Introduced by Psiche Hughes
Illustrated by Beryl Bainbridge
Beryl Bainbridge’s award-winning portrait of life on board the Titanic is published for the first time alongside her own spectacular paintings.
When I pressed my face to the window to look down at the sea there was nothing but darkness; when I tilted my head the blackness was fiery with stars.
In the early years of the last century, a well-to-do young American boards a luxury liner bound for New York. From the outset it is clear that the ship is the Titanic; the passengers’ fate is sealed. Yet further mysteries remain in this thrilling read that captures the decadence and desperation of that fateful night.
We know that the narrator is related to famed financier J. P. Morgan, but what does he mean by the ‘grotesque happenings concerning my infant self’? How are they related to the portrait he steals before boarding the ship? And how did his fellow passenger, Scurra, come by the ugly scar on his lip?
‘Extraordinary … both a psychologically convincing re-creation and a wholly new and highly individual work of art.’
Beryl Bainbridge was a significant talent in 20th-century literature, receiving numerous literary awards, including the Whitbread Novel of the Year for Every Man for Himself in 1996. She was also a prolific visual artist, turning joyfully to painting and drawing as a respite from the rigours of literature.
This Folio edition is the first to be illustrated by her own artworks, and Psiche Hughes, Bainbridge’s biographer and a friend for almost 50 years, has contributed a new preface exploring the links between her paintings and her writing.
Bainbridge was always, as Hughes explains, ‘controlled in language, exuberant in image’, and her stirring and ominous paintings of the Titanic deepen the tension of this singular novel.
It was only after her death in 2010 that Beryl Bainbridge, already known as a brilliant writer, was recognised as a talented and original painter. I had known her as a close friend for almost fifty years, during which I followed her writing career and watched her paintings grow alongside it.
The writing was a private affair; there were sheets of scribbled paper (she only typed when nearing the final version of every page) scattered on the floor. The paintings were more visible. They lay around in her home – latterly in the large kitchen in her house in Albert Street – propped up against a wall or a piece of furniture. When she died, her three children and I compiled a list of her work, most of which belonged to them.
Two years after her death, the Museum of Liverpool held an exhibition of many of her paintings (she was, after all, a Liverpudlian) and in 2014 King’s College London honoured her with a comprehensive show at Somerset House. Interestingly, these events initiated a series of discoveries. People who held some of her artwork wrote in and sent photos so that a catalogue of ninety-seven paintings, etchings and drawings has been compiled. I hope the list will continue to grow.
Extracted from Psiche’s Hughes’s Preface to Every Man for Himself.
Dame Beryl Margaret Bainbridge was born in Liverpool on 21 November 1932. She left school at the age of sixteen and started her career as an actress after working as a stage manager at the Playhouse Theatre in Liverpool. Her published novels include A Weekend with Claud (1967), Another Part of the Wood (1968), Harriet Said (1972), The Dressmaker (1973), The Bottle Factory Outing (1974) and A Quiet Life (1976). Later in her writing career she focused on historical fiction including Every Man for Himself (1996), Master Georgie (1998) and According to Queeney (2001). Bainbridge won the Whitbread Award for best novel in 1977 and 1996 and she was nominated for the Booker Prize five times. She was appointed DBE in 2000. She died on 2 July 2010 and is survived by three children.
Psiche Hughes is a former lecturer in Latin American and Comparative Literature at the University of London. She was a close friend and confidante of Beryl Bainbridge since their meeting as neighbours in Hampstead in 1963. In 2012 she published Beryl Bainbridge: Artist, Writer, Friend, which introduced the public to Bainbridge’s then little-known drawings and paintings, and she was instrumental in arranging an exhibition of Bainbridge’s paintings at King’s College, London, in 2014. She has also published several translations of prose and poetry.
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