When Laurie met Lucian
It is the rutting season in Richmond Park. The top stags have won their battles and now have their herds of mates. The air is full of musk and wind carries the totally expressive bellows of the lairds of the glen. But it is not only stags that compete for mates ,as I was reminded when I came across the story of Laurie Lee and Lucian Freud scrapping in the street.
And the prize these two were fighting for was Lorna Wishart. This Lauren Bacall look a like was rich ,with a tolerant husband. She had first come across in 1937 Laurie Lee when he was a penniless poet and she aged 26 had been married ten years. She had seduced her older husband. On seeing young Laurie with his violin on a Cornish beach,she cried “Boy come and play for me.” As artist John Craxton said “She could turn you to stone with a look. She had a kind of mystery, a mystical inner quality.”
And play Laurie did. For seven years it was a glorious passion. During the blitz Laurie would write “The sky was full, cut slashed and shattered with noise. The ground heaved with the throb of bombs. We were uncovered our backs tingled as we lay.” It went on and on,he couldn’t get enough “ We breathed warmth into each others hair until late in the morning.I cannot think why lovers ever leave their beds.” Indeed. He would never write such good poetry again.
While Laurie provided, poetry the caravan and the bedsits in Putney and Bognor, Lorna provided the Bentley and the champagne. Lorna’s husband graciously brought up the resulting,Laurie’s daughter Yasmin. In the beginning it was Lorna who was jealous and possessive.
And then came teenage Lucian, in the last years of the war beginning to make a name for himself. Once again a younger creative man had caught Lorna’s eye. Laurie might squeal about “the dark and sinister looking boy,” eleven years younger than the thirty year old Muse. He might even threaten suicide(always the last play of a loser).
At a bus stop in Piccadilly Circus according to Freud there was a fight between the two stags. One suspects more handbags than kung fu.
Lucian says he beat the older man . Laurie remembered words being being spoken and Lucian slinking off on the bus. When he asked Lorna why she flaunted her new lover, she with the naivety of a wasp replied,”So you wont worry about where I am.”
And with Lucian, Lorna was the one in control and when she found that young Lucian had strayed it was she who packed her bags and went back to her noble and forgiving husband and the children.
Lucian turned up with a shot gun and threatened but he wasn’t the one in control. Boy versus woman, no contest.Laurie wore her ring till he died and Lucian swore “never again to love a woman more than she loved him”. Nice one, your uncle Sigmund, would have been proud. Both Lucian and Laurie stayed in the family by both marrying Lorna’s nieces.
What a babe. And to make the story perfect she never told her side of the stories. She died in 2000. Picture in link.