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The Letters of Noel Coward

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4.13 of 5 stars 4.13  ·  rating details  ·  165 ratings  ·  40 reviews
A publishing event! The first and definitive collection of letters (most of them previously unpublished) both from and to the incomparable Noël Coward, a unique and irresistible portrait of a society and age—from the Blitz to the Ritz and beyond.

The range, charm, and vitality of his talents—he was a playwright, actor, composer, librettist, lyricist, director, painter, wri
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Hardcover, 688 pages
Published November 13th 2007 by Knopf (first published 1958)
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(showing 1-30 of 457)
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Maria
Barry Day gets 5-star kudos for the compilation and commentary -- neither too much nor too little -- of these uproariously witty & wonderful letters from Noel Coward to everyone everywhere -- he knew them all, writers, politicians, royalty, diplomats, theater greats and movie stars, from 1910 to 1973.

Coward was a singer, songwriter, a dutiful son, clever, scathing, punctilious, elegant, flamboyant, patriotic, sophisticated, silly, and his own creation. Not only a playwright, he also used his
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Antigone
This is the kind of book I'll buy and set on a table to read over time. Cloudy days come. The persistent sniffle. Some long wait for a package or a plumber or a pot of Hungarian stew. Baseball. And I'll reach for a book like this, a collection of letters to fill the odd hour; a temporary placement of mind. Correspondence, especially a lifetime's worth, affords that kind of negligent commitment. You can put it down and pick it up again without stretching for the strands of a plot or struggling fo ...more
Nick
I've been lost in the letters of Noel Coward for weeks. At least, that's the way it seems. You can't rush through them. It's 800 pages of wit, mayhem, and celebrity name-dropping. Coward knew everyone in the UK, France, and the US of A from 1920 - 1970, so he covers a fair swathe of the famous. He was pals with the Queen, Jack Kennedy, every Hollywood actor ever known (from that era), and a good deal of the Mafia. He was a spy in WWII, though he didn't get to do as much skullduggery as he wanted ...more
Carol
This is an epistolary feast, spanning decades and stretching to 700 pages in the current tome. It is delicious, it is delectable, tt is not to be rushed but sipped to prolong the flavor.

It is no surprise that Noel Coward appears clever, even precocious in this volume. What has surprised me is that he emerges as such a decent and "respectable" guy. No kant, no hypocracy. Common sense, kindness, and a sense of humor. Urbane, witty, snippy, multi-talented, observant, caring, Coward had talent to sp
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Richard Jespers
Sometimes the best way to speak of a book is to provide nuggets for the reader, like chocolates on a tray. Nuggets aplenty in this volume.

On grudges: “Woollcott was delighted. A man who was in the habit of falling out with even his closest of friends and who never met a grudge he couldn’t bear, he never quarreled with Noël. Instead, they maintained a relationship of mutual teasing and mock insult for the next twenty years” (64).

On holiday friendships: “In the spirit that holiday friendships cre
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Davidg
A very interesting read over the past few months, a few pages at a time.

Like others, I found the chapters concentrating on one particular correspondent slightly confusing when the rest of the book was chronological. You would come to events, having already read letters about them 400 pages earlier, and then try to put the two together.

Still, there were the wonderful put downs and barbed descriptions. And I knew very little about Coward, other than some clever humourous songs and the only product
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George Seaton
Only four stars because this collection was not put together that well; it did not flow easily. That said, I do feel that finally after all the years I've held some vague notion about who this fellow was, and not really having made the effort or taken the time to actually dive headlong into the subject matter--Noel Coward, "The Master"--I, at last, have done so and am quite fulfilled by the experience. "Fulfilled," is perhaps the wrong word. Maybe "delighted" would work better.

This hefty tome is
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Ali
This is an enormous tome - and I found it very hard to hold at times. It is over 750 pages (larger pages at that) and no wonder really. Noel Coward lived for over 70 years and wrote hundreds of letters to all sorts of people. In between the letters we get valuble biographical details of his life, and his work. There were moments when I found this tough going - but overall I found it readable and hugely entertaining. I found that the older Noel Coward got, the better his letters became, and the b ...more
Elizabeth
The letters of Noel Coward are a positively, fabulous journey regarding the greatest theater legend of the 20th century. Mostly known for his plays, Coward was equally deft as an enchanting composer/lyricist. During the read, I not only listened to his songs, but also viewed his films, "Brief Encounter," "In Which We Serve" and "The Italian Job." He was also a remarkable actor and director. The Golden Age of theater especially comes to life through his correspondence with Lynn Fontanne, Alfred L ...more
Jane
Ah! The wit just bursts of the pages here. Not only that, but the explanatory bridges between letters are well done and informative.
An excellent read!
Jenifer
what i learned? letter writing is a lost art. brevity is under-rated. shallowness and egocentricity are only funny for so long.

that said, noel coward lived an excessively interesting life: playwright, actor, director, novelist, spy. and friend to vastly interesting people, with whom he exchanged some interesting letters.

this book is not for everyone. you've got to know coward's plays, for one. or at least know who the guy was. otherwise, it reads like a poncy bit of sugar cloud.
Nette
Why am I reading yet more letters from witty Brits born in 1899? Maybe it's the cold weather and the long, dark nights. Anyway, this is a very good collection because the guy who put it together has written seven Coward biographies (obsess much?) and the letters are bookended by fascinating and pertinent biographical nuggets. Also, he includes letters TO Noel Coward, which is a nice touch.
Gypsy3x4
From this book I learned that even Noel Coward's letters were fucking brilliant.
May we all be so lucky as to receive a hand written letter from a great writer.
They should be full of wit, gossip and opinions on their current work.
I loved this book. And I hate letter books, I normally find them boring! So to give this one 5 stars is huge deal for me!
Terry
Is there anyone more delightful to spend an evening with than Noel Coward? I think not and this book confirms it. The letters are interwoven with biographical commentary and sometimes jump out of chronological order to show the progression and context of a relationship. Altogether a delightful read.
David
Wonderful humor and biting commentary on a lifetime of creativity and interaction with many of the most important and interesting people of the 20th century. Great job of editing and supplying context by Barry Day.

This book inspired me to take an ocean voyage!
Trent
Apr 05, 2009 Trent added it
If you have ever laughed at a Noel Coward play or hummed along to one of his songs, you'll like this book. It's also eminently browsable--you can just dip into it, to see what he was writing and thinking when, for instance, Blithe Spirit was about to premiere.
Gill
Unsurprisingly wide range of acquaintances and friends. A very full life. Juicy, bitchy and a good, if long, read. His activities during the war were unexpected, given his reluctance to live in Britain, he remained a fervent patriot in his own strange way.
Gill
Unsurprisingly wide range of acquaintances and friends. A very full life. Juicy, bitchy and a good, if long, read. His activities during the war were unexpected, given his reluctance to live in Britain, he remained a fervent patriot in his own strange way.
Angela Paquin
We just did a cabaret of the music of Noel Coward... My favorite Noel Coward Song, "Mad Dogs and Englishmen go out in the Noon Day Sun..." I would love to read this. I am sure there is some correspondence with Gertrude Lawrence too.
Nancy
I read this because of a friends' recommendation. Historically, it was mildly interesting. I appreciated the volume of correspondence written during his life. I didn't really enjoy the read- felt more like a chore
Jo Lin
Noel Coward was a collaborator!!! Sorry, random factoid that I picked up from reading this book.

But seriously, so lovely to read something from an age where people actually wrote each other letters.
Annie Garvey
I liked the letter on p. 600 the best.
Salli
Jan 26, 2009 Salli added it
A very enjoyable read with a trip round the gliterati of the time, but also showing how much pain there can be behind a cheerful face. Must explore some more Coward plays
Thomas Walsh
I've never seen any of his play, but I've heard about the legend. THis epistolary/bio was featured on "Theater Talk" recently, and I thought I'd delve into it.
Alexandra
This was a fabulous collection of Coward's letters...I could have easily read another 800 pages. What a talent, what a history, what a fascinating story.
Ellen
I love reading other people's letters, even though I have to envision an alternate universe in which I'll have time to get through this. But a girl can dream!
Shu Chadwick
Jan 12, 2011 Shu Chadwick is currently reading it
What a doorstop! Still, the Master is always entertaining -- even in snippets.

Done some time ago but enjoy dipping in occasionally.
Kimberley Lynne
Noel was hilarious from the beginning. Some very interesting considerations of the artistic process. Great storytelling
Mark
Jan 19, 2011 Mark rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2010
Fascinating reading only marred by the english editor's use of american spelling and his dodging about of the order of letters.
Bob
They don't make 'em like Noel anymore. I have a soft spot for those old school closeted British travellers. The dude dripped wit.
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Sir Noël Peirce Coward was an English actor, playwright and composer of popular music. Among his achievements, he received an Academy Certificate of Merit at the 1943 Academy Awards for "outstanding production achievement for In Which We Serve."
More about Noël Coward...
Blithe Spirit Private Lives Three Plays: Blithe Spirit / Hay Fever / Private Lives Hay Fever Design for Living

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