Beverley Nichols

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Beverley Nichols
Beverley Nichols 1963.png
Photo portrait, 1963
Born9 September 1898
Bower Ashton, Bristol, United Kingdom
Died15 September 1983 (1983-09-16) (aged 85)
Kingston upon Thames, United Kingdom
Resting placeAshes scattered over St Nicholas's Churchyard, Glatton, England[1]

John Beverley Nichols (9 September 1898 – 15 September 1983) was an English author, playwright, journalist, composer, and public speaker.


Between his first book, the novel Prelude, published in 1920, and his last, a book of poetry, Twilight, published in 1982, Nichols wrote more than 60 books and plays. Besides novels, mysteries, short stories, essays and children's books, he wrote a number of nonfiction books on travel, politics, religion, cats, parapsychology, and autobiography. He wrote for a number of magazines and newspapers throughout his life, the longest being weekly columns for the London Sunday Chronicle newspaper (1932–1943) and Woman's Own magazine (1946–1967).[2]

Nichols is now best remembered for his gardening books, the first of which, Down the Garden Path, was illustrated, as were its two sequels, by Rex Whistler. The bestseller, which has had 32 editions and has been in print almost continuously since first published in 1932, was the first of his trilogy about Allways, his Tudor thatched cottage in Glatton, Cambridgeshire. The books are written in a poetic manner, with a rich, creative language, evoking emotional and sensual responses but also with a lot of humour and even a hint of irony.[3] They were parodied by W. C. Sellar and R. J. Yeatman in Garden Rubbish (1936), where the Nichols figure was called "Knatchbull Twee".

A book about his city garden, near Hampstead Heath in London, Green Grows the City, published in 1939, was also very successful. The book introduced Arthur R. Gaskin, who was Nichols's manservant from 1924 until Gaskin's death in 1966. Gaskin was a popular character, who also appeared in the succeeding gardening books.

A later trilogy written between 1951 and 1956 documents Nichols's travails renovating Merry Hall (Meadowstream), a Georgian manor house in Agates Lane, Ashtead, Surrey, where Nichols lived from 1946 to 1956. The books often feature his gifted but laconic gardener "Oldfield". Nichols's final trilogy is referred to as "The Sudbrook Trilogy" (1963–1968) and concerns his late 18th-century attached cottage at Ham, near Richmond, Surrey.

Nichols wrote on a wide range of topics, always looking for "the next big thing". As examples, he ghostwrote Dame Nellie Melba's 1925 "autobiography" Memories and Melodies (he was at the time her personal secretary, and his 1933 book Evensong was believed based on aspects of her life).[4] In 1966 he wrote A Case of Human Bondage about the marriage and divorce of writer William Somerset Maugham and his interior-decorator wife, Syrie, which was highly critical of Maugham. Father Figure, which appeared in 1972 and in which he described how he had tried to murder his alcoholic and abusive father, caused a great uproar and several people asked for his prosecution. His book about spiritualism was not well received, which disappointed him.

His main interest apart from the writing of his books was gardening, especially garden design and winter flowers. Among his huge acquaintance in all walks of life were many famous gardeners including Constance Spry and Lord Aberconway, who was President of the Royal Horticultural Society and owner of the Bodnant Garden in North Wales.

Nichols made one appearance on film. In 1931, he appeared in Glamour, directed by Seymour Hicks and Harry Hughes, and he played the small part of the Hon. Richard Wells. The film is now lost.

In 1934, Nichols wrote a bestselling book advocating pacifism, Cry Havoc![5] By 1938, he had abandoned his pacifism; he later supported the British campaign in World War II.[5]

Personal life[edit]

He went to school at Marlborough College and proceeded to Balliol College, Oxford in January 1917. His education was interrupted by military service, during which he worked in the Intelligence section at the War Office, as an instructor to the Officer Cadet Battalion in Cambridge, and as aide-de-camp to Arthur Shipley during the British University Mission to the United States. Nichols then returned to Oxford, where he was President of the Oxford Union and editor of Isis.[2] He was a homosexual and is thought to have had a brief affair with a famous war poet, Siegfried Sassoon.[6] Nichols's long-term companion was Cyril Butcher, who was the main beneficiary of Nichols's will, amounting to £131,750 (£415,945 in 2018 sterling).[7]

Beverley Nichols was buried in Glatton, England.

Selected bibliography[edit]


  1. ^ "Beverley Nichols the Author at his Thatched Cottage in Glatton". Sawtry Cambridgeshire Community Archive Network. Retrieved 1 May 2019.
  2. ^ a b Connon, Bryan (1991). Beverley Nichols: A Life. Constable. ISBN 1604690445.
  3. ^ Down the Garden Path (1932) ISBN 978-0-88192-710-8
  4. ^ "''The Mercury (Hobart) 5 December 1934''". Retrieved 4 December 2013.
  5. ^ a b Martin Ceadel, Pacifism in Britain, 1914–1945 : the defining of a faith. Oxford : Clarendon Press, 1980. ISBN 0198218826 (p.239).
  6. ^ Jean Moorcroft Wilson (2003). Siegfried Sassoon: The Journey from the Trenches: a Biography (1918-1967). Psychology Press. p. 42. ISBN 978-0-415-96713-6.
  7. ^ "Beverley Nichols' will - 22 Jan 1984, Sun • Page 5". The Observer: 5. 1984. Retrieved 23 January 2018.

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