Latest Issue

Noël Coward

He was a master of the flimsy trifle, but 100 years after his birth the best of them still flourish

By Paul Bailey   October 1999

“He is the Congreve of our day,” Arnold Bennett remarked of Noël Coward after seeing the first production of Private Lives in 1930. Coward, who was never really at ease with either Elizabethan or Restoration comedy, may not have welcomed this judgement-yet it seems, now, to be the right one. The reviews Bennett contributed to the New Age and the London Evening Standard testify to his skill as a predictor of literary survival; his valuations of Swinburne and Chekhov being particularly farsighted. Bennett treated Private Lives with respect, unlike most of the critics, who complained of its “brittleness” and “thinness.”…

Register today to continue reading

You’ve hit your limit of three articles in the last 30 days. To get seven more, simply enter your email address below.

You’ll also receive our free e-book Prospect’s Top Thinkers 2020 and our newsletter with the best new writing on politics, economics, literature and the arts.

Prospect may process your personal information for our legitimate business purposes, to provide you with newsletters, subscription offers and other relevant information.

Click here to learn more about these purposes and how we use your data. You will be able to opt-out of further contact on the next page and in all our communications.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to

More From Prospect