Bedford, Sybille, 1911-2006

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German born English writer and journalist.

From the description of Sybille Bedford Papers, 1914-2001 (bulk 1940s-1980s). (Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center (HRC); University of Texas at Austin). WorldCat record id: 122481640

Sybille Bedford was born in 1911 at Charlottenburg, Germany, to Maximilian von Schoenebeck and Elizabeth Bernard. Her parents divorced in 1918 and her mother moved to Italy, but Bedford remained with her father in the southern German village of Feldkirch, where she had been raised since infancy. When her father died suddenly in 1920, Bedford went to Italy to live with her mother, who soon remarried and sent Bedford to live with acquaintances in London.

To escape Mussolini’s Fascism, Bedford’s mother and stepfather relocated from Italy to the South of France in the mid 1920s. Moving often as a child between Italy, England, and France, Bedford received little formal education, but could read and write in several languages and experienced a wide exposure to art and “haute culture” during her travels. As a teenager, Bedford spent increasing time with her mother and socialized with the growing community of artists in Sanary-sur-Mer on the French Mediterranean coast. It was there in 1930 that she first met and befriended Aldous Huxley, whom she had idolized since first reading him in 1925.

After Hitler’s rise in the early 1930s, numerous German writers and artists moved to the Sanary area. Bedford came to know many of them, including Thomas Mann, Bertolt Brecht, and Julius Meier-Graefe. Following their examples, and under Aldous Huxley’s influence, she began to seriously pursue literary ambitions. Her early, unpublished fiction focused on the upper class German and French social life of pre- and post-World War I that she had experienced growing up. She wrote throughout the 1930s, without commercial success, and continued to travel Europe. In 1935, she married Walter Bedford, an English army officer, but the marriage was short lived and they soon divorced.

In 1940, Bedford fled the German occupation of France and settled with the Huxleys in California. She worked as secretary, translator, and itinerant journalist, and completed three novels by the late 1940s, none of which were published. Her first literary success did not occur until the publication of her non-fiction work The Sudden View: A Mexican Journey (1953), recounting a trip made to Mexico in the mid 1940s.

Three years after the release of her critically acclaimed Sudden View, Bedford published the first of four semi-biographical novels, A Legacy (1956). Based on the social and family life of her youth, it was praised for its sophistication, wit, dialogue, and attention to detail. It also provided a seldom seen social historical view of early twentieth century Europe. Bedford continued to examine the themes of her youth in her later works A Favourite of the Gods (1963), A Compass Error (1968), and Jigsaw: An Unsentimental Education (1989), which was nominated for the Booker Prize.

In 1958, Bedford published The Best We Can Do: An Account of the Trial of John Bodkin Adams . Although she had no formal training in law, she had attended trials as leisure entertainment as a child and developed a keen interest in law. Her book on Dr. Adams established Bedford as an outstanding legal reporter and was followed by other books and articles on the English and European judiciary. Her talent for legal journalism also brought work covering famous trials for major magazines, such as the 1964 Jack Ruby trial for Life magazine, and the 1966 trial of Auschwitz guards in Germany for Esquire .

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Bedford also wrote reviews and articles on her three passions: food, wine, and travel. Once again, relying on her experience and knowledge of European high society, Bedford provided insight and critique for major magazines and newspapers. Several of these pieces were later brought together, along with some of her accounts of legal trials, in As it Was: Pleasures, Landscapes, and Justice (1990) and in Pleasures and Landscapes: A Traveller's Tales from Europe (2003).

In the late 1960s Bedford began work on what became her most renowned work, the two volume Aldous Huxley: A Biography (1973 & 1974). Bedford drew on her close friendship with Huxley and his first wife, Maria Nys, to create an exhaustive account of Huxley’s life. Although receiving some criticism that she was too close a friend to be objective, the work was generally hailed as a thorough and detailed biography and the first real look at Huxley beyond the context of his writing.

Over the years, Bedford established many close relationships with her contemporaries in literature. Besides Huxley, she could count Martha Gellhorn, Rebecca West, Evelyn Gendel, Ivy Compton-Burnett, and Allanah Harper among her close friends. She served as Vice President of English PEN, was appointed a Companion of Literature of the Royal Society of Literature in 1994, and in 1981 was invested as an officer of the Order of the British Empire. Her last work, Quicksands: A Memoir (2005), was published shortly before her death in London on February 17, 2006.

From the guide to the Sybille Bedford Papers TXRC03-A5., 1914-2001 (bulk 1940s-1980s), (The University of Texas at Austin, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn George Gamow and Barbara Gamow Papers, 1915-1975, (bulk 1950-1975) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Gamow, George, 1904-1968. George Gamow and Barbara Gamow papers, 1915-1975 (bulk 1950-1975). Library of Congress
creatorOf Huxley, Aldous, 1894-1963. Aldous Huxley Collection, 1915-1973. Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
referencedIn Julian Sorell Huxley papers MS 50., 1899-1980 Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library, Rice University
referencedIn Bagnold, Enid. Enid Bagnold papers, 1912-1971. Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
referencedIn David Gascoyne papers, 1822-2010, n.d. British Library: Western Manuscripts
referencedIn Flanner, Janet, 1892-1978. Janet Flanner and Solita Solano papers, 1870-1976 (bulk 1955-1975). Library of Congress
referencedIn May Sarton Papers, 1846-1995, 1920-1995 The New York Public Library. Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature.
creatorOf Harper, Allanah, 1904-1992. Allanah Harper Papers, 1931-1993. Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
referencedIn Enid Bagnold papers, 1912-1971 Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
referencedIn Guide to the Juliette Huxley papers, MS 474., 1895-1994 Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library, Rice University
referencedIn Aldous Huxley Collection TXRC06-A25., 1915-1973 Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
referencedIn Witter Bynner papers, 1829-1965. Houghton Library
referencedIn Esquire, Inc. Records, 1933-1977 Bentley Historical Library , University of Michigan
creatorOf Sybille Bedford, Addition to Her Papers, 1911-2006 (bulk 1970s-2006) Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
referencedIn Janet Flanner and Solita Solano Papers, 1870-1976, (bulk 1955-1975) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Victoria Ocampo papers, 1908-1979. Houghton Library
referencedIn Huxley, Julian, 1887-1975. Julian Sorell Huxley papers, 1899-1980. Rice University, Fondren Library
referencedIn Huxley, Julian, 1887-1975. Papers, 1899-1980. Rice University, Fondren Library
referencedIn Lowry, Malcolm, 1909-1957. Malcolm Lowry - John Davenport papers, 1926-1970. The University of Tulsa, McFarlin Library
creatorOf Sybille Bedford Papers TXRC03-A5., 1914-2001 (bulk 1940s-1980s) Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
referencedIn Donald and Katharine Foley Collection of Penguin Books, 1935-1965 Bancroft Library
referencedIn A. L. (Audrey Lilian) Barker Papers None., 1940s-1998 Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
referencedIn Allanah Harper Papers TXRC99-A8., 1931-1993 Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
creatorOf Sybille Bedford Papers TXRC03-A5., 1914-2001 (bulk 1940s-1980s) Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Adams, John Bodkin. person
associatedWith Bagnold, Enid. person
associatedWith Barker, A. L. (Audrey Lilian), 1918-2002 person
associatedWith Beauchamp, Barbara. person
associatedWith Beauchamp, Barbara. person
associatedWith Bessie, Connie. person
associatedWith Bessie, Connie. person
associatedWith Blume, Mary. person
associatedWith Blume, Mary. person
correspondedWith Bynner, Witter, 1881-1968 person
associatedWith Child, Julia. person
associatedWith Child, Julia. person
associatedWith Codman, Florence. person
associatedWith Codman, Florence. person
associatedWith Compton-Burnett, I. (Ivy), 1884-1969 person
associatedWith Constable, Rosalind. person
associatedWith Constable, Rosalind. person
associatedWith David, Elizabeth, 1913-1992 person
associatedWith Enders, David. person
associatedWith Enders, David. person
associatedWith Engel, Ruth. person
associatedWith English Centre of International PEN. corporateBody
associatedWith Esquire, Inc. corporateBody
associatedWith Fisher, M. F. K. (Mary Frances Kennedy), 1908-1992 person
associatedWith FitzGibbon, Constantine, 1919- person
associatedWith Flanner, Janet, 1892-1978 person
associatedWith Foley, Donald L. person
associatedWith Foley, Katharine person
associatedWith Frow, Ruth. person
correspondedWith Gamow, Barbara, 1905-1976 person
correspondedWith Gamow, George, 1904-1968. person
associatedWith Gascoyne, David Emery, 1916-2001 person
associatedWith Gellhorn, Martha, 1908-1998 person
associatedWith Gendel, Evelyn. person
associatedWith Gendel, Evelyn. person
associatedWith Glendinning, Victoria. person
associatedWith Glendinning, Victoria. person
associatedWith Gottlieb, Robert, 1931- person
associatedWith Greene, Elaine. person
associatedWith Greene, Elaine. person
associatedWith Greene, Graham, 1904-1991 person
associatedWith Harper, Allanah, 1904-1992 person
associatedWith Herrman, Eva. person
associatedWith Herrman, Eva. person
associatedWith Hertzberg, Robert M. person
associatedWith Hertzberg, Robert M. person
associatedWith Hoare, Penelope. person
associatedWith Hoare, Penelope. person
associatedWith Hovde, Ellen. person
associatedWith Hovde, Ellen. person
associatedWith Howard, Elizabeth Jane. person
associatedWith Hughes, Jenny. person
associatedWith Hughes, Jenny. person
associatedWith Huxley, Aldous, 1894-1963 person
associatedWith Huxley, Judith. person
associatedWith Huxley, Judith. person
correspondedWith Huxley, Julian, 1887-1975. person
correspondedWith Huxley, Julian Sorell person
correspondedWith Huxley, Juliette, 1896- person
associatedWith Isherwood, Christopher, 1904-1986 person
associatedWith Johnson, Virginia. person
associatedWith Johnson, Virginia. person
associatedWith Lawrence, Anne. person
associatedWith Lawrence, Anne. person
associatedWith Lehmann, Rosamond, 1901-1990 person
associatedWith Lord, Eda. person
associatedWith Lord, Eda. person
associatedWith Lowry, Malcolm, 1909-1957. person
associatedWith Lyons, Islay, 1922- person
associatedWith Matthews, Tom S. person
associatedWith Matthews, Tom S. person
associatedWith Mimerel, Jacqueline. person
associatedWith Mimerel, Jacqueline. person
associatedWith Mimerel, Pierre. person
associatedWith Mimerel, Pierre. person
associatedWith Mitford, Nancy, 1904-1973 person
associatedWith Morrison, Sybil. person
associatedWith Morrison, Sybil. person
associatedWith Muir, Toni. person
associatedWith Muir, Toni. person
associatedWith Murphy, Noel. person
associatedWith Murphy, Noel. person
associatedWith Neveux, Jeanne. person
associatedWith Neveux, Jeanne. person
correspondedWith Ocampo, Victoria, 1891- person
associatedWith Ollard, Richard Lawrence. person
associatedWith Olney, Richard. person
associatedWith Olney, Richard. person
associatedWith Osmond, Humphrey. person
associatedWith Osmond, Humphrey. person
associatedWith Parsons, Ian. person
associatedWith Parsons, Ian. person
associatedWith Pullein-Thompson, Josephine. person
associatedWith Pullein-Thompson, Josephine. person
associatedWith Reeve, Laura. person
associatedWith Reeve, Laura. person
associatedWith Ruby, Jack. person
associatedWith Sarton, May, 1912- person
associatedWith Scott, Nicholas. person
associatedWith Scott, Nicholas. person
associatedWith Seymour, Faith C. person
associatedWith Seymour, Faith C. person
associatedWith Shine, Diane. person
associatedWith Shine, Diane. person
associatedWith Smallwood, Norah. person
associatedWith Smallwood, Norah. person
associatedWith Snow, C. P. (Charles Percy), 1905- person
associatedWith Snow, C. P. (Charles Percy), 1905-1980. person
associatedWith Solano, Solita. person
associatedWith Solano, Solita. person
associatedWith Solano, Solita, 1888-1975 person
associatedWith Spender, Stephen, 1909-1995 person
associatedWith Spurling, Hilary. person
associatedWith Spurling, Hilary. person
associatedWith Stern, James. person
associatedWith Stern, James. person
associatedWith Ward, Stephen Thomas. person
associatedWith Warnke, Janice. person
associatedWith Warnke, Janice. person
associatedWith Welford, Dorothy. person
associatedWith Welford, Dorothy. person
associatedWith Wendel, Beth. person
associatedWith West, Rebecca, 1892-1983 person
associatedWith Wolff, Charlotte, 1897- person
associatedWith Woodcock, Patrick, 1968- person
Place Name Admin Code Country
England
Mexico
Mexico
Subject
Journalism, Legal--England
Dinners and dining
Huxley, Aldous,1894-1963--Biography
Wine tasting
Ward, Stephen Thomas--Trials, litigation, etc
Adams, John Bodkin--Trials, litigation, etc
Auschwitz trial, Frankfurt am Main, Germany, 1963-1965
Journalism, legal
Travel
Ruby, Jack--Trials, litigation, etc
Occupation
Function

Person

Birth 1911-03-16

Death 2006-02-17

Britons

English,

German

Information

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