primrose called 'lost'.
There was another side to Agatha. Born a daughter to a vicar and suffragette, she was always being labeled as beautiful, fragile, someone who loved a party. She travelled, became a writer and became a drunk. There were suspicions though never proven she was a drug taker and had sexual liaisons with other women. She was a lover, a mistress and, maybe a witness to murder. In her short life, Agatha Dewsbury changed from a suburban daughter to a darling of the newspaper gossip pages only to be scandalized and shamefully snubbed and ignored by friends and common folk alike. She was photographed everywhere, at parties, travelling in the east, sunbathing on the continent, and drinking pink gin in underground jazz clubs. She was captured laughing, smiling, clutching friend’s arms and waving. She was never photographed crying. Newspapers fought over her daily adventures, they wrote about the company she kept, prospective partners and alleged lovers.
But there is one small problem.
Stephen and Agatha did not exist, nor did any of her contemporaries featured in these books, for the brutal reason they were never born. The stories are fake and the news never happened. This is something new and strange – fictionalized memoirs about unreal people set in a real world.
Now Is Not The Time For Trumpets. The Story of Stephen.
A Life Of Parties. The Story of Agatha.
Simply Divine. Limited Double Edition.
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