Read Serious Pleasures: the Life of Stephen Tennant by Philip Hoare Online


A fascinating biography of Britain's most legendary and flamboyant aristocratic aesthete. Out of Tennant's bizarre and outrageously eccentric life, Hoare has created a superb biography that reflects an age of intellect, indolence, narcissism, and pure style. 32 pages of photographs; 22 drawings....

Title : Serious Pleasures: the Life of Stephen Tennant
Author :
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ISBN : 9780140165326
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 480 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Serious Pleasures: the Life of Stephen Tennant Reviews

  • Paul
    2020-02-13 02:22

    Excellent biography of one of England's great eccentrics. I was torn between fascination (an interesting and colourful character) and irritation (a life lived in a totally self absorbed way; talent wasted)Tennant was born at Wilsford Manor, his family home in Wiltshire and he died there in 1987 aged 81. He is a bit of an enigma; he had bright purple hair a long time before punk, he was one of the bright young things in the 1920s, openly gay at a time when it was really not safe to be so. He had a relationship with the war poet Siegfried Sassoon and famously spent a good part of his later years in bed. He attempted poetry at times and spent much of his life writing a novel called Lascar; set in Marseille and about the life and culture of the sailors there. I believe he did a good deal of research! He also did the artwork. He never actually finished it. Tennant's life was set from the beginning. When his father asked a very young Stephen what he wanted to be when he grew up, he replied: "I want to be a Great Beauty Sir". He certainly worked at it and his flamboyance was captured by Evelyn Waugh; he was the model for Sebastian Flyte in Brideshead. He is also the model for Cedric Hampton in Nancy Mitford's novels.In his middle years he travelled a great deal and his list of friends is impressive; Garbo, Capote, E M Forster, Cecil Beaton, Virginia Woolf and Willa Cather (he was a great supporter of her work). There is something of a contrast and also similarities between Tennant and the other great flamboyant characters of the time Brian HowardBrian Howard: Portrait of a FailureI have more sympathy for Howard because of his vocal opposition to Nazism at an early stage, but both are fascinating. Tennant lent most of Wilsford Manor to the Red Cross during the war (he lived in a small part of one wing). Typical of Stephen he walked into a ward full of tough soldiers recovering from injuries one morning and announced;"Now you're all going to have a treat today. If you watch carefully out of that window, you'll see a buddleia being transplanted from one end of the garden to the other". Posterity hasn't recorded the response.Hoare records that in London Stephen was found standing decoratively by the golden fountain in the Ritz foyer by Michael Duff (a friend from the 20s), who had two American GIs with him. "Darling Boys, come all this way to save us". He spent a good deal of time at the American camps in Wiltshire.This is a remarkably good biography of a great British eccentric and captures the era of the bright young things very well. I couldn't help liking Stephen Tennant, despite being annoyed at his wasting his remarkable talents.

  • Tosh
    2020-02-08 23:16

    Stephen Tennant is my type of guy - he basically dresses super well, hung out with Cecil Beaton, and stayed in bed for the most of his life. Oscar Wilde wrote about it, but Tennant actually lived the grand life of doing.... well, really nothing. But he did it with a sense of genius and adventure. This book should never go out of print!

  • Elizabeth
    2020-02-03 19:01

    The name of sluggard — Stephen Tennant; he really had an aesthetic, eccentric, aristocrat and homosexual. Tennant, the older you get, the more time spent in bed, but not because of weakness or illness, and for ideological reasons.He was a principled, staunch slacker, he was only interested in (appropriately understood) the Beauty of everything else makes him or contempt, or (more often) terrified. Stephen Tennant was a typical character of the English aristocratic life of 1920-30-ies, life, brilliantly and exhaustively described by Woodhouse and Evelyn Waugh. Incidentally, the latter used some very fine features sloth in his best novel "Brideshead Revisited," turning, however, the carefree aesthetic in a tragic alcoholic Sebastian Flyte.Of course, a man like Tennant, literally begged on the page a "psychological" prose of the last century, still concerned that in the XIX century called "characters". Tennant still in his twenties walked in a spotted leopard print pajamas, makeup, painted under the blonde and covered the hair with gold dust.But he is, after all, was the present aesthetic and not the usual sloth or one of the many British eccentrics, aristocrats. Stephen Tennant is a collector, author of the epistolary prose, and even a painter, if you remember the sketches of costumes for his unwritten novel. As to the first, he collected things that he considered "works of art", relying on their own capricious taste.

  • Dickon Edwards
    2020-01-22 02:11

    "Stephen Tennant was just a flamboyant gay who didn't really do anything," says one of the many supporting players in Mr Hoare's exhaustive doorstopper of a biography. True, this is the life of a man who essentially is best known for being a striking-looking girlish boy at London parties in the 1920s (as one of the Bright Young Things), then spending the rest of his life loafing about in his mansion. He was born into wealth and could do whatever he liked. There was no need to prove himself, no ambition, no drive. He did manage to have some modest success as a painter, but never really advanced past the status of cult figure, at best. But Mr Hoare saw a life that needed to be properly chronicled and celebrated, and his enthusiasm rubs off on the reader. There's just something about Stephen. The ultimate lonely gay aristocrat, so free yet so trapped. This book redeems him, in a way, proving that just being a beautiful boy turned reclusive eccentric is an achievement of sorts.

  • Kurt Reighley
    2020-01-24 22:17

    This is probably my all-time favorite book. Both the subject and the writing are exquisite (and John Waters will back me up on both counts).

  • Rj
    2020-02-16 20:58

    While its been a rough summer, of late I have been transported by Philip Hoare's biography of Stephen Tennant, Serious Pleasures. Tennant is a fascinating individual whose live touched so many luminaries of the 20th-Century. Inspired to read the book after discovering that Tennant served as one of the inspirations for Lord Sebastian Flyte in Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited (one of my favorite books of all time, as all my friends are loathe to hear, over and over again) I have enjoyed reading about Tennant's peculiar life. While Hoare's biography is more hagiography than critical biography it allowed me to transport myself along with Tennant on all his travels, both social and geographical.

  • Lucy
    2020-02-02 20:20

    As a mentally ill person with wasted potential who also spends a lot of time in bed, I almost liked Tennant because I could kind of relate to him.As a leftist, I found this book blazingly inessential at best. The idea of a hagiography about someone who didn't actually do anything seems repulsive to me. Philip Hoare is an excellent writer and it's embarrassing to read an earnest, well-written paean to someone who really doesn't deserve it. It's the literary equivalent of a giant solid gold sculpture of my former neighbor Jimmy. Jimmy's a fun guy (even if he was really loud) and makes a lot of people happy but he also doesn't deserve a giant solid gold statue.

  • Bryan Schwartz
    2020-02-16 19:25

    A tender, fascinating, and well written portrait.

  • Emily Bn
    2020-01-21 23:06

    Stephen Tennant was a remarkably unique individual whose life makes for a very entertaining read.

  • Jacob Hiley
    2020-02-01 03:12

    **UPDATE** After learning that quite a few Stephen Tennant artifacts are on permanent display at The Last Tuesday Society, in London, I knew I had to see them. Luckily for me I was to visit friends there, and am glad that I was able to see original drawings and photographs by Stephen, and of Stephen. Prompting me to reread this book, I have to say that I now view it in a completely different light. Even so much that I cried after finishing it the second time round. Read this book if you have any human emotion at all, and would like to try and understand queer life in England during most of the 20th century. ********************************************************************************Original Review** Ever since I became aware of the enigmatic figure, the Hon. Stephen Tennant, I have gobbled up ANY information/ images that I could possibly find related to him and his friends, a group know as the bright young things. So naturally when a friend told me that a biography on him existed I had to find it!This book must be, aside from some random dusty archive buried deep in an English museum, or perhaps one of Tennant's relatives estates, the most complete collection of Information of Tennant's life, as well as some wonderful images. And although I did enjoy learning more about Mr. Tennant, I found Phillip Hoare's writing, simply put, dry and lackluster. I have a feeling that Hoare was trying to take what many people might see as a frivolous subject and turn it into something more academic, to be taken more seriously. But in doing so I feel as if he has lost the spirit of the bright young things, and Stephen himself. The bright young things were all about beauty, pleasure, fun, excitement, partying, and privilege... This biography is hardly any of those things.If you are not specifically interested in Stephen, the bright young things, or this particular era, then I would not recommend this book to you.

  • Karen-Leigh
    2020-02-18 23:08

    I love this biography. I reread it almost every second year. I even ordered the auction book from his estate upon his death and then went on to read biographies of everyone else in his life mentioned in this book like Cecil Beaton and Siegfried Sassoon. A unique individual. I wish they could make a movie of his life. On my tenth reading I am still enamored of this extraordinary life...he touched so many people and had so much talent that never truly arrived as expected. He produced so much that was never published and which was lost over time or was auctioned off piecemeal on his death and his prodigious output was never collected in one place.

  • Louise Miller
    2020-02-16 20:18

    I don't know how anyone could give this book fewer than five stars. I've finished it slightly obsessed with Stephen Tennant although I don't quite know why. It's probably to do partly with the quality of the writing. But it's also to do with Tennant's character: privileged, flamboyant, eccentric, charming and very, very camp. And he's so funny. There's also a sense of tragedy running throughout largely due to the sense that he could have done so much more with his talents and that so much went to waste. I've been enjoying Tennant's company immensely throughout its pages. Now onto something else by Hoare...

  • g
    2020-02-19 00:00

    'Cause luxlotus says so

  • Laurie Frost
    2020-02-07 23:27

    Get past Stephen Tennant's childhood, and you will be hooked.

  • Matthew Shaw
    2020-01-23 22:20

    I am interested in the ways in which the 1910s and '20s affected moral consciousness. This book certainly reveals the stark contrast between "visible" Victorians and their libertine offspring!

  • Ellen
    2020-02-09 23:14

    Recommended by Lauren Cerand.

  • Steve
    2020-01-27 03:07

    This is a book that I feel I should like, and want to read. But, I find myself not reading it. I could not put down "Strangers - A Family Romance" by Emma Tennant

  • Thombeau
    2020-02-16 03:18

    A thoroughly engaging and wonderfully researched bio of the fabulous British eccentric, Stephen Tennant.