A labour of love is a joy to read. Georgia de Chamberet is the goddaughter and literary executor of Lesley Blanch, and has proved the godchild and accomplice of every author’s dreams. Blanch was a Slade art student, theatre designer, wartime features editor of Vogue, inveterate traveller and in old age the incarnation of grace, wisdom and spirit. Living on the French Riviera, first at Roquebrune and then near Menton, she survived almost to the age of 103, dying in 2007. Her clarity of mind and purity of vision are beautifully displayed in the memoir that she was writing at her death. This forms the centrepiece of the posthumous collection of Blanch’s uncollected writings that de Chamberet has assembled lovingly. It is augmented by letters to Cecil Beaton and others, handwritten notes found after her death, occasional pieces for Vogue or Architectural Digest, hitherto untranslated French essays – and by a consummate introduction.
Blanch’s best-known book is The Wilder Shores of Love (1954), about Isabel Burton (wife of the Arabist and explorer Richard Burton), Lady Ellenborough (who went to live in the Syrian desert and married a Bedouin chieftain), Isabelle Eberhardt (a cross-dressing Swiss linguist who settled in the Sahara) and Aimée Dubucq