It was in December 1939 that Cyril Connolly set up the literary magazine Horizon, which was published monthly throughout the war and its immediate aftermath, the final issue appearing in December 1949. Connolly became the magazine’s editor, a position that was to earn him considerable prestige, although office life at Horizon was far from conventional, so fraught with drama – quarrels, betrayals, multiple amorous affairs between Connolly and his female employees – that it is a wonder that so much as a single edition ever appeared.
In Lost Girls, D J Taylor’s lively account of the chaotic way of life at the Horizon office, it is not Connolly who is the main focus but the young women who worked for him. Several had affairs with Connolly himself; one, disastrously, agreed to marry him; all remained closely linked to this clever, moody, duplicitous and beguiling character. By the beginning of the war, Connolly’s marriage to his first wife had come to an end. During the course of 1940, he began a relationship with the beautiful Lys Lubbock, who had previously worked as a model while married to her schoolmaster husband. She worshipped Connolly and before long was efficiently running the office, proving as energetic and industrious as her boss was moody and lethargic. Soon they were living together and Lubbock was organising Connolly’s domestic life, giving glamorous dinners in the various apartments they inhabited during the war. Lubbock and Connolly, noted one of their friends, lived ‘a life of conjugal sybaritism … entertaining large parties of the intelligentsia, with a slight vanilla flavouring of the nobility and gentry’.
Devoted to Connolly, Lubbock for years believed that the two of them would eventually marry. However, in 1950, Connolly made a sudden and, as it turned out, disastrous decision to propose to another of the ‘girls’, Barbara Skelton. Beautiful, clever and sexy, Skelton was also troublesome and unpredictable: