Extracts from memoirs and diariesby Ian Irvine / December 14, 2016 / Leave a comment
Published in January 2017 issue of Prospect Magazine
In 1956 art critic Brian Sewell, then a student at the Courtauld, guided four rich American women on a tour of Paris:
“I decided to skip dinner with my charges; instead I bought a picnic—snails and salami, fruit, bread and wine—and took it to my tiny attic room.
“I had just pulled the table to the window so that I could sup in the setting sun, when Peg Heller knocked on the door with Mary Sowell behind her. ‘What are you doing for dinner?’ ‘Having a picnic.’ ‘Have you enough for three?’ Her response to my firm negative was to call room service and order.
“My scholar-gypsy evening suddenly became rather jolly. Peg sat on the chair, Mary on the bidet, and I sat on the bed; we drank too much and laughed too much; and Mary rocked a little too far, fell backwards and hit her head on the fireplace. She groggily recovered when doused with water by Peg, who then took her off to be put to bed. I had just finished tidying when the door opened. I assumed Peg had come to report on Mary, but she had not; instead she closed the door and stood with her back to it, her arms widespread, and froze me to the bone with ‘I’m old enough to be your grandmother, but I’m going to bed with you.’
“And she did, after a fashion. I had no wish to tell her that I was queer, and it says something of the weakness of a young man’s will and the overwhelming strength of his sexual triggers, that she so easily had her way with me. I remember more clearly than all else the interruption of pleasure when her diamanté spectacle frames occasionally plucked a pubic hair; as for the rest, what we did was entirely determined by Peg and she seemed well pleased. She stayed in touch for several years, sending cookies peculiar to South Carolina, accompanied by explicitly pornographic letters, minute in detail.”