Reconsiderations January 2021
James Laver’s eighteenth-century air
On the British author, curator & fashion historian.
The current obscurity of James Laver (1899–1975), an expert on the history of dress and fashion, a biographer of Huysmans and Nostradamus, a master of light verse, and the author of a 1932 picaresque gem of a comic novel, Nymph Errant, is something of a crime. The obscurity certainly applies to the novel, popular in its day and still fresh to read but apparently not reprinted in recent years. It was made into a Charles B. Cochran revue in 1933 starring Gertrude Lawrence and with a score by Cole Porter, who penned such classics as “Experiment,” “It’s Bad for Me,” and “The Physician” for the show and later named it the favorite of all his musicals. Laver was delighted with Porter’s genius, observing that the stage had not seen such “ingeniously witty” lyrics since the days of Gilbert & Sullivan....
New to The New Criterion?
Subscribe for one year to receive ten print issues, and gain immediate access to our online archive spanning more than four decades of art and cultural criticism.Subscribe