Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Dear Friend



In 1950, English actress Hermione Gingold appeared on stage in London alongside Hermione Baddeley in Fallen Angels, a Noël Coward comedy in which--controversially at the time--the two female leads contemplate adultery. Gingold soon received a threatening letter from a disgusted member of the public. With no address at which to aim a reply, Gingold instead responded with a letter that was reprinted in her 1952 book, My Own Unaided Work.

(Source: My Own Unaided Work; Photo: Hermione Gingold (1973) by Allan Warren, via Wikipedia.)

The Letters

April, 1950

Dear Madam,

Unless something is done at once about your disgusting exhibition in the filthy play you appear in every night, I and several of my friends will do something very unpleasant about it.

What you and your co-partner Hermione Baddeley do nightly in public is a slur on English womanhood. "Fallen Angels" is disgusting as a play, but your performance in it makes it loathsome. How the powers that be could permit such an exhibition is past the understanding of a God-fearing woman who supports the present Government--and thanks God for them.

I give you fair warning to leave the play, or it will be the worse for you. Our wrath will strike at you in your home, or maybe during a performance at the theatre.

A. Friend

-------

Ambassadors Theatre
W.C.2.

April 14th

Dear Friend,

How clever and capricious you are, cloaking yourself in anonymity, and I must confess I cannot for the life of me guess which of my many friends you can be. You have sent my head spinning and my imagination whirling. Could you be found among my dear friends, intimate friends, close friends, childhood friends, pen friends, family friends, friends of a friend, friends in distress, friends who are closer than a brother, friends in need, or school friends? Your letter quite clearly shows that you are not illiterate, and therefore we can rule out my school friends. Your masterly command of the language banishes the thought that you could be found among my friends from overseas. Your witty criticism of my performance makes me think that I might find you among my nearest and dearest “bosom friends,” that is if you did not choose to address me as “Dear Madam”--a clever move this, and one that reduces my last thought to mere stupidity and you to a casual acquaintance, and yet I must banish the thought “casual acquaintance.” for how many people are there in London today who realise that my “co-partner,” as you wittily dub her, is none other than Hermione Baddeley, and by the way, she wants me to thank you for the facsimile letter you sent her, and say that she is getting on in years and feeble, and is not able to attend to her correspondence as she would wish, and so she cannot answer your letter personally.

An awful thought has dawned. It is all a joke, and you aren’t really my friend at all. I must try to dismiss this thought. It depresses me. To lose a friend like you in a few words, oh no.

So, dear anonymous friend, if this should chance to meet your eye, please keep your promise and come round one night--yes, and bring your friends, too, for I know intuitively that your friends will be my friends.

Cordially yours,
Hermione Gingold

P.S. If you wish to strike at me with your wrath in my home, I am always in between ten-thirty and twelve in the morning, excluding Tuesday, which is a bad day, as a lot of tiresome tradespeople call for the same reason. You will easily recognize my apartment, for, apart from the number “85” marked in plain figures on the door, over the knocker there is a notice, "strike twice and wait, bell out of order.”